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A Tiger Style Sit Down with Coach Tyrel Todd

Associate Head Wrestling Coach Tyrel Todd took the time to sit in on a video chat to discuss life and Tiger Style wrestling, among other topics.

Assistant Head Coach Tyrel Todd
@Tyrel_Todd on Twitter

Head Coach Brian Smith has been at the helm of Tiger Style for over two decades, during which time he’s been the recipient of multiple accolades. However, many don’t get to see the guys behind him, pushing themselves and the rest of the team to reach their maximum potential.

With a staff of multiple talented individuals, I had the opportunity to sit down with associate head coach Tyrel Todd. Coach Todd was a 3x All-American wrestler during the 2006-2009 seasons where he competed for the University of Michigan. He has spent the past nineteen seasons coaching for a slew of schools, including Arizona State, Cal-Poly, and Purdue, and Missouri, where he will be entering his fifth season after joining in 2019.

Let’s dive in. (This chat has been edited for clarity and length)

Offseason Work

We started our conversation chatting about how his offseason was going— he’d just wrapped up a clinic at nearby Southern Boone, who’s head coach I am very familiar with from my own wrestling journey.

“I just got back from Montana,” he said. “(We) Had 13 of the guys out there for a camp. It’s actually my 19th year doing that camp in Bozeman, Montana. The high school coach at Gallatin (MT) High School is a good friend of mine and we’ve been doing that Summit Wrestling camp for 19 years. We do a backpacking trip at the end and it’s a good time but it’s always such a huge investment. I get home and I’m exhausted.”

All in the Family

Everyone starts sports at different ages or times in their life. Whether it is competing or just testing the waters, I am always intrigued by how individuals get to certain stages in their respective sports.

“I started really young,” Todd said. “My dad wrestled at Montana State University where they dropped the program in 1985. He was second in the Big Sky twice and in college and you had to win that to go to the NCAA Championships. So he was very competitive for a guy that only trained part of the year, and during the summer he worked the dairy farm. I’m the oldest of three boys, and we all wrestled. I went to the University of Michigan, and then my brother (Tay) went to Northern Montana, and he’s actually a Green Beret now, a special forces combat medic. and has had a really successful military career. The youngest one, the baby, Tel, wrestled for Minnesota State Mankato. He’s an optometrist there in Bozeman and has four little ones.”

As we climbed further into Coach Todd’s growth and development, he began to highlight important aspects of his life that opened doors along his journey inside the wrestling world. Moving through his high school and collegiate ranks, Tyrel explained, “I had a lot of success. We were homeschooled up until I was in fifth grade. It was a 45-minute bus ride into town, so Mom did our schooling at home. And I mean, now you appreciate it, but at the time, you know, it was hard. I wanted to hang out with friends.”

He continued. “Wrestling was what we started when we were really young. I played other sports as well, soccer, a little bit of hockey, and basketball and stuff, but my dad was a wrestling coach. He started a club when we were really little, so that was kind of social time. Wrestling was always like a fun time because we got to be with friends. And all three of us wrestled in college, and we all quit at different times, except me. I never stopped wrestling, but my brothers, you know, took little hiatuses here and there.”

Coach Todd continued. “I had a lot of success in youth wrestling, but we didn’t travel very much. You know, now you see kids with clubs. So I think I was pretty fortunate in that Dad didn’t travel as much with my brothers and me, but I had a lot of success from a young level, from a young age.”

Moving into the high school ranks is where things really began to take shape for Coach Todd. “My freshman year I had seven losses in the state of Montana,” he said. “I was second in the state. And then after that, I went out to Vegas for Western Regionals and it was a huge tournament, it was crazy. I remember there were like 128 or something in the bracket and I had a good tournament. I beat a couple of guys who were committed to go wrestle in college, and I had just finished my freshman year. And the way the age brackets were then I was a really, really young junior. But that got me on everybody’s radar when I took fourth out in Vegas. And then after that, my expectations changed. I didn’t get taken down for three years in Montana.”

