2021 NCAA Consolation Finals between Keegan O'Toole and Travis Wittlake (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Thursday, news broke to confirm a long whispered rumor that Missouri was on its way back to the Big 12 Conference. In the 2012-13 school year, Missouri's athletic department left the Big 12 for the SEC. The Tigers were forced to join the MAC, as a wrestling-only affiliate since the SEC does not have any other schools that sponsor the sport. During the Tigers run in the MAC, they have accounted for nine conference titles in nine tries and 40 individual conference championships. While Mizzou head coach Brian Smith has been able to secure some solid non-conference opponents, the Tigers haven't always faced the same level of competition competing in the MAC. That will change as Missouri is back in the Big 12 with Oklahoma State, who finished third at the 2021 NCAA Championships, along with traditional rivals like Iowa State and Oklahoma. Throw in others like Northern Iowa the handful of new faces that have joined in Missouri's absence and you have an extremely tough conference.
So how does Missouri stack up against their new (old) rivals? The Tigers finished the 2021 regular season unbeaten in dual competition. Along the way, they crushed a handful of Big 12 teams. Iowa State, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Wyoming, all failed to tally more than nine points against a loaded Tiger squad. So that brings us to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys racked 99.5 points, which was 35.5 more than seventh-place Missouri. So give Oklahoma State the edge there, but in dual competition, they are almost identical. Oklahoma State was also unbeaten in 2021.
We've decided to delve deeper into a hypothetical dual between the schools in 2021. InterMat has picked winners at each weight, though we have deferred to actual results from 2021, if the wrestlers from each school met. Just for fun, we've also run the dual through the great site WrestleStat , which yielded some surprising results.
125 - Noah Surtin/Connor Brown (Missouri) vs. Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State)
Missouri would have a couple of options in this hypothetical matchup. Connor Brown was well on his way to a strong seed at NCAA Championships; however, he was injured off the mat and lost for the season. His 6-2 mark saw him knock off three eventual national qualifiers. Both of his losses came at the hands of top-five seeds, #4 Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan) and Brody Teske (Northern Iowa). In each of those defeats, Brown took his opponent to sudden victory. With Brown out of the picture, Noah Surtin got the nod at the Cowboy Challenge and defeated Trevor Mastrogiovanni 9-6. The Cowboy freshman went on to win a pair of bouts in St. Louis, while Surtin went 1-2. But, using the head-to-head win for Surtin, we'll give this match to OSU.
InterMat Pick: Surtin by decision; 3-0 Missouri
WrestleStat: Surtin by decision; 3-0 Missouri
133 - Matt Schmitt (Missouri) vs. Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)
On paper, this looks like one of the best matchups of the dual with the top-seeded 133 lber, Daton Fix, against number six, Matt Schmitt. It's a battle of the Big 12 and MAC champions. Even so, it's hard to envision a scenario where Schmitt is that close to Fix. Daton has amassed a 48-3 record in collegiate competition and two of those defeats came in the NCAA finals. In 2021, Fix wrestled 14 matches. He was able to roll up bonus points in 11 of his 13 wins, one of which was a pin of NCAA seventh-place finisher, Chris Cannon (Northwestern). Schmitt was in his first year competing officially for Missouri, as he transferred from West Virginia. That meant the two have squared off before and Fix was 3-0 in those contests. While Daton never broke the bonus point threshold against Schmitt, he did log a trio of one-sided decision on the then-Mountaineer.
InterMat Pick: Fix by decision; 3-3 tie
WrestleStat: Fix by major decision; 4-3 Oklahoma State
141 - Allan Hart (Missouri) vs. Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)
141 lbs was a problem for the Cowboys in 2021 as they lost two-time All-American, Kaid Brock, to a season-ending injury in mid-January and then Dusty Hone later in the year. That forced Kaden Gfeller to cut down to the weight for the first time at the Big 12's. Gfeller went 1-2 and did not qualify for nationals. On the other hand, Allan Hart really emerged as a force for the Tigers at a new weight class. A national qualifier in 2020 at 133, Hart rolled into the MAC Championships undefeated, though he had to settle for third at the event after getting his perfect record tarnished. As the sixth seed in St. Louis, Hart made it to the quarterfinals before suffering back-to-back losses to Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers) and Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska).
