The support in a wrestling community can vary from program to program or athlete to athlete, but most can always count on FAMILY. Not every day do fans or even other athletes get the opportunity to see what goes on behind the doors of those accomplished wrestlers. In a fun conversation, I had the privilege of talking to the one true fan in every wrestler’s corner regardless of record, ranking, or accolades. The ones that deserve more credit than what is given, the ones that go by the name “Mom.”
The term Mom or Mother can be described in a million different ways but when it comes down to it, they can simply be summed up as “Your #1 fan.” After reaching out to and connecting with those among the Tiger Style family, I was able to speak with Gina Mauller-Crane about the lifestyle of a Division One athlete and learn a little more about how these athletes became the person and wrestlers they are today.
Jumping right into things it was most interesting to find common grounds with some of these wrestlers applying some of my own background to dig into the conversation. As for most of these wrestlers, there was no connection between me and this small world we live in but for the Mauller family, we were able to relate right out of the gate.
Brock Mauller, a true son to the state of Missouri, was a MSHSAA Class One four-time state champion for Father-Tolton which is located in the Columbia area. As for me, well I was only a two-time medalist but I was also among the class one ranks coming from the small town of Marceline. Mrs. Mauller-Crane immediately recalled the school and mentioned “Well, I know of Marceline, they have had some great wrestlers and a great wrestling program.” Which I wasn’t one to shy away from hyping up my former alma mater and giving it its props among class-one wrestling schools in Missouri
We then continued on moving more into the intriguing and interesting parts of the conversation which is where I was curious to know, How often did she get the chance to travel and follow her son and compete among a widely traveled schedule? To what may be a surprise, she stated, “We go to everything. We are those crazy parents that travel. Honestly, I think I’ve only missed, in college, Arizona State his (Brock’s) sophomore year and I missed this year, I think maybe it was Virginia Tech. That was the only other one which was the second one I’ve missed the whole time. We go to everything.”
This in turn brought on more curiosity from my side of things which was, out of all the different kinds of campuses you have been on, which one has stood out the most in terms of neat atmosphere or unique arenas. Gina responded with, “I mean, as far as campus I loved Arizona State. Just the environment in general. It’s just something different you don’t see here (Missouri).”
In a turning point to the conversation, being a talented wrestler can be self-taught or even have its own “genetics” you could say. Some just inherit the skill and others find it within themselves to become a successful grappler inside the circle. As for Gina, she informed me that she was more on the artistic side of things playing in the band as well as being the drill captain on the dance team during her time in school at Jeff City. She also noted that she did compete in softball in grade school as well as run track when she was younger and was naturally athletic but also mentioned “Wrestling was not something that I grew up with, and obviously had learned about it pretty quick.”
As for Brock and where his wrestling background came from and where he got his first start on the mats she (Gina) stated, “His dad wrestled in middle school and a little in high school. When Brock was around three (years old) we put him in Tiger Tots gymnastics, which ironically, they used to practice up in the Mizzou Hearnes Wrestling Room. We got him involved in that because he just had a lot of energy. We need more ways for him to burn it off.” In turn for me (Matthew) personally, I can feel that statement having my own two-year-old little girl who is a ball of fire and constantly on the go.
She continued on to say, “We got him involved in Tiger tots for a couple of years, then when he was about four and a half, we discovered wrestling. We got him started with Mike Eierman when he was in his earlier days. He (Mike) first came to Rock Bridge Youth Wrestling Club in Columbia to oversee practice at Rock Bridge High School. That’s where we started Brock right before kindergarten. I mean he (Brock) absolutely loved it and just had a lot of fun. It was a good, good place for him (Brock) to vent.” From there she continued to explain the journey of how the Eierman family helped move Brock along during the early stages of his wrestling career where it really took flight when he reached the age of eight. Once he matured to a stage of better understanding, Brock was then coached along the way by the likes of Mike and Tony (Eierman) as well as working with former Tiger and Iowa Hawkeye Jaydin Eierman and Mizzou icon Jden Cox. He also spent time with Coach Mike Flanagan at the Columbia Youth Wrestling Club.
