Thursday, April 5, 2007

MU Wrestling Review/Preview

Just so this post won't be entirely out of place....BOB HUGGINS

Alright, the long awaited Mizzou Wrestling wrap-up and preview for next year. I am going to try to break down what we have returning, what we have coming in and how it may all break down to start the season next year. Needless to say, wrestling recruiting news is not quite as abundant as basketball or football, so it will be tougher for me to guess as to what may happen next year, but I will give it my best shot.

First things first, our lineup and their records (approx, taken from after UNI meet) from this past year.

125 - John Olanowski (FR) 18-13
133 - Tyler McCormick (JR) 12-6
141 - Ashtin Primus (FR) 30-11
149 - Josh Wagner (JR) 24-7
157 - Mike Chandler (SO) 18-7
165 - Matt Pell (SR) 15-3
174 - Ben Askren (SR) NCAA Champ-0
184 - Raymond Jordan (SO) 22-4
197 - Ben Askren (FR) 28-2
HWY - Mark Ellis (RS FR) 12-7

Well...only 2 seniors in the starting lineup....that was a shocking thing to me when I first really got into this team. What was even more shocking was the amount of talent coming back next year, and the years to come. Certainly, we lose a 2-time national champion/4-time All-American in Ben Askren. We will also lose Matt Pell, a 2-time All-American, but at two, non-consecutive weight classes. That is a lot of points we lose from our 3rd place national team.

So....what do I see for next year?

125 - Tony Pescaglia (SO)
133 - Tyler McCormick (SR)
141 - Ashtin Primus (SO)
149 - Josh Wagner (SR)
157 and 165 - Mike Chandler (JR) and Nick Marable (SO)
174 - Joey Garrity (JR)
184 - Raymond Jordan (JR)
197 - Max Askren (SO)
HWY - Mark Ellis (SO)

So...this lineup might disappoint some in my guessing, but I will lay that out in what I would LIKE to see us do in just a second.

Basically, not too much change. I believe Olanoski did not improve at all as the season went on, and Tony Pescaglia red shirted this year. He was a highly rated wrestler coming into this season, but what I have seen Coach Brian Smith do is redshirt the wrestler with the greater potential (see Sean Connole vs. Mark Ellis at HWY). I think Pescaglia wins the job in the...well...whatever you call the wrestling preseason and should serve as a decent upgrade in the Big XII. This is going to be a YOUNG weight class next year in the Big XII, as everyone but OU's Hazewinkel was a frosh or soph. I think Pescaglia is a step up from Olanowski and should give us a decent chance to send someone to STL in this weight class.

At 133...well...I think a 2-time All-American is pretty cemented there. Nice job by Coach Smith this year to get Tyler McCormick peaking at the right time, and look for Tyler to start next year top 5 in the country as five of the top 10 graduate. Tyler will likely start the year behind Frey of Cornell, Scott of OSU and perhaps Reiter of MN.

Mizzou got a really nice effort from Ashtin Primus this past season at 141, but unfortunately Primus seemed to peak a little too soon (more on this to come) and did not make the NCAA's after being ranked during the season. Nathan Morgan of OSU will return as the lone senior and the class of this bunch, and Primus is going to need to improve upon his showing within the Big XII last year. Hopefully another year of maturity will get him to STL next season.

Josh Wagner will likely be the only other senior starter on the team next year. And to correct a mistake from a previous post of mine, Storniolo of OU was a SENIOR, not a SOPH. This has bearing because it likely vaults Wagner to a solid #2 in the conference with Cyler Sanderson. And if anyone saw their match at the Big XII's, you should know it should be a good battle between the two all season long for bragging rights in the conference. Needless to say, I see Wagner making the NCAA's, and a potential AA candidate to finish his career.

I combined 157 and 165 because I simply do not know who will fall where. Mike Chandler had a solid year going, climbing into the national rankings before he got hurt. Enter Nick Marable, who filled in VERY well for Chandler, even getting ranked nationally in some polls. Chandler returned to the lineup for post season action. Marable also filled in at times for Matt Pell at 165 when was being strategically rested, and showed quite well then too, taking 3rd in the prestigious Southern Scuffle. Either way, I expect these two to fill these slots, assuming Marable at 165. The only reason I did not put him here is because Chandler is REALLY big for 157, and I did not want to rule out a step up for him.

