With a few of the Mizzou wrestlers back in my hometown, I had the chance to catch them for a lunch sit down and chat about wrestling and other outside activities.
Throughout the summer, many athletes take the time to hone in on their craft and make themselves better athletes inside of their particular sport. For wrestlers, that’s putting in the necessary work and extra hours to keep your body conditioned to a certain caliber within the sport.
Over three days, Tiger Style wrestlers Peyton Mocco, Zach Elam, and Rocky Elam took the time out of their schedule to come back to my hometown (Marceline, Mo.) and educate the future of wrestling.
Being one of my first face-to-face interviews with anyone, there was a wide range of things that were new to me, but when the conversation got going, these guys made you easily forget they were athletes on the Mizzou wrestling team.
Having the chance to come in and watch these guys work with young and growing minds in the wrestling world is exciting to see. I caught the back end of a session with Peyton Mocco working on scrambling techniques followed by a few campers showing what they had learned before finishing up before their lunch.
With a short amount of time left before the morning break, the guys were able to sort out into two teams and allowed these kids to have a competitive match of dodgeball. After the chaos settled down, it was Zach who came to me mentioning, “It’s not all about wrestling, have to let these kids have a little fun.” Too much of one thing can be overwhelming so letting them enjoy what they are doing and makes them want to come back.
Once we got settled at the cafeteria, the chance to ask these guys about themselves as individuals and as wrestlers was top of my list. Questions jumped all over the place but it was good getting to know them outside of being just wrestlers.
One of the first things that came to mind was something I myself saw as maybe a sour questio,n but it was something that I was interested in knowing. In reference to past seasons’ NCAA Championships, Zach Elam explained how wrestling Gable Steveson from Minnesota was.
“Going into a match of that caliber, you have to have a solid game plan against someone of his talent,” Zach said. “We knew what needed to be done but didn’t get it executed. I have worked with Gable a time or two prior but not in a competitive match of that status. Gable is a good wrestler and now is in the WWE. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of him in the NCAA.”
This led us into the next area of conversation, the 2024 NCAA Championships which will be held in Kansas City, Mo. at the T-Mobile Center. The T-Mobile center is located right in the Elam family’s back yard just a short 20-minute drive from where they went to high school (Staley).
“It is pretty cool that we get to have the chance to wrestle in front of the home fans and family will be right there,” Rocky said.
Zach chimed in, “We are definitely looking forward to that opportunity!”
Keeping on the subject of NCAA Championships and trending into the Big 12 Tournament as well, the location came back up again. In an equal agreement, the trio of Rocky, Zach, and Peyton mentioned they were having to backtrack for both the NCAAs and the Big 12 tournament this upcoming season. Both events will be held in Tulsa, Okla. at the BOK Center.
Steering the conversation away from wrestling, we a had young camper filling in with the hard-hitting questions? He wanted to know if Peyton Mocco had ever had cheese curds before.
“Have I had cheese curds before?,” Peyton asked. “Absolutely! I’m from Wisconsin so I used to go to places that had nothing but all kinds of cheese to pick from.”
Directing more into the topic of Wisconsin, there seems to be a hot debate going on inside the walls of the Mizzou wrestling rooms when it comes to Wisconsin athletics. When asked about Aaron Rodgers, the Packers, and the Chiefs:
Peyton said, “Huge Packers fan as well as many other guys on the team. I hated to see Devante Adams go to the Raiders but next man up.”
Rocky and Zach added, “When it comes to this subject, there are some debates and arguments that we have had. Not going into the finer details but we have had this discussion a time or two!”
Another interesting aspect of being in Wisconsin is the fact that Peyton Mocco had the opportunity to work with Mizzou wrestling icon Ben Askren.
“Working with Askren was pretty cool,” Mocco said. “He is actually quite laid back and a good technician. It was good to learn from a wrestler of his style and gather important knowledge from him.”
Speaking of guys getting down and showing technique, I gave them an opportunity to pitch Head Coach Brian Smith.
“Coach Smith is great and high-energy, he’s still getting down and doing the technique and showing things every day,” Zach said.
Peyton added, “Coach Smith may not be as intense as I had heard of in the past, but he still gets after it and makes it a good room to be in.”
This also rolled into the question of NIL deals and how that is working out with them. With Mizzou being one of the first schools to work with legislation. NIL deals will become an important role.
“Well,” Zach said, “The biggest one out of the team would currently be Keegan (O’Toole) who just signed a deal with Scraplife.”
“We have our own “Elam Bros” shirts that are selling on Wrestling Central,” Rocky said. “We have meetings set up down the road to show us the new things inside the University with NIL deals”
“Other than that it’s by ear for camps and cameo when we are offered,” Peyton said.
The final thing I took away from this was a statement made by Rocky Elam. These are words many should live by and strive to be the best they can!
“Never get too high on yourself,” he said. “Always keep going when you get to the top, and don’t become arrogant. Always work to be better!”
There were multiple other topics of discussion, but not everything can be plastered on the web for anyone to read. Getting the opportunity to speak with college athletes is a learning experience, as I have never lived their lifestyle, so it’s interesting to see how they balance everything together. Not only that, but you get the chance to know these guys as people and not just wrestlers. I look forward to following the rest of their careers as they unfold at Mizzou.