Posted: Oct 25, 2012 1:25 PM
COLUMBIA -- After claiming a Big 12 Championship and finishing with a 14-4 overall record in 2011-12, the Mizzou wrestling program has been ranked No. 7 nationally in the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Preseason Coaches Poll. This marks the 11th straight season that Mizzou has opened the season ranked among the top 15 nationally under the direction of defending Big 12 Coach of the Year Brian Smith. This marks the Tigers' top ranking in the polls since debuting at No. 5 in 2008.
"This is the most experienced team I have coached at Mizzou, but even more important, I have a team with great leadership," Smith said. "They have high expectations for this season, but they are mature enough to know that we are in October and this training and upcoming competition is to prepare us for the NCAA Championships in March."
After finishing 14-4 overall in dual meets last season, the Tigers were tied with Cornell for seventh in this year's poll. Minnesota was picked first nationally in the preseason poll, garnering seven of the 10 first-place votes while Penn State was picked to finish second, getting the remaining three first-place votes. In all, Mizzou was the top MAC team in the poll as it enters its inaugural season as members of the MAC.
For the first time in history, Mizzou qualified all 10 starters for the NCAA Championships last season, including both Alan Water (125 pounds) and Brent Haynes (197 pounds), both of whom earned national seeds. Haynes and Waters are just the tip of the iceberg when talking about what the Tigers bring back to the mat in 2012-13. In fact, nine of the 10 wrestlers that qualified for the NCAA Championships will be back this season and All-American Dom Bradley returns at heavyweight after taking an Olympic Redshirt last season.
Other key returners this season include: Nathan McCormick (133), Nicholas Hucke (141), Kyle Bradley (149), Drake Houdashelt (157), Zach Toal (165), Mike Larson (184) and Devin Mellon (HWT). Mizzou will open its season on Nov. 3 with the annual Black & Gold Dual before it opens regular season competition against Old Dominion and Purdue on Nov. 10 in West Lafayette, Indiana.