Wrestle-offs and intrasquad matches are a common way for many college wrestling programs to start the season.
The University of Missouri went one better at its wrestle-offs… by also inviting some of its mat alums back to campus to take on the current Tiger wrestlers, at a special dual meet tied to the school’s homecoming celebration Saturday at Hearnes Center.
In addition to six traditional wrestle-off matches for existing team members, thirteen former Mizzou matmen participated in the first-ever Black & Gold Alumni Match… and the “old guys” acquitted themselves well, winning seven of their matches. (In this case, “old guys” is a relative term, with most of the alums being recent graduates. The eldest was Brooks Travis, 39, from the class of 1997.)
To make the event more fun for fans and participants alike, matches consisted of one-minute periods. In matches that were tied at the end of regulation, the audience determined the winner. That rule came into play twice, in matches featuring Nick Marable, two-time NCAA All-American – and 170-pound champ at the Tour ACW test event last weekend -- vs. team captain Johnny Eblen, and alumni Patrick Wright and redshirt freshman Parker Von Egidy. Eblen and Wright were declared victorious by crowd applause.
Marable, who is volunteer assistant coach for the Tigers, joked to the Columbia Missourian that the match was fixed – “He paid the fans” – but then shared the serious thinking behind the alumni vs. current wrestlers dual meet, saying, "A lot of us are trying to get a bigger fan base for the wrestling team."
Head coach Brian Smith weighed in, saying, "It was a lot of fun. We saw some good wrestling. It's good because we are such a young team, and they got to see some of the former wrestlers and wrestle with them and I think, being Homecoming, it was a good time to have this event. We open up next Friday, so to get a crowd like this, to have this many people here, and to be able to wrestle in front of a referee...it's good."
The idea is a winner for a number of reasons. For starters, events such as Missouri’s Black & Gold Alumni Match generates attention beyond typical wrestle-offs in terms of media coverage (look, College Wrestling Examiner is writing about it)… as well as in drawing existing fans and attracting new ones, curious to see past wrestlers take on “the kids.” It also helps strengthen bonds between former wrestlers and the program where they competed… and can result in increased donations and event participation from alumni. Here’s hoping other schools try the Missouri alumni model. You don’t have to wait until next season, either.
- Tyler McCormick (alum) dec. Tony DeAngelo, 1-0
- Nathan McCormick (alum) dec. Eric Wilson, 2-1
- Dom Bradley (alum) dec. Justin Heberlie, 3-1
- Johnny Eblen dec. (crowd decision) Nick Marable (alum), 1-1
- Kyle Bradley maj. dec. Andrew Sherry (alum), 10-2
- Cole Baumgartner dec. Brooks Travis (alum), 7-3
- Dorian Henderson (alum) dec. Mike England, 6-3
- Mike Larson (alum) dec. Devin Mellon, 3-1
- Zach Toal maj. dec. Amond Prater (alum), 10-2
- James Williamshon (alum) dec. Jon Goerke, 5-0
- Patrick Wright (alum) dec. (crowd decision) Parker Von Egidy, 0-0
- Drake Houdashelt dec. Todd Schavrien (alum), 1-0
- J’den Cox dec. Matt Pell (alum), 5-1
Want to know more? Check out the stories at the official Missouri wrestling website... and the Columbia Missourian (which has a handful of action photos). To see more photos, check out TheSportsAnnouncer's Facebook album "Old Tigers v. Tiger Cubs."
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