With the ending of both basketball and hockey, the dog days of baseball quickly approaching and not much else to discuss in the sports world, it is officially what some in sports media call Mount Rushmore season. Named because it is when bored sports writers and fans come up with their most ridiculous takes and/or arguments in order to continue conversation until NCAA football media days and beyond. In this spirit I figured I should use my first article for Armchair All-Americans to stir the pot and discuss the Mount Rushmore of athletes to come out of the University of Missouri.
With Karissa Schweizer closing out her Mizzou career as one of the most decorated collegiate athletes to ever call Columbia her home, this topic has been swirling around Columbia for the last couple of weeks. It is something that is hotly debated and is probably different for every Mizzou fan depending on which sports they follow and whether their list specifies only accomplishments made as a Tiger or includes professional and international accomplishments after their collegiate careers. For the sake of clarity, my Mount Rushmore will include all athletic achievements from college to professional and international levels. So without further ado, here is my Mount Rushmore of University of Missouri athletes.
Kellen Winslow Sr.
For the first face on Mizzou’s Mount Rushmore, the obvious choice was one of the two NFL Hall of Famers, either Kellen or Roger Wehrli, and my nod has to go to Mr. Winslow. Though Winslow’s career was shortened to injury his impact on the way we see the tight end position today is what puts him on the mount over Wehrli. Winslow finished his career at Missouri with 71 receptions for 1089 yards and ten touchdowns as a two time Big Eight all conference selection and led the Big Eight in touchdown receptions in both 1977 and 1978. Even though he was drafted 13th overall in 1979 by the San Diego Chargers, he wasn’t always a lock to succeed in the pros as his rookie season was cut short by a knee injury. Winslow bounced back in 1980 in part to the vertical offensive scheme known as Air Coryell named after San Diego coach Don Coryell. This offense along with his freak athleticism and ability to go get the ball in traffic allowed him to have a breakout season with 89 catches for 1290 yards, breaking both the the previous record of 75 receptions held by Mike Ditka and most yards by a tight end.
One reason Winslow is most deserving of his spot is because of the longevity of his 1980 record breaking season which both stood as the record until 2011 when they were broken by Rob Gronkowski. In an era where tight ends were mainly blockers who would catch short crossing patterns when needed, he set a record that survived through the careers of tight ends like Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. He also had some of the most heroic individual performances including a 1982 playoff game in which he caught 13 passes for 166 yards, both of which were single game playoff records for a tight end. In that same game, he blocked a field goal to send the game to overtime all while battling a pinched nerve in his shoulder. Between his individual performances and his impact on the game as a whole, Kellen Winslow Sr. deserves to be the first face on Mizzou’s Mount Rushmore.
This is a no brainer as Schweizer is one of the most decorated athletes in Mizzou history and with some international success as her career continues will only bolster her standing among the Tiger greats. She finished her career just a couple weeks ago with a laundry list of accomplishments highlighted by six national championships along with six school records as well as the American collegiate record in the 3000 meters. One thing that makes her achievements all the more impressive is in her first NCAA appearance in 2014, she finished in near the middle of the pack and took 155th place.
Over the next four years, Schweizer ran in twelve championship races, winning seven (one a US, not NCAA) championships. She finished second in the 2017 NCAA 300m and third in three of the other races. Along the way setting six school records and eight conference titles. She also led Mizzou as a team to its best ever team finish at 17th in 2017 scoring the 3rd most individual points in the women’s division. Another main reason Schweizer makes the list is she still has the opportunity to add to her resumé and along with (spoiler alert) J’Den Cox, will most likely do so at the international level.
Cox is another athlete that still can still add to his case to make others’ Mizzou Mount Rushmores but between his burgeoning international career and remarkable collegiate career he has to be up there. His three NCAA championships are the most in Mizzou wrestling history not to mention he was a career 136 and 5 record in the NCAAs, the second winningest in Tiger Style history. He is also only the second four time All-American.
Since his days as a Tiger, he has added an Olympic bronze medal and helped the United States claim their first World Cup since 2003, taking 3rd individually. Cox is currently on the cusp of making his third straight US senior worlds team in freestyle. He faces Hayden Zillmer on Saturday June 23rd in an event deemed Final X, to qualify for the 2018 season. The two squared off once before at the 2018 US Open finals in a low scoring match that Cox won 2-0. If Cox does pull off the win this Saturday, he will move on to try and help the US Men’s freestyle team pull another dramatic win at the 2018 World Championships after upsetting Russia at the World Cup in April.
A little bit of bias came out in these last two but both Askren and Cox’ careers stand up to any other athlete in Missouri history. Askren’s collegiate record alone is preposterous finishing his Tiger Style career with 153 wins and 8 losses. Askren was the first four time All American in Missouri wrestling history. He also won back to back national titles in 2006 and 2007 accompanied both years by Dan Hodge awards, finishing those both seasons undefeated. His 91 wins by fall is still a Tiger record which doesn’t seem like it will be approached anytime soon as the abovementioned Cox finished his career with 27.
However, Askren’s wrestling career is not all that puts him on Mount Rushmore. It is tough to pick just one mixed martial artist with the success of others like Michael Chandler’s and Tyron Woodley. Records of 18-4 and 22-3 respectively are impressive but Askren finishes them above both with an unblemished record in eighteen professional fights. He holds the Bellator record for most successful title defenses, most consecutive defenses. Askren then won six straight ONE fights becoming the ONE Welterweight champion. Of Askren’s eighteen fights, he finished eleven. Six of those by knockout and five others by submission.
There are plenty other athletes that could have made the Mount Rushmore of Mizzou athletics. Depending on what you think Michael Porter Jr. will do in the NBA, how Jontay finishes his basketball career in Columbia and an argument could be made for others like Sophie Cunningham, Anthony Peeler and many many more. If you think you have a better Mizzou Mount Rushmore send it my way on twitter @NateConant21.