We then jumped back into the Mizzou Wrestling family aspect of connecting with other families among other mothers or parents of the wrestlers involved with the Mizzou program. I was curious if there was a “Moms Group” so to speak. She informed me, “You do start to get to know families. Brock red-shirted the previous year so I felt like there were a lot of new families that I didn’t get to know as much. So I just kind of got more acquainted with them this past year, which was a lot of fun. But when you’re traveling, you know, not all families are able to travel as much as we do to different things. But yeah, we’ve kind of shared that aspect. We support each other.”
Pressing further into the conversation we reached one of the pivotal points of something that has always interested me, what it is like being part of a division one athlete’s life. How does one’s personal family life and collegiate sports coincide with one another? It’s an opportunity that not many get to experience or live through. Mrs. Gina gave a detailed explanation when the subject came up explaining, “Well, I would say it’s definitely, a family affair at this level. You know, we try to give Brock balance because he’s such a focused and disciplined athlete, he just lives that Tiger Style. Especially during the summer, he’s so committed to what he does and he loves wrestling. We’re very blessed that we’re here locally and we have Sunday night dinners where all the kids come in and we try not to talk wrestling all the time. We try to give them some balance. He loves the outdoors, and water sports and try to use summer to do some of that because probably 90% of the time it is wrestling.”
Mrs. Mauller-Crane continued in detail on the life of her son (Brock) sharing multiple stories on how he has become a competitor and successful wrestler today. She reiterated how he continues to be modest and humble, stating that “Brock is his worst critic,” mentioning during his youth days, he was so competitive that they began to preach, “calm, cool, collected, calm, cool, collected”, ultimately stating “You’re 6-7-8 years old, who cares, just go out and have fun.” She also mentioned that it’s okay to show your “Dark-Side” as well. For example, in the Paniro Johnson match during this past season’s dual against Iowa State, Brock locked up an overtime victory by fall, which we can all agree was a thriller and deserved every bit of emotion to come out on the mat regardless of consequences!
When it came to the final questions of our conversation, like many others I have spoken with in the past, I had to once again ask, Was it Mizzou or was there options? The answer I received was what all Tiger Style fans will love to hear. Mrs. Mauller-Crane stated, “He never would go for any visits, which I thought he may, there were multiple options but he had his mind set on Mizzou. When we went in for his visit (Mizzou) we were sitting there with Head Coach Brian Smith, and he looked at me and looked back at Coach Smith. He’s like, I’ve always wanted to be Mizzou Tiger, so I’m gonna say yes.” the rest from there has been history for Brock Mauller. Gina continued on to show appreciation for the Tiger Style community stating, ”We’re blessed that are big fans and they follow his career and cheer him on as we take for granted what all he has accomplished.”
Brock Mauller will be entering his final season in a Tiger Style singlet. He is currently a 3x All-American and recently cracked the 100-win club. He is newly graduated with a degree in sports management with the goal of becoming a coach. Brock’s wrestling career is far from over and the future seems to keep expanding for him. He currently has his eyes set on competing for the US World Freestyle Team with aspirations of eventually reaching the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
Gina finished the chat with one final statement before signing off, “We are wrestling. We love to support Brock and the team. We travel because sometimes there are places where not a lot of parents can go, so I feel like trying to be the ‘team mom.’ They’re all my kids, you know, I just care about them all. Really, really proud of every single one of them, how hard they work, and what they’ve achieved. It’s just very, very impressive and a lot of fun.”
NCAA Highlights :— Mizzou Wrestling (@MizzouWrestling) March 29, 2023
Finishing seventh at 149 pounds, @Brock_Mauller became the 11th Mizzou wrestler to be a three-time All-American. #MIZ #TigerStyle pic.twitter.com/y5XZHASJcf