Tiger Style passed its biggest test of the season in a 22-17 victory over Virginia Tech, powered by a crucial victory by fall from Kade Moore. Down 17-11 at one point, the Tigers rallied in their final three matches with 11 unanswered team points to take home the W.
Mizzou: 0 - Virginia Tech: 3
125lbs: #9 Noah Surtin (MIZ) vs. #11 Cooper Flynn (VT)
Flynn had only wrestled one match coming into the night, defeating #2 Nico Provo after considering taking an Olympic redshirt. He took the upper hand early on, getting in several good shots and converting one takedown to take a 3-1 lead into the second period while shutting down any attempts at offense by Surtin. Starting on top, Surtin rode out the entire period, nearly pinning Flynn with a minute to go in the period, finishing with 1:54 in riding time.
Surtin started on bottom in the third period, getting the quick escape to essentially tie the contest at 3 (given his riding time). Both wrestlers got a few shots in during the rest of the period, but none of them resulted in points as they headed to overtime. With sudden victory and a fast start for their team on the line, Flynn overpowered Surtin to send him crashing to the mat for a takedown and added a four-point nearfall in a 10-3 victory. Surtin never gained steam on offense tonight, although he performed well on defense and caught most of Flynn’s shots until the last bit of action.
Cooper Flynn of Virginia Tech with the sudden victory win over Mizzou’s Noah Surtin pic.twitter.com/HsjAtqoXpC— James Hackney (@FFJames94) January 2, 2024
Mizzou: 6 - Virginia Tech: 3
133lbs: NR Kade Moore (MIZ) vs. #5 Sam Latona (VT)
One of the matches clearly favoring Virginia Tech entering the meet, Kade Moore exceeded expectations and put his weight class on notice with a massive upset victory by fall over Latona. The tall and lanky wrestler for the Hokies (which is apparently a made-up word that eventually became a made-up version of a turkey) got the first good shot, getting in on Moore’s leg. Moore held on for dear life, playing phenomenal defense as he scrambled for a shockingly long time before Latona finally converted for a takedown in the final seconds of the period.
In the second period, it was Moore who quickly gained control with a strong hold, rolling Latona onto his back. Latona tried to roll out multiple times but Moore kept getting him on his back, pinning the top-5 wrestler during a frantic minute of action that sent the crowd into hysterics. I’ve been impressed with Moore’s emergence in the lineup, but I was shocked by this. He’s been a revelation for the Tigers’ lineup, and just might be a dark horse on the national stage at 133.
Mizzou: 6 - Virginia Tech: 6
141lbs: #18 Josh Edmond (MIZ) vs. NR Tom Crook (VT)
The action in this match didn’t really kick off until the final minute of the first period, when Edmond scored a powerful takedown of Crook to head into period two with a 3-1 lead. Starting on bottom, Edmond got the quick escape for a 4-1 lead. Crook got an ankle pick and came close to a takedown before Edmond somehow reversed the situation, scoring a takedown of his own for a 7-2 advantage. However, Crook took control during the rest of the period to score two takedowns to knot up the score at 8-8 heading into the final two minutes.
Heading into period three, Edmond could have tried to ride out the entire period and win with the extra point for riding time or wrestle Crook straight up. Starting on top, he decided to cut (let him up) Crook to give him a 9-8 lead. It was the only point scored in the period, and Edmond never really got in a great shot during this period. This continues to be an underwhelming start to the year for him after he entered the season highly ranked.
Mizzou: 6 - Virginia Tech: 9
149lbs: #20 Logan Gioffre (MIZ) vs. #2 Caleb Henson (VT)
Henson took the offensive early on, overpowering Gioffre for a takedown in the first minute before riding out the period while shutting down any serious attempts at an escape. Gioffre started on bottom in the second period and was quickly cut, the only points scored during the period. Henson quickly escaped from bottom in the third period to retake a three point lead before Gioffre got in a good shot, working for a takedown over an extended time period before finally converting to tie it up. With Henson’s large advantage in riding time, Gioffre needed a takedown to win and cut his opponent. Down 5-4, Gioffre never scored the takedown he sought and fell in a 6-4 decision to Henson.
Mizzou: 6 - Virginia Tech: 12
157lbs: #9 Brock Mauller (MIZ) vs. #7 Bryce Andonian (VT)
Andonian came out wrestling with his hair on fire, going on the attack with near-reckless abandon. The strategy worked early on as he scored the first takedown of the match, but Mauller eventually took advantage and got around for a takedown and 4-3 lead while adding on some good riding time to slow down the pace of the action. He cut Andonian after failing to score any nearfall points, heading into the second period tied at four.
Mauller started on bottom, escaping in the first five seconds of the period to take the 5-4 advantage. Andonian got in several good shots to Mauller’s ankle during this period, but Mauller was able to force the action to stalemate each time. The score was tied at five each heading into the third period following an illegal trip by Mauller which resulted in a point for Andonian.