At 174, the biggest shoes to fill in the country will likely fall to Joey Garrity. Garrity has been an important cog for Mizzou the last two seasons, filling in at three different weights (174 through 197). In the end, I believe he has the most experience over any other wrestler on the roster, and will likely take the spot. Garrity also potentially lucks out, because the Big XII will turn over 3 of the 5 wrestlers in this class, returning only Weitzel and Mason (the #2 and #3 wrestlers in the bunch). Because of this, Garrity could see his way into making the NCAA's next spring, but will certainly have to prove it on the mat.

The single biggest proponent of Mizzou NOT joining the Big 10 HAS to be Raymond Jordan. Jordan was perfect in the Big XII this season, all the way through the Big XII Championships. However, Big 10 wrestlers were his bugaboo, and most matches he lost were to Big 10 wrestlers. This is a young class in the Big XII, with all wrestlers returning, and only one senior starting next season. Jordan can look forward to some great battles with Jake Varner of Iowa State, and once again nationally, the top 4 wrestlers will all likely be from the Big 10 (Herbert, Kish, Pucillo and Todd). Jordan will NEED to AA next year to silence some critics, and will need to be a leader of this team next season.

At 197, there was no more a disappointing ended to a season ANYWHERE than Max Askren. Squeaking his way to a Big XII title in two VERY tight matches, Askren returned to the #1 spot in the land heading into the NCAA's. However, I am guessing Max just ran out of gas and lost his first two matches in Detroit. We will NOT go into what would have happened for Mizzou had he held his seed (I think if he won 197 and Jordan AA'ed we would have I did get into it, oh well). All I can hope for (and assume) is that Coach Smith now knows when and how to properly peak Askren and that will allow for better end results next season. LOTS of juniors and seniors in this weight class next year, so if Max can get through next year, he should stand to own it from here on out. And his nemesis Kurt Backes graduates too....

Heavyweight will be interesting to watch. Mark Ellis was redshirted last year, and that move paid off with an NCAA appearance and 3rd place finish at the Big XII's. The weight class in conference next year is still very young, so Ellis will continue to have his work cut out for him. What makes this class interesting will be discussed here in a moment, but I believe that Ellis can certainly repeat on his performance this season, and even improve upon it if healthy all the way through the season.

So...what would I LIKE to maybe see next year? Assuming the lowest 6 weights are set....starting at 174

174 - Raymond Jordan
184 - Max Askren
197 - Joey Garrity
275 - Dom Bradley

Yeah....I said it....I want to move the #5 rated and #1 rated wrestler at their classes out of their classes.

Here is my thinking. Jordan does not quite have the physique to tell me he is a FULL 184 pounder. I really do believe he could get down to 174 and do even better in a weight class which will have 3 of the top 6 graduating.

I believe Max could move down to 184 for the same reason Raymond could move to 174. Max is not filled out physically at 197, and his style is not a power style, meaning he needs as much size as he can get. Moving down to 184 will give him a size advantage over those wrestlers, and a matchup of Askren and Herbert would just be funny.

At 197....well...I don't know if we have anyone else, but Garrity has wrestled here before and really does deserve a spot somewhere. Bulk him up and see if he can upset anyone along the way.

At 275, Dom Bradley is the #1 rated recruit at this weight. I would like to think that the highest rated recruit at this weight should be able to come in and do quite well right off of the bat. However, please know I have NEVER seen this young man wrestle or even a picture of him.

Speaking of recruiting, I believe this has to be the highest rated class on the way in for Mizzou, with Bradley not even being the highest rated nationally (#29 overall). Picking up Max Shanaman (#19 nationally) at 135 (likely to wrestle 141) is not only important because...well...he is quite good but also because he is from Blair Academy. Just an idea of what Blair Academy puts out in a year, they had 6 ranked nationally, including a junior at 140 and a FROSH at 112. Needless to say, getting some recruiting hooks in there is REALLY important. Added to that, Troy Dolan is rated #43 and defeated the #1 kid in the country earlier this year (expected to wrestle at 125 or 133, I say 133 since we have two Pecaglia's at 125). Mike Schmitz (160, to wrestle 165) is also rated in the top 100 this year, giving us at least five in this group.

So...what does it all mean?

I do not believe we WILL win the Big XII next year, but boy it could be tight. Iowa State does not lose much, but they do lose some in Backes, Paulson and Turner. Not sure how Okie State will do losing Hendricks, and OU and NU still have some room to grow, though NU should eclipse OU this season. No matter what, Mizzou should look to have a great showing in St. Louis in March.