Tyrel also acknowledged coaches that pushed him to become a talented competitor. “I had a really good coach, Tony Beardsley,” he said. “He took me to Vegas. He took me to Chicago for, back then it was FILA, Cadets. And then he took me to Michigan twice for summer camps. And I mean, it’s 26 hours driving from Bozeman, Montana to Ann Arbor, Michigan and we just jumped in the car and drove. He would bring like six of us and we would be so tortured.”

Recruitment: High School thru Mizzou

Jumping forward, Coach Todd began to explain his high school recruitment, which ironically ended up coming full circle. Once originally committed to be a Missouri Tiger, Tyrel shared, “It’s actually really hilarious. I’m always following The Zou really closely because Coach Smith recruited me hard to Mizzou in high school. He came out and did a home visit and I committed to my parents. I told them, ‘you know, I want to go to Missouri, Coach Smith’s awesome. He’s the man. I want to go wrestle, be a Tiger.’ I called my high school coach to tell him, and he sold me hard on Michigan because he was tight buddies with Joe McFarland, so I ended up going to Michigan. I had a great experience at Michigan but it’s kind of one of those things that, (I think) it would have been fun to wrestle with Ben (Askren) every day.”

Todd continued on about how things came to the final turn landing a position on staff with his former recruiter, Brian Smith. “He (Coach Smith) reached out when I was in Vegas and you know, you’re naïve when you’re in coaching sometimes and I was like, ‘Man, we’re doing good things at Purdue and we’re growing the program.’ I was talking to a good friend that I run that camp within Bozeman, and I was like, I got an email from Brian Smith. He’s like, ‘Missouri’s Brian Smith?’ Yeah, he’s like, dude, it’s Missouri. You got to call that guy back.”

Recruitment: Finding the Next Tiger Style Members

Next, we talked about recruiting, as I wanted to know if he enjoys being on the other side of the recruiting table trying to bring in top-end talent and personalities to fit the Tiger Style culture.

“I love recruiting and enjoy that process a lot,” Coach Todd stated. “We’re really fortunate that we have an amazing staff so you know we can spread the load a little bit. But yeah, we’ve got a couple of guys out of Fargo right now that are keeping an eye on things. But I would say as a staff we kind of spread the load out a little bit. Obviously, the buck stops with Coach Smith. But it’s really fun working with guys that you trust and guys that do a really good job, like Dom (Bradley) and Kendric (Maple).”

Return to the Big 12

As we changed direction, the topic of conference realignment came to mind. Prior to the 2022 wrestling season, The Tiger Style squad left the MAC to rejoin the Big 12 once again. I asked Coach Todd about his thoughts about once again joining the Big 12.

“That was just a necessary move,” he quickly stated. “I mean, completely necessary. There were great opportunities being in the MAC, but it was a situation where it was a good move for us and a good move for the Big 12... And that Big 12 Tournament, it just gets you ready.”

I personally stand by this statement myself. The MAC is full of competitive opponents, but switching back to the Big 12 once again posed much greater competition moving throughout the season.

2023-24 Roster Outlook

It was also noted that the team has a few holes to fill in the lineup, especially among the 133, 141, and 157-pound weight classes with Connor Brown, Allan Hart, and Jarrett Jacques all graduating.

”We have some big shoes to fill,” he said. “But we have a lot of talent in this room. In this summer session, I’ve yet to see a group that is working this hard but having this much fun in my 12 years. That’s what special is when you have a short workout (around 60 min) and those guys were flying around.” He continued, “Next week is our last week of summer session and then they’re going to go home for a little bit and get their feet back underneath them before we get back and go for the fall. It’s been a remarkable summer session for them.”

2023-24 Schedule

The NCAA Championships will be located in Kansas City, MO this upcoming season, and the Tigers will play host. When asked about it, Coach Todd exclaimed, “It’s super, super exciting. I mean, especially for this group of guys... they’re incredible. Five returning All-Americans, being able to host the NCAA tournament with these really special individuals... I mean it’s something a coach would dream of.”

The coming season includes a contest with Coach Todd’s former school, Arizona State. They faced them last year as well and the Tigers fell by just two points, dropping 19-17 on the road. The coming contest has Coach Todd ready to rumble.