InterMat Pick: Hart by decision; 6-3 Missouri
WrestleStat: Hart by decision; 6-4 Missouri
149 - Brock Mauller (Missouri) vs. Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State)
Here's a bout that would be one of the marquee attractions in a clash between Mizzou and Oklahoma State. Boo Lewallen eventually finished fourth in the country, while Brock Mauller was just behind him at number five. But looking deeper into it, the two have battled in each of the last two years, and both decisions went Mauller's way. Each contest was decided by the slimmest of margins as Mauller edged Lewallen this season in tiebreakers, 7-5, and in sudden victory in 2020. While there is a good chance that Lewallen bucks the trend and gets a win against Mauller, we'll stick with history and choose the Tiger.
InterMat Pick: Mauller by decision; 9-3 Missouri
WrestleStat: Mauller by decision; 9-4 Missouri
157 - Jarrett Jacques (Missouri) vs. Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State)
Both sides will be ready to fight over this one and really, each team could present a legitimate case for their respective 157 lber. Jarrett Jacques entered the NCAA tournament with a pair of losses on his resume, though both were to the eventual NCAA finalists. He still was granted the seventh seed, but was knocked off in the opening round by #26 Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan). Jacques had majored him at the MAC Championships and picked up a win against him in dual competition. The Tiger battled through the consolations before getting eliminated by Brayton Lee in the Round of 12. Wyatt Sheets suffered a severe knee injury early in the 2021 campaign but fought through it and received a bid to nationals as a late-injury replacement and assumed the 33rd seed. Sheets also fought back through the consi's and even grabbed a win over Lovett in the process. That proved to be an All-American clinching win as he received a medical forfeit from Kendall Coleman (Purdue) in the Round of 12. If these two couldn't be any closer, consider that they've met once in 2019 and 2020, with Sheets winning the first bout and Jacques evening the score. If this match takes place in 2021, with a less-than-100% Sheets, we'll give Jacques the slight advantage.
InterMat Pick: Jacques by decision; 12-3 Missouri
WrestleStat: Jacques by decision; 12-4 Missouri
165 - Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) vs. Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State)
This was the matchup we saw in the NCAA third-place bout as true freshman Keegan O'Toole got by Travis Wittlake, 4-3. Both were probably a bit underseeded, as O'Toole was sixth and Wittlake tenth. In a typical season, O'Toole would have seen more top-flight competition and justified a better ranking. Wittlake was penalized for sudden victory loss to Luke Weber (North Dakota State) in the Big 12 finals; his only loss of the year, heading into nationals. The good news is that with O'Toole going into his second year at Mizzou and Wittlake being a redshirt sophomore, we'll have plenty of opportunities to see these two tangle for Big 12 and perhaps NCAA titles in upcoming seasons.
InterMat Pick: O'Toole by decision; 15-3 Missouri
WrestleStat: O'Toole by decision; 15-4 Missouri
174 - Peyton Mocco (Missouri) vs. Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State)
Here's another one that will probably rile up both fanbases. Peyton Mocco was a MAC runner-up and received the tenth seed at nationals as that conference final was his only loss during the regular season. Mocco actually started the year at 165 lbs and grabbed a win over the Big 12 champion at the weight, Weber. He would beat three others that ended up qualifying for nationals. Dustin Plott was a true freshman in 2021 and was considered by many to be one of the top recruits in the Class of 2020. Plott was obviously slowed down by a shoulder injury and his 15-6 record wasn't truly representative of his talent. Provided he has a full recovery, this matchup could look completely different in 2021-22 or another year in the future. But looking at this hypothetical dual in 2021, you probably have to get the nod to Mocco. The two have similar records against common opponents, though the Tiger did major Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma), a foe that split matches with the Cowboy freshman.
