By: Sean Mael
Dack Punke vs. Joey Prata
Thoughts: Both wrestlers started over twenty bouts last season in their respective first years as a starter for their programs. I would expect both wrestlers to make the NCAA tournament this season and both are likely to spend some time in the top 25. Punke was able to become an NCAA qualifier and had the slightly better wins between the two last season. Punke is extremely stingy defensively and is a really slick counter wrestler. He has a great reshot Hi-C that he needs to lean on more and is adept at putting together solid rides from the top position. Punke looked really good at the intersquad meet with a dominating win against Cam Valdiviez. Prata is a really solid wrestler. He is an excellent scrambler and like Punke has a tendency to wrestle tight low scoring bouts. Prata will likely look to wrestle this one from space a bit more whereas Punke will likely push for collar ties frequently. One area of weakness for both competitors last season was from the bottom position, so if whoever scores the first takedown can put a decent ride together and maybe snag a turn that could be a pivotal point in this bout. Going into this season I would like to see Punke initiate more offense early in matches. I see Punke getting to his Hi-C or low single early in this one and converting. I think Prata will have trouble finishing on Punke here. I expect Punke to win a tight, low-scoring match with a lot of good action by a couple points here.
Prediction: Punke Dec. Prata 5-3 (MIZZ 3-0)
Allan Hart or Connor Brown vs. #14 Collin Gerardi
Thoughts: This is one of my most anticipated bouts of the dua regardless of who gets the nod for Missouri. Allan Hart had a really solid season last year, despite being stuck behind All-American John Erneste. Hart is long for the weight class and is tough on top. Hart is also really slick in neutral. Hart has the talent to make noise this season at 133. Brown was an NCAA qualifier, while wrestling for South Dakota State in the 2017- 2018 season at 125 pounds before following his coaching staff to Wisconsin, where he got injured. Then Brown decided to come back home to Missouri (He was a 4 time state champion in class 2 for Oak Grove.) and make a go of it up a weight at 133. Brown is a tremendous scrambler and pinner and scores a lot from the top position. If Brown is healthy and acclimated to the weight class he could make some jumps this season. Either Missouri grappler will have a tough bout looming her against #14 Gerardi. Gerardi was 16-6 in his redshirt season with notable wins over #15 Nick Farro,#16 Codi Russell and #19 Jarrett Trombley. Gerardi is a high scoring wrestler who will really push the pace here. His top game will likely provide trouble for either Mizzou competitor as well. This match will likely be really close. I have either Hart or Brown pulling the slight upset here in what should be a fun bout early in the season. I think Hart will get the nod here and will win a wild bout here.
Prediction: Hart Dec. Gerardi 9-8 (MIZZ 6-0)
Alex Butler vs. #17 Mitch Moore
Thoughts: Butler is a fifth year senior and has some solid wins throughout his career, but he will get a stiff challenge here. Butler is a solid scrambler and is solid on top, but is prone to being overaggressive and giving up his legs easily on occasion. Moore is very solidly built and stocky for the weight class. Moore is extremely tough to score on and is really explosive in getting to his shots. Moore is also a hammer from top. I like Butler to keep this bout close and to wrestle smart here, but Moore is the better wrestler and could end up having an AA caliber season this year. I think Moore will score early and often, but that Butler will manage to slow the pace of the match and hold this to a major decision.
Prediction: Moore Maj. Butler 17-6 (MIZZ 6-4)
#2 Brock Mauller vs. #22 Brent Moore
Thoughts: Mauller is a pleasure to watch wrestle. He is extremely funky and scores extremely well on his counters, as well as his own leg attacks. I have rarely seen anyone score so reliably from opponents getting in deep on his leg. Mauller has an innate ability to trap a head and shoulder underneath and then get to an ankle and come out behind. Mauller’s hips are essentially a brick wall. Moore is typically an aggressive high volume shooter with some slickness to him. He is a tough wrestler, but I think Mauller will pick him apart in defensive scrambles on the mat. If Moore plays it close to the vest and largely concedes the bout he will lose a lopsided decision. If Moore keeps attacking he might get majored here. Mauller tended not to pull the trigger in neutral a ton against good opponents last season, although he has all the goods with his leg attacks. I am interested to see if coming out aggressively and stacking takedowns on his feet is a point of emphasis this season. I think Mauller is never really challenged here, but that Moore slows it down enough to just lose by a controlled decision.
Prediction: Mauller Dec. Moore 9-3 (MIZZ 9-4)
#10 Jarrett Jacques vs. #17 BC LaPrade
Thoughts: This will be one of the best matches of this dual meet. Last season in Jacques first match after he dropped his redshirt he wrestled LaPrade in an excellent bout that ended with a big move for LaPrade in SV. Jacques had an excellent true freshman season, with a couple huge wins. Jacques is dynamic on his feet, and is an excellent scrambler. Jacques last season had some issues with conditioning and occasionally struggled from bottom. In his second season starting I look for him to take some strides in those areas. LaPrade is long for the weight class and is an extremely solid wrestler for Virginia Tech. He scrambles well and is tough to finish cleanly on. LaPrade is gritty and this is the type of match Jacques will need to win at NCAA’s if he wants to be an All-American this season. One key area to watch in this bout will be who is controlling the ties. Laprade will want to keep Jacques in a front headlock for substantial amounts of time and control the tempo here, whereas Jacques will want to score early and put on a good ride to mitigate both his gas tank and bottom concerns. This is an extremely compelling match and is likely a toss-up on paper. I think Jacques has more offense from his feet, so I will take Jacques to reverse the result from last season in overtime here.
