Mizzou heads into the Big 12 championships this weekend as *technically* returning champions, having won the conference in 2012 before leaving and dominating the MAC. Having won ten conference titles in a row, Mizzou is going to be looking to continue that streak here in one of the top wrestling conferences. Their main competitors for the top spot are going to be #5 Iowa State, #13 Oklahoma State and #17 Northern Iowa.
The Tigers should be coming in healthy as well, with Allan Hart returning from injury. Led by top seed Keegan O’Toole, they also have five wrestlers seeded in the top four. If everything went as seeded, then Mizzou would be looking at qualifying eight of ten wrestlers for the tournament. Mizzou has shown their team strength this season with being only one of five teams to have five wrestlers of the week for their conference, and the only team to have finished the season with three in a row. Check out my recent tournament guide for more info on the whole qualifying process.
Here’s how the brackets look so far, but they could change before the tournament starts. The current seeds and qualifying spots at each weight look like this for our wrestlers:
- 125lbs: Noah Surtin - 5 Seed, 6 Automatic Qualifiers
- 133lbs: Connor Brown - Unseeded, 6 Automatic Qualifiers
- 141lbs: Allan Hart - 4 Seed, 7 Automatic Qualifiers
- 149lbs: Josh Edmond - 4 Seed, 4 Automatic Qualifiers
- 157lbs: Jarrett Jacques - 4 Seed, 6 Automatic Qualifiers
- 165lbs: Keegan O’Toole - 1 Seed, 4 Automatic Qualifiers
- 174lbs: Peyton Mocco - 6 Seed, 8 Automatic Qualifiers
- 184lbs: Jeremiah Kent - 6 Seed, 4 Automatic Qualifiers
- 197lbs: Rocky Elam - 5 Seed, 7 Automatic Qualifiers
- 285lbs: Zach Elam - 2 Seed, 6 Automatic Qualifiers
Mizzou’s only top seed, O’Toole will be looking to continue on his quest for five conference titles as a heavy favorite. To do that, he will likely need to beat Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State, who wrestled O’Toole in a tight 3-2 match in their dual. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Toole open up more than he did in that match, which was the closest score he’s had all season. In the finals O’Toole may actually get a better matchup as he already majored the 2 Seed in the Southern Scuffle finals. O’Toole is always must watch wrestling, and he is sure to be in some exciting matches this weekend.
Bonus Makes The Difference
In tournaments there are two easy ways to win: have multiple individual wrestlers place high or have a lot of team points from bonus-point wins. I think Mizzou can do both, but bonus points could really separate the good from the great. Sometimes, even if a wrestler loses early, it gives them an opportunity to wrestle against lower ranked opponents and start to score bonus point wins. Last year, OU came in as an afterthought but ended up with a share of the title as they scored eleven bonus-point wins throughout the tournament. The Tigers would prefer just having multiple champs, but they may need some bonus points to go with it to secure the title.
Can The Tigers Make It 11?
Mizzou has won their past 10 conference titles, which is a streak that Brian Smith and the Tigers would love to keep going. I think this team, as good as they’ve been in duals, could be even better as a tournament team after seeing how they dominated the Southern Scuffle earlier this year. Some guys would need to overperform their seeds, but they have the wrestlers to do that.
Who’s Going To Step Up?
Speaking of overperforming seeds, I think Mizzou has a handful of wrestlers that have the ability to do it. Noah Surtin is a five seed but could potentially have a path to finals against two opponents he’s wrestled well against. Connor Brown may be unseeded but has shown multiple times this season that he can hang with All-American caliber wrestlers. Allan Hart rebounded after a rough start to the season and, if healthy, could see himself in the finals. Peyton Mocco and Rocky Elam are two lower-seeded wrestlers that I think have the talent for the finals as well and will likely have opportunities for rematches along the way.
Ten for Ten?
Mizzou has sent at least eight wrestlers to the tournament every year going all the way back to 2010 and has sent ten wrestlers three times in that timespan. Connor Brown and Jeremiah Kent will both have to wrestle above their seeds to qualify. Brown has struggled at 133lbs but has found some flashes in tight matches with highly ranked opponents. All of his losses this season have come to ranked opponents. Jeremiah Kent is actually coming off the highest win of his career over the 2 Seed Marcus Coleman, and if he is able to reproduce that result, he should qualify for his second tournament.