“We got to get those guys!”, Coach Todd said. “I coached with Zeke (Jones) for like two months, three months before Tony Ersland hired me at Purdue. So it’s just natural to want to beat those guys.” He added, “Also, last year we beat Michigan by a couple of points at the NCAA tournament and that one felt really good. I’m a Wolverine and I bleed maize and blue except when we wrestle.”

A Battle of Alma Maters

Once Michigan came into discussion, that’s where things started to head down the rivalry road between Coach Todd and Head Coach Brian Smith, as Tyrel was a Wolverine and Brian was a Spartan. Coach Todd poked the bear stating, “Me and Coach Smith go back and forth. He’s a Michigan State guy, you know. All the sports we go back and forth in, because the Wolverines usually beat up on Sparty, the little brother! He would be so mad if he heard me say that.”

Changing Landscape in Collegiate Wrestling

The landscape is changing in collegiate sports and wrestling must progress with the times and not fall behind. When asked about this, Coach Todd was quick to state, “I think wrestling fans are ready for changes. I mean, just college athletics in general, we need changes. We need to have a dual championship. I think that would be great for the sport.”

He continued. “We have to do it if we want to continue to take our sport forward. I understand those guys like Cael (Sanderson) and (Tom) Brands, they see the Big Ten guys in duals, (then) they see them in the Conference Championships, and they see them in the NCAA’s so they’re like, ‘Man, if we have a dual component, now we see them again.’ But at the end of the day, you need to make our sport open and continue to grow and develop. A dual championship really would move our sport in a positive direction.”

We also jumped into his thoughts on the new rules that have passed including three-point takedowns and three-point near falls among other changes that will take place in the coming season.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “For example, say Brock Mauller gets two takedowns and rides you out and gets away, He gets a major decision, and that’s huge. Plus, guys getting penalized for riding. They’re gonna call it pretty aggressively. It’s usually how they do these rule changes. When you have guys sitting on an ankle back hook, they’re gonna call that pretty aggressively, but then once we get to the end of the year, I don’t think it’ll be called nearly as aggressive. That’s usually how these officials kind of let a little bit slide toward the championships.”

Coach Todd continued on how he believes it is going to be a good step in the right direction for wrestling mentioning, “I think it’s great. It’s gonna encourage scoring. I mean, the fact that you can get two takedowns and give up escapes and be up 6-2 as opposed to 2-4. It’s a sizable difference. And on top, if guys can’t get off the bottom, they’re going to have a hard time winning. And then guys incur more risk to go for turns. I’d say it’s definitely going to encourage more offense. Across the board, I’m excited, It will be fun to see how it changes.”

Career Aspirations

Coming to the final minutes of our conversation, I had to hit Coach Todd with one pivotal question about his career. Is Mizzou the end of the road or does he have future aspirations to become a head coach one day?

“I definitely would like to be a head coach,” he said. “I mean, that’s kind of getting in this game. It’s funny. My dad, he always gets after me and says, ‘Wrestling is a means to an end, not an end in itself.’ And I’ve been trying to prove him wrong ever since he told me that.” He continued. “I think when the time is right, hopefully, I’ll have that opportunity. But as things sit, I love working with Coach Smith. You know, it’s funny, you don’t know what you don’t know. Coaching at Purdue, working with a great guy who took a chance on me, and Tony’s just an unbelievable human being. But you think, ‘Man, I’m ready to be a top-caliber head coach.’”

“But now,” he said, “working with Brian for five years, I’m like, ‘OK, now I know,’ You learn quite a bit. Coming to work with Brian, who has run a program for twenty-five years, I tell people all the time, you know (Coach) Smith isn’t just a legend coach in wrestling, he’s one of the best coaches in college athletics period, that’s what a lot of people fail to realize.”

From one wrestling mind to an even greater one, there’s no doubt that Coach Todd has what it takes to lead a program of his own! The Mizzou Wrestling family has a top-notch leader on the staff and keeping him in the black and gold has seemingly been a massive boost for the Tiger Style program. The future will be fun to follow for Coach Todd, but as for now, he is still one of the good guys, and we’re wishing him the best of luck this season.