Don’t be surprised if this was not headline news, but the Missouri Tigers joined the Big 12 again in 2021.
It took nearly a year for this writer to notice, but the Big 12 conference added the Missouri Tigers wrestling team as an affiliate member. Announced back in April 2021, the Tigers left the Mid-American Conference (MAC) for their former conference.
Affiliate schools make up the majority of wrestling schools in the Big 12. “Legacy members” include Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. Missouri joined seven other affiliate teams to round out a 12 team conference, including Air Force, Northern Colorado, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State, Utah Valley, and Wyoming. Cal-Baptist will join as an affiliate in the 2022-2023 school year.
“I never thought that moving back to the Big 12 would be a possibility for Mizzou,” Missouri wrestling coach Brian Smith added when the move was announced. “The Big 12 has an outstanding wrestling tradition; having the opportunity to return home is so special for our current and past student-athletes who have helped make Tiger Style what it is today.”
The Tigers left the Big 12 in 2012 on a high note, winning their first Big 12 Conference wrestling team championship. Missouri then joined the MAC as an affiliate and began a nine-year stretch of domination. They won nine-straight team titles, including the 2021 title when they scored a MAC Tournament record 188.5 points, 59.5 points more than second-place Central Michigan. Missouri also recorded 40 individual conference champions, six Tournament Most Outstanding Wrestlers, six Conference Wrestler of the Year honorees, and six Freshman of the Year winners in the MAC.
“Our nine years in the MAC were great for Mizzou Wrestling, as we competed at the highest level in program history with nine-straight conference titles and placing in the Top 10 at seven NCAA Championships,” Smith said. “The MAC’s administrators and coaches are first-class individuals who were always looking to grow the sport of wrestling, and I enjoyed the opportunity to work with and compete against them over the years.”
It is like the Tigers never left, as they rank 10th nationally, according to InterMat NCAA Division I Rankings. Their 6-2 team record has them the second-highest ranked team in the Big 12, only trailing third-ranked Oklahoma State. Missouri is 4-0 as a team against conference foes so far, and will not face the Cowboys in a dual until Feb. 6, 2022. The Tigers closed out 2021 with a win over 17th-ranked Lehigh, finishing third in the Collegiate Wrestling Duals.
While wrestling is hardly filling up winter television schedules, the Tigers kick off 2022 with the huge Southern Scuffle. One of college wrestling’s biggest annual events returns Jan. 1, 2022, and includes top programs from around the country. Fans can watch the entire meet on FloWrestling on the first two days of 2022.