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Fit for a fairy tale

Sarah Shire and Nick Marable star in Beauty and the Beast athletic event

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Photos by Shane Epping and Nic Benner
  • Published: Feb. 10, 2009
Beauty and the beast embrace

Mizzou gymnast Sarah Shire and wrestler Nick Marable will compete during Friday's Beauty and the Beast event in the Hearnes Center.

On the surface, Mizzou gymnast Sarah Shire and wrestler Nick Marable seem to embody the characteristics evoked by the third annual Beauty and the Beast event, to be held at 7 p.m. Friday in the Hearnes Center.

Shire, named Big 12 Gymnast of the Week twice already this season, gracefully flips and corkscrews through the air. A true beauty. Marable, who was ranked No. 1 nationally in his weight class, overpowers opponents and muscles his way to victory. Quite beastly. But looking more closely, fans can see how each athlete could take on both monikers.

Shire’s ferocity

Throughout high school, Shire was heavily recruited by all the top national university gymnastics programs. Mizzou was on her radar, but she decided to go to the University of Utah, which boasts a perennial top-10 team. After a year, she felt burned out and transferred to Mizzou to be near her family and further her education. Gymnastics was up in the air.

“I knew if it was right, I’d feel it — and if it wasn’t, I’d feel that, too,” Shire says. “I’ve been in it long enough to know where the passion is, where the fire is.”

Mizzou gymnastics coach Rob Drass said he was thrilled when he heard Shire was going to transfer. Several of the athletes on the team already knew her, and Drass said they welcomed her with open arms.

“The difference here at Mizzou is the coaching staff and the team support,” Shire says. “They really help you as a person versus just as an athlete, and that was really what I needed when I got here.”

With a newfound energy and rekindled passion, she transformed into a force to be reckoned with. Shire was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2008 and is in a position to bring home even more hardware this season.

“I’m a beast when I’m with this team,” Shire says. “I feel invincible, and we’re invincible together. We support each other, and that’s how it’s supposed to go.”

Marable’s grace

Though Marable’s physical build is intimidating, there’s rarely a time you won’t see the standout in an amiable mood.

“You see him before the match, and he’s got a smile on his face. He’s just a good old country boy from Memphis,” wrestling coach Brian Smith says. “It’s that laid-back Southern mentality.”

That congeniality vanishes when Marable actually steps into the circle, but what he does on the mat is a thing of beauty.

When he scores a takedown early, the match becomes exactly what Marable wants, Smith and opposing coaches are quick to say. His strength, in re-shooting after an opponent shoots, becomes more emphasized because opponents have to try to create opportunities by taking risks. That’s when Marable starts scoring almost at will.

“He’s a very confident young man; he really believes in himself,” Smith says. “He competes in the same way. If you watch him, every match is similar. He usually comes up a winner.”

Wrestling critics question the toughness, endurance and mental strain wrestlers undertake with each new season, but to Marable, that’s the beauty of the sport.

“You’re out there by yourself,” Marable says. “It’s a team sport and you win for your team, but at the same time, when I’m out there on the mat, it’s no one but me. I just go out there and wrestle. And that’s the thing I love.”

High hopes

Sarah Shire and Nick Marable on the balance beam

Both beautiful and beastly, Marable is known as a formidable wrestler and an amiable teammate, while Shire has a reputation as an elegant performer and a fierce competitor.  

Whether in beauty mode or beast mode, both athletes have faced the pressures that come with being tops in their sports. They recognize it’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

“At the beginning of the year I looked more into it than I have recently, and I think it ended up hurting me because I wrestled to not lose instead of just wrestling,” Marable says. “Now, I’m just wrestling and doing a lot better. I’m back on track like I was last year at the NCAAs.”

Shire likes to have the lofty expectations. She sets her goals high and then chips away at them. Having a good support system in place helps her if she falters.

“I try to stay away from the rankings, away from the awards,” Shire says. “Those things are just labels throughout the year and can be distracting if things don’t go the right way. That’s where I lean on my teammates. That’s where I lean on my family to help me stay grounded and focus on what’s important.”

Crossover appeal

In addition to it being an unusual dual-sport experience for fans, the annual Beauty and the Beast meet is a clash of styles for the athletes involved. After the first two years, some changes were made to coordinate timing and avoid complications.

“The first one we marched out arm and arm, which wasn’t good because our girls are all perfumed up and glittered up and [the wrestlers] are ready to go out and kill somebody,” Drass says. “Then [the wrestlers] smelled feminine, and that wasn’t a good deal.”

The juxtaposition of the sports has made some of the athletes more curious about their fellow Tigers’ athletic moves.

“If I was a gymnast, I’d probably do floor because I like to run around and do flips and stuff,” says Marable. Of course, a floor routine requires music. Any song preferences? “I’m Too Sexy,” he answers immediately, cracking up.

The fans may miss Marable’s moves on that set of mats. But he and the No. 5 Mizzou wrestling team taking on No. 10 Central Michigan — along with Shire with and the No. 13 Mizzou gymnastics team squaring off against No. 14 Illinois — will put on a show suited for all the beauties and beasts in the family.

“I have two boys and a daughter,” Smith says. “If I told my daughter, ‘We’re going to hang out at the wrestling tournament,’ she’d ask to hang out with friends or something like that. But if I told her we were going to go see gymnastics, she’s like ‘Let’s go!’ It’s not a three-ring circus, but there’s always action going on, which makes it an event for the entire family.”

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Last updated: June 6, 2013