Andonian chose to start from neutral instead of bottom in the third period, and he struck first with a takedown before a reversal from Mauller which led to a review. After the review, Mauller cut Andonian and was down by two before getting in on the leg during a shot and converting for a takedown, 10-9. Andonian fought his way out for an escape, tying up the action. The seventh-ranked wrestler made the most of the final seconds, gaining control over Mauller and converting one last takedown with time running out for an action-packed 13-10 decision.
Bryce Andonian gets the takedown as time expires to beat Brock Mauller 13-10 in a wild one. pic.twitter.com/s5J9LOyEQv— James Hackney (@FFJames94) January 3, 2024
Mizzou: 11 - Virginia Tech: 12
165lbs: #1 Keegan O’Toole (MIZ) vs. HM Connor Brady (VT)
Facing a 12-6 deficit, coach Brian Smith decided to send O’Toole out at his usual spot after considering moving him up to 174. The world champion tightened the meet back up, scoring six takedowns on his way to a 20-4 tech fall. He maintained control throughout the match, effectively countering any shots by Brady while creating plenty of offense on his own. Brady avoided a pin, however, as the Tigers cut the deficit to one.
Mizzou: 11 - Virginia Tech: 17
174lbs: NR James Conway (MIZ) vs. #2 Mekhi Lewis (VT)
With the meet close once again, Lewis restored the Hokies lead with a tech fall even more impressive than O’Toole’s. The former national champion took the upper hand from the start, getting Conway to the mat for a takedown before adding two separate four-point nearfalls during the first period for an 11-0 advantage. Lewis scored the point for an escape following an option start to begin the second period before adding his second takedown of the match for a clean 15-0 tech fall. Conway was asked to complete a nearly impossible task, wrestling up a class against one of the best in all of college wrestling. He was overpowered and overmatched.
Mizzou: 15 - Virginia Tech: 17
184lbs: #9 Clayton Whiting (MIZ) vs. NR Dakota Howard (VT)
Heading into this match, Mizzou would almost certainly need to complete a clean sweep of the final three matchups in order to take home the win. The Tigers got off to a good start with this one, as Whiting scored two takedowns in the first period for a 6-1 lead. Starting from bottom in the second period, he quickly escaped for the only points of the period. Howard returned the favor with a quick escape of his own before attempting a shot on Whiting, a move that backfired as it was countered and turned against him for a takedown and a 10-2 lead. With the extra point for riding time, Whiting earned an 11-3 major decision. He played excellent defense in the match, catching and countering several shots from an aggressive Howard.
Mizzou: 19 - Virginia Tech: 17
197lbs: #6 Rocky Elam (MIZ) vs. #21 Andy Smith (VT)
With Elam still getting comfortable on the mat in his return from injury, I was unsure how he would perform in this match. He maintained the upper hand from the first takedown, slamming Smith to the mat roughly 75 seconds into the action and riding out the rest of the period for a 3-0 lead and well over a minute in riding time. Starting on bottom, he quickly escaped to extend the lead to four. Smith got in a shot on Elam’s leg with about 1:05 left in the period, but Rocky scrambled and worked around Smith for a takedown and a 7-0 advantage before riding out the period again.
Starting from neutral, both wrestlers got good shots in during the third period before Elam added one final takedown in the final seconds of action to secure an 11-0 major decision. The defense was strong for Rocky tonight, and the offense improved. Dominance shouldn’t be the expectation yet as he continues to recover, but this was a strong result against a top-25 opponent and an encouraging sign as the season rolls on.
Mizzou: 22 - Virginia Tech: 17
285lbs: #6 Zach Elam (MIZ) vs. #20 Hunter Catka (VT)
I said before the meet that it could come down to the final match, and it did. Elam continued to use his strength to his advantage, scoring a takedown with roughly a minute to go in the first period to kick off the action and adding 43 seconds of riding time to enter period two with a 3-1 lead. Starting on bottom, he got the quick escape before catching a shot from Catka and getting around for a takedown, 7-1. He rode out the remainder of the period and entered the final frame looking for one more takedown and a major decision. The final two minutes were scoreless, and Elam clinched the Mizzou victory with an 8-1 decision(extra point for riding time). This match had the potential for drama given the stakes, but Elam looked calm and in charge as he slowly built up his lead.
This meet had all the markings of a nailbiter when you looked at the potential matchups, and it more than lived up to expectations. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being the coming out party for Moore, someone who is looking like a bigger and bigger part of this program’s future. The spot at 133 was a question mark entering the year, but Moore has done more than just solidify his status in the lineup, he’s had an entrance to major college wrestling that is forcing everyone to watch. Kind of like this:
He’ll have another chance to impress at the team’s next meet, when they face #18 Stanford in Palo Alto on January 10.