NCAA Division I Wrestling Takes Its Show to the Big Apple

By Lyons, Joe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

NCAA Division I Wrestling Takes Its Show to the Big Apple


Lyons, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Missouri wrestling coach Brian Smith understands and supports the decision to hold the 2016 NCAA Division I wrestling championships in New York City. But ...

"As a coach, it's a pain," he said earlier this season. "I know the city and I love it there. It's a great opportunity for our sport to get exposure we'd never get otherwise and that's a great thing. Let's face it, the media there is the national media.

"But I've been in Penn Station and I know how crazy it can be. This experience won't be anything like our fans have ever been through before."

The tournament, which returns to Scottrade Center in 2017, begins Thursday and runs through Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden.

Top-ranked Penn State enters as the favorite, but a number of teams, including North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Iowa and Oklahoma State will challenge that. Missouri, which finished fourth last year at Scottrade, was sixth in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings.

Smith said that in spite of the big-time atmosphere, it'll be business as usual for the Tigers.

"We went to Vegas (and won the Las Vegas Invitational in December) and never really got a chance to see Vegas and we probably won't see a lot of New York City either," the coach said. "Oh, we'll see the Empire State Building down the road, but it's not that big a deal to these guys. The big deal to them is going out on the mats and competing hard, something they've done all season."

The Tigers, who recently captured their fifth consecutive conference tournament title, will have wrestlers in nine of 10 weight classes at the NCAAs. They are led by junior 197-pounder J'den Cox, who won a national title in 2014 and placed fifth a year ago.

"I have a chip on my shoulder for a lot of reasons," said Cox, who's 27-1 and seeded second. "And it's not a bad thing. Actually it feels kind of good. ... With my mindset and the way I'm wrestling, there's nobody in the country who can touch me, nobody who can beat me. I've worked too hard; anything less than the championship, it's not an option."

Smith added: "When you're training right and living right, that's where your confidence comes from. There aren't a lot of people at 197 who can stay with him, with that athleticism, that ability, that technique and that flexibility he brings to the mat. …

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