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Mizzou wrestling returns to Big 12 as affiliate member

Tigers spent last 9 seasons in MAC
J'Den Cox, Brett Harner
Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 17:06:47-04

The University of Missouri is returning to the Big 12 Conference — at least in wrestling.

The Tigers, who tied for seventh at the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships last month, have wrestled in the Mid-American Conference since the 2012-13 season.

That's the year Mizzou left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, which does not sponsor wrestling.

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators unanimously voted Thursday to revive the wrestling team's affiliation with the Big 12 effective July 1, 2021.

“I never thought that moving back to the Big 12 would be a possibility for Mizzou, but I’m appreciative of the leadership and vision that President Mun Choi and Jim Sterk provide and their willingness to help make this day a reality for our program,” Tigers wrestling coach Brian Smith said in a statement. “Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Senior Associate Commissioner Bob Burda were instrumental in making this happen for Mizzou. 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.”

Missouri rejoins Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia in a conference that also includes affiliate wrestling members the Air Force Academy, Northern Colorado, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming as part of a 12-team alliance.

“Year in and year out, the Big 12 is one of the nation’s premier wrestling conferences, and we believe it is the natural home for Mizzou Wrestling from both a competitive excellence and geographic standpoint,” Mizzou Athletic Director Jim Sterk said. “This move also strengthens our program and will better prepare it for achieving its goal of winning an NCAA team championship.”

Fresno State, a former Big 12 affiliate, eliminated wrestling after the 2020-21 season, but California Baptist University will join the league as an affiliate member in 2022-23.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our wrestling program,” MU President Mun Choi said in a statement. “Coach Smith has done a tremendous job in his 23 years leading the program. Like many of our fans, I am very excited to see what the future holds for Mizzou wrestling in the Big 12.”

The Tigers finished the regular season ranked fifth in the National Wrestling Coaches Association's Coaches Poll, which included five Big 12 teams — No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Iowa State, No. 15 Northern Iowa, No. 19 Oklahoma and No. 25 Wyoming.

Mizzou has won 10 straight conference championships, the 2012 Big 12 title and nine straight MAC championships, and finished in the top 10 at the NCAA championships 10 times since 2007.