InterMat Pick: Mocco by decision: 18-3 Missouri
WrestleStat: Mocco by decision; 18-4 Missouri
184 - Jeremiah Kent (Missouri) vs. Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State)
This is another extremely even matchup that could end up going either direction. Jeremiah Kent is yet another Tiger wrestler that cruised into the postseason with a zero in the loss column. Kent ended up as the MAC runner-up after getting pinned by Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois) in the conference finals. Jeremiah was the ninth seed and went 2-2 before his elimination. One of his wins makes this matchup a little more challenging to predict. During the consolations, Kent downed the 10th seed, Tate Samuelson (Wyoming), a Big 12 runner-up. Samuelson was responsible for both of Dakota Geer's losses before the national tournament. Kent also defeated Samuelson in the regular season, too. Geer was seeded just behind Kent and Samuelson at 11. He rebounded from a second-round loss to wrestle back for fifth-place, his second time on the NCAA podium. Along the way, Geer defeated Taylor Venz (responsible for Kent's second-round loss) and Wilson, Kent's MAC finals opponent. The Cowboy was six points better than both foes. We've given Missouri the edge in a handful of these toss-up bouts, so Geer should get the nod here.
InterMat Pick: Geer by decision; 18-6 Missouri
WrestleStat: Geer by decision; 18-7 Missouri
197 - Rocky Elam (Missouri) vs. AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State)
These are a pair of blue-chip, true freshman All-Americans at 197 lbs, a rarity at the DI level. As everyone that follows college wrestling is aware, AJ Ferrari went on to win a national championship and has made himself one of the faces of the sport going forward, with his promotional skills on the microphone and his propensity to lose his shirt and flex. Kidding aside, Ferrari earned the right to flex after going 20-1 and knocking off world fifth-place finisher Myles Amine (Michigan) in the national semifinals, before shutting down Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) in the championship bout. At nationals, he downed the eventual 2nd-4th place finishers. The highest placewinner that Ferrari missed, wasâ€¦..Rocky Elam. Rocky was unbeaten during the regular season and was granted the seventh seed as he did not meet any of the upper echelon 197 lbers. At nationals, Elam was upset in the first round by the 26th seed, Jake Woodley (Oklahoma). He wrestled all the way back to the fifth-place bout and avenged his loss to the Sooner, 9-3. The only other blemish on his rookie campaign came in sudden victory to Amine in the consolation semis. If you like getting into the common opponent's game, Elam has a win over Noah Adams (West Virginia), the only wrestler to defeat Ferrari at the collegiate level. On the other hand, Ferrari has three wins over Woodley, too. Take a look at who WrestleStat picked, though we're not that bold!
InterMat Pick: Ferrari by decision; 18-9 Missouri
WrestleStat: Elam by decision; 21-7 Missouri
285 - Zach Elam (Missouri) vs. Austin Harris (Oklahoma State)
At first glance, you have to give this bout Mizzou's Zach Elam! Zach was the 11th seed in 2021 and wrestled his way into the Round of 12 at the 2019 NCAA tournament as a true freshman. A year earlier, he took silver at the Junior World Championships. While his pre-NCAA record (10-4) was unsightly compared to the majority of his Missouri teammates, three of Elam's four losses came to wrestlers seeded in the top-seven this year. All signs point to Elam giving his team the win in this de facto Big 12 Champion. All except the fact that the two met in the consolations at the 2021 tournament and it was Harris who got the victory...by fall! That victory put Harris into the Round of 12, where he fell a match shy of All-American status. Pretty shocking for the 29th seed. Harris wasn't just a one-hit-wonder; he did manage to defeat returning All-American Matt Stencel (Central Michigan), a four-time MAC Champion, just to set up the match with Elam. Does lightning strike again???
InterMat Pick: Harris by fall; 18-15 Missouri (Missouri wins 18-15)
WrestleStat: Elam by decision; 24-7 Missouri