No.9 Missouri Wrestling Looks for Third Straight Conference Championship

3 years 9 months 1 week ago Thursday, March 06 2014 Mar 6, 2014 Thursday, March 06, 2014 5:30:00 PM CST March 06, 2014 in Sports
By: Thomas Bradbury, KOMU 8 Sports Digital Producer

COLUMBIA - The ninth ranked Missouri Tigers hope to contend for their third-straight conference title. Missouri finished its regular season with a 10-2 record.The Mid-American Conference Championship begins Saturday at Kent State University.

 "Confidence is key this time of year," head coach Brian Smith said. The team should have no shortage of confidence after finishing their season with a 7-1 record in MAC action to end the regular season.

Missouri features a collection of highly ranked wrestlers.

At 149 pounds, Drake Houdashelt is the No.1 top-ranked wrestler. He finished his season winning all but one of his 32 matches. If he wins in Ohio, it'll be his second MAC championship in a row accomplishing the feat. Houdashelt's only loss of the season came against Tywan Claxton of Ohio.

Columbia's own J'Den Cox will look to continue his strong freshman season. At 197 pounds, the Hickman High School alum, is ranked second in the country. Cox only has two losses out of 32 matches. Cox had one of his losses against eighth ranked Phil Wellington of Ohio. The two are likely to meet again this weekend.

On winning the MAC championship Cox said, "I honestly think we can do it... If we keep doing what we do, the matches that we've lost in the MAC we haven't lost too badly... We work too hard not to win it this year."

At 165 pounds, Senior Zach Toal is ranked No.12 nationally. He is hoping to win his second ever conference title. He won his last title in 2012 when he won in the Big 12.

Johnny Eblen and his 20-7 record is ranked No.13 nationally. He's the captain of the Missouri squad and currently ranked second in the MAC behind Ryan Loder of UNI.

This conference championship is important for each tiger wrestler. Based on how each wrestler performs dictates who competes at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Missouri's toughest foe on route to their third straight conference championship is No.5 Northern Iowa. Another team to watch for is No.25 Central Michigan. Central Michigan won 11-straight MAC championships before losing to Missouri last season.

Joey Lavalle and Lavion Mayes, both ranked 18th in their respective weight classes, are looking for revenge this weekend.

Lavalle will be hoping for a rematch with fifth ranked Ian Miller of Kent State. Miller beat Lavalle on a three-two decision in the Tigers final regular season match of the year.

Mayes could exact his revenge by beating fourth ranked Chris Mecate of Old Dominion. The last time the two met, Mecate narrowly won two to one.

In 2013, Missouri won the MAC conference championship in their first year in the Mid-American Conference. In 2012, they closed out their final season competing in the Big 12 as conference champions.

Following this weekend's conference championships, Missouri will finish their season at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City on March 20-22.

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