SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – University of Missouri Tournament Head Coach Brian Smith was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 20th.
Beginning his career as Missouri’s seventh head wrestling coach, Smith sat down with his staff and made a list of goals he hoped would help the 1998 squad and future Tiger teams. Over the past 24 years, he and the many men who have come through the Mizzou wrestling program have slowly but surely checked items off that original list. Big 12 and MAC Individual Conference Champions, improved grade point averages, record-setting attendance, No. 1 national ranking. 1 and Missouri wrestling’s first ever NCAA National Champion on Smith’s “to do” list. His unique “Tiger Style” coaching program has molded today’s team into a national power that continues to pursue the program’s first NCAA title.
Since being introduced as Missouri’s Head Wrestling Coach on May 5, 1998, Smith has 21 consecutive seasons with a dual record at or above .500, starting with the 2001-02 season, and has been an All-American 29 times. as he coached 60 best performances. and six Tigers to nine national championships.
The winningest coach in program history, Smith has compiled a 319-114-4 record at Missouri over his 24-plus seasons. He became Missouri’s first 300-win coach in program history, surpassing the milestone on Jan. 8, 2021, in a 30-6 win over No. 21 Central Michigan.
With a career winning percentage of .737, Smith has the highest winning percentage in Mizzou wrestling history. He earned six consecutive Conference Coach of the Year honors from 2012-17, including five straight awards from the MAC league office. Additionally, he was honored as the top wrestling coach in the NCAA twice in his career, being named the Dan Gable Coach of the Year by W.I.N. Magazine in 2007, then Smith was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2017.
Six Tiger wrestlers have reached the pinnacle of collegiate wrestling, collecting nine NCAA Championships under Smith’s tenure, starting with Ben Askren. During Askren’s Tiger career, Smith guided the 174-pound grappler to the program’s first back-to-back National Championship titles (2006 and 2007). On March 21, 2009, Mark Ellis became the second Missouri wrestler in program history to collect top honors. In 2010, Max Askren became the third national champion in program history, as he dominated the No. 1 seed. 1 in the 184-pound weight class with a score of 10-3. After a four-year drought, true freshman J’den Cox claimed the program’s fifth national title in 2013-14 after defeating Ohio State’s Nick Heflin, 2-1. A year later, redshirt senior Drake Houdashelt completed his historic Tiger Style career with a 149-pound National Championship at the 2015 NCAAs. In 2016, Cox returned to the top of the podium at Madison Square Garden, at becoming the second two-time NCAA Champ in program history. Cox then became the program’s first three-time national champion when he defended his title in 2017, to cap off his incredible Tiger career. In 2022, freshman Keegan O’Toole became the Tigers’ first national champion at 165 pounds as he completed the fourth individual undefeated season in program history, tying B. Askren (2006-07) and Cox (2017).
In addition, Smith helped lead two wrestlers to the Olympics. B. Askren was the first wrestler in the programs history to compete in the summer games appearing at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, followed by Cox, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where his father coached football, Smith was a two-time state wrestling champion in 1984 with Oviedo High School and 1985 while competing at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. The Florida native graduated from Michigan State with a degree in education and married the former Denise Dean in 1993. Brian and Denise have three children, Quinn, Kylie and Braden. In the spring of 2009, Smith received his Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration from William Woods University.