Prediction: Jacques Dec. LaPrade 6-4 SV1 (MIZZ 12-4)
Peyton Mocco or Luke Fortuna vs. #4 David McFadden
Thoughts: Let me preface this match-up by mentioning that I am extremely excited to watch Mocco compete this season. Mocco is an excellent scrambler and is extremely hard to takedown. He will have a lot of up and down results this season, but if his offensive output catches up to his defense and scrambling then he could be a hammer down the road. I expect Mocco to get the start here, although Fortuna is a guy who has been around the program and does everything right. Fortuna is strong for the weight and controls collar ties well. McFadden is good in all three positions. He is both aggressive and slick from the neutral position and can ride effectively for both riding time and turns from a claw ride predominantly. McFadden is a title contender at this weight and I am excited to see Mocco get that feel early in the season. It will serve as a good benchmark for where he needs to be. I think Mocco is tough enough to score on that he will hold this one to a decision. If McFadden gets rolling on top it could become a major in short order. McFadden is a huge favorite here and I would be stunned by anything, other than a solid convincing win here.
Prediction: McFadden Dec. Mocco 8-3 (MIZZ 12-7)
#8 Connor Flynn vs. Cody Hughes
Thoughts: Flynn has all the tools to be extremely successful this season up a weight class from last year’s NCAA qualifying season. Flynn has a good gas tank and was long for a 165, which should help him at 174. Flynn is tough on top and is an excellent scrambler. I look for big things out of Flynn this season. Flynn has a really nice Hi-C and also hits an excellent low single. Hughes is a talented guy and will likely be an NCAA qualifier this season. Hughes wrestled Daniel Lewis to a 7-3 loss last season in this dual and was very stingy. Flynn will get a decent test here early and it will serve him well. Bonus points would be huge here for Missouri. I think that Flynn will open up a bit and put some points on the board here, but will fall short of the major decision against a very game Hughes.
Prediction: Flynn Dec. Hughes 9-2 (MIZZ 15-7)
#14 Dylan Wisman vs. #9 Hunter Bolen
Thoughts: This is one of the best bouts likely to occur in this dual meet. Both wrestlers are past NCAA qualifiers and both are getting an opportunity to wrestle in their home state here. It is awesome that the Missouri coaching staff makes a point of visiting the home states of seniors on the roster for duals. I think that is a really cool personal touch and shows how genuine the coaching staff is. Regarding the bout, Wisman had a solid Hi-C and a good low double. Wisman had outstanding hips and is very hard to shoot straight through without an angle. Bolen had outstanding results as a redshirt last season (12-1 with two wins over past AA’s) after a true freshman season where he qualified down at 174. Bolen is long for the weight class and provides a match-up issue for Wisman with his length and finishing ability. Bolen will get out to an early lead here and likely will hold off a game Wisman late. I am excited to see if Wisman has turned a corner, because a win here is a huge one for him if he wants to be an AA this season. This should be a really fun bout to watch as both guys typically open up a good amount.
Bolen Dec. Wisman 7-5 (MIZZ 15-10)
#20 Wyatt Koelling vs. Stanley Smeltzer
Thoughts: Koelling is very hard nosed. He is long for the weight class and has a tremendous greco background that makes opponents reluctant to tie up with him. Smeltzer is a bit of an unknown as he wrestled sparingly last season and has competed at 184 each of the past two seasons. I am interested to see if Smeltzer has grown into a full sized 197 who will attempt to win inside control vs. Koelling or if he will attack from the outside and attempt to use his speed to his advantage in this bout. At this juncture in his career Koelling is a big 197lb wrestler. I look for Koelling to favor a slow pace here and control the ties and win a solid controlled decision by three to four points here. Koelling’s top prowess is underrated and I think he puts a good ride on Smeltzer here. Koelling narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament and I think he is squarely in the field this season. One thing to note with Koelling is that to this point in his career he has rarely opened up and won matches by large margins. I think we see him open up a bit more this season.
Koelling Dec. Smeltzer 6-2 (MIZZ 18-10)
Rodrigo Diaz vs. John Borst
Thoughts: This is an interesting bout. With #8 Zach Elam taking a redshirt this season, Austin Myers was originally listed for Missouri and is a past NCAA qualifier, but it looks like Diaz will get the start. Diaz was 10-5 last season in open competition and was not pinned or teched in any of his losses. Diaz did fill in for Missouri two seasons ago in the South Beach duals and lost three matches by decision in those dual meets. Diaz is a good athlete and has improved tremendously in his time with the Tigers. Heading into his junior season he may be in line for a lot of dual starts. Diaz may not be a top flight heavyweight this season, but he will scrap hard and will give great effort. Borst had an excellent redshirt campaign two seasons ago at 197, before moving up to heavyweight last season. Borst wrestled Elam to a 5-4 loss last season and is a very mobile light heavyweight. I look for Diaz to wrestle within himself here and although overmatched keep it close with Borst. Diaz is rarely bonused and I do not believe Borst has the top game to turn him repeatedly here.
Prediction: Borst Dec. Diaz 9-3 (MIZZ 18-13)
All rankings utilized in this article are courtesy of Flowrestling. Mizzou comes into this dual without #5 Grant Leeth at 141 and the aforementioned redshirting #8 Elam at heavyweight. Bonus points will be at a premium in this one as both schools are really stingy and tough defensively. 133, 157 and 184 are huge swing matches in this dual. This will be an extremely tight dual all the way through and is an excellent gauge on where each team’s fitness and preparation levels are at. Look for Missouri to be tough on top throughout the dual and for Virginia Tech to be highly aggressive early in bouts. Those are penchants for each program. Wrestling season is back and it will be exciting to see this young Missouri team in action here. I should have a Southeast Open preview for Mizzou out sometime early tomorrow. Thanks for reading.