Tigers Roar Through MACs, Crowned Conference Champions
COLUMBIA - For the first time since 2001, the Mid-American Conference has crowned a new champion. In their first year as an affiliate member of the Mid-American Conference, the Missouri Wrestling program blew through the eight-team field to its second conference championship in as many years. The Tigers ended with 136 team points, 48 more than the second place-Chippewas from Central Michigan. The squad had a substantial lead all day after it sent every starter to the semifinal round. Missouri's title ended an 11-year reign held by the Central Michigan as MAC Champions.
Six Mizzou starters advanced to the championship round in their respective weight classes, four of which claimed conference titles, tying the record of four set last season at the 2012 Big 12 Championships. Nathan McCormick claimed the firstindividual title of his career despite being in the conference finals the past three seasons. Junior Alan Waters and sophomore Drake Houdashelt were Big 12 Champions last season at 125 and 157 pounds, respectively, and Dom Bradley added his second conference championship after winning at heavyweight in 2011.
As he has done so well all season, No. 1 Alan Waters set the tone for the fourth-ranked Tigers Sunday. Waters met with Steve Mitcheff of Kent State in the 125-pound finalafter a pin over Derek Elmore (NIU) and a 17-2 technical fall over Max Soria (Buffalo) in the semifinals. After a scoreless first, the Mizzou junior got on the board with an escape 16 seconds into the second period. An illegal holdlate in the second by Mitcheff increased the lead to 2-0 headed into the third. Waters added a takedown with 22 seconds left and took the match by decision 4-0. Waters' three wins on Sunday puts him at 97 career wins in just three seasons at Mizzou.
Senior Nathan McCormick followed suit with an individual title of his own at 133 pounds. After a technical fall and a pin in the first two rounds, McCormick faced Levi Wolfensperger in the finals. The Tiger grappler had a takedown 45 seconds in and then added a tilt for a two-point nearfall to take a 4-0 lead after thefirst period. An escape and a takedown in the second increased the lead to seven, and then a riding time point for 3:02 of advantage put the victory into bonus point territory. The conference title is the Mizzou senior-captain's first of his career after finishing second at the Big 12's last season to No. 1 Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State.
At 149 pounds, Drake Houdashelt won his second conference title in as many years with a win over Blake Roulo of Buffalo. Houdashelt tallied seven points in the first frame via a takedown and a couple of near falls. After a scoreless second, he added five more and then a riding time point to win 13-0, his second major decision of the day. Missouri's sophomore has team-leading 12 wins by major decision this season.
The Tigers fourth individual title came at heavyweight where redshirt senior defeated seventh-ranked Jarod Trice of Central Michigan. Trice and Bradley were scoreless after the first three minutes, and an escape for the Mizzou big-man just seconds into the second period gave him the lead. Bradley held tough in the third period on top and kept Trice from breaking through his grasp, allowing him to accumulate 1:28 of riding time before Trice could break free with 22 ticks remaining. With just seconds left, Bradley secured a double leg takedown and took the MAC title with a 4-1 decision. Bradley added three decisions on the day to give him a team-leading 23 on the year. His second win of the day, a 4-0 decision over Jared Torrence of Northern Illinois, was his 100th win during his tenure with the Black and Gold.
Mizzou took second place at 157 and 197 pounds. Kyle Bradley fell to David Bonin of Northern Iowa in the finals by decision, 5-2. Bonin reversed Bradley with 1:14 remaining to take a 4-2 lead and control of the match. The victory gives Bonin a 2-1 advantage over Bradley this year, with Bradley's lone victory coming on January 27 at UNI by decision, 6-4. Brent Haynes fell the nation's top-ranked 197-pounder in Dustin Kilgore of Kent State by major decision, 17-5.
Junior Zach Toal and seniors Nicholas Hucke, Todd Porter, and Mike Larson all advanced to the third place match in their respective weight classes after all ten starters won in the quarterfinals. Hucke defeated Central Michigan's Scott Mattingly for the second time on Sunday to take the third place medal, 7-4. A Hucke reversal with 1:36 left put the Tiger senior in the driver's seat. Porter, too, defeated Phillip Joseph of Eastern Michigan for the second time to take third, 7-2. Last year's Big 12 Champion Mike Larson defeated Casey Newburg (KSU) in the first sudden victory period for third place. A takedown 31 seconds in gave Larson the 3-1 victory after the two could only manage a couple of escapes in regulation. Larson fell to Intermat's No. 6-ranked Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa in the semifinals. At 165, Toal dropped his third place match to Kent State's Caleb Marsh, 4-1.
Following the Conference Championship, the Tigers have already qualified eight of 10 starters. The remaining two, Hucke and Toal, have a chance to qualify through a wildcard selection. Last season Mizzou was the only program in the nation to qualify all 10 of its starters for the NCAA Championships.
The final destination for the Tigers is Des Moines, Iowa, for the 2013 NCAA Championships. This year's Nationals will begin on Thursday, March 21 and continue through Saturday, March 23. The wildcard qualifiers will be announced this coming week, with the seedings and brackets to be released as well.