No. 2 Mizzou Wrestling edges No. 12 Illinois; advances to Semifinals

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 2.07.47 PM

By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Saturday, Feb. 21–

The second ranked Missouri Tigers won six out of ten duals, including three bonus-point victories to defeat the Fighting Illini 23-13 in the NCWA National Duals Finals quarterfinal matchup. Tiger Style wrestling implemented a second half push highlighted by No. 4 Johnny Eblen’s crowd-roaring pin in just 50 seconds to advance to the semifinals.

Mizzou’s weekend inside Carver Hawkeye Arena could not have started off any better, as No. 1 Alan Waters evicted the two-time defending National Champion Jesse Delgado 6-2. The redshirt senior extended his undefeated run this season to 24 duals in the 125 pound class.

At 133 pounds, No. 20 Zach Synon could not keep up with No. 8 Zane Richards as the Illinois man rallied a couple of early takedowns to coast to a 9-2 victory. Also, thanks in part to a controversial near fall call overturned against Synon, the Illini were able to even things up at three.

Fifth ranked Lavion Mayes was up next and hammered Illinois Steven Rodrigues 11-3 for the major decision victory, giving Mizzou the 7-3 advantage. Mayes took care of the twelfth ranked wrestler with a textbook takedown-near fall combo, before he unloaded a few more solo takedowns to close out the third dual of the evening.

At 149 pounds, Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt and Illinois’ Kyle Langenderfer were at a stalemate until the third period when Houdashelt grabbed an escape point followed by a two-point takedown of his own. The senior preserved a 6-3 victory for the Black and Gold.

Right before and after the intermission, Illinois began to find its rhythm as No. 2 Isaiah Martinez had Joey Lavallee’s number at 157 pounds. The twelfth ranked wrestler simply couldn’t build any momentum and conceded a major decision victory 17-6. Mikey England also suffered defeat in a tight 4-3 loss at 165 pounds, allowing the Illini to fight back and even things up at 10 apiece.

However, at 174 pounds, Eblen’s massive six-point fall victory inside a minute gave Mizzou the biggest win of the day. With three duals remaining, the Tigers took a commanding 16-10 lead.

After a hotly contested matchup between No. 9 Willie Miklus and No. 19 Nikko Reyes, which saw the Illinois sophomore win 3-1 (SV1) in overtime, the Illini found itself again down just three points, 16-13.

At 197 pounds, No. 1 J’den Cox absolutely dominated Jeff Koepke. It looked like man vs. boy out on the mat as Cox rolled to a 15-3 major decision victory. The Columbia native registered takedown after takedown with a near fall and a few escapes sprinkled in to extend his NCAA leading dual streak to 48, and more importantly, seal the deal for the Tigers.

No. 10 Devin Mellon also added to the Tiger scoreline in the HWT dual (5-1) to make it a final score of 23-13. The Tigers are next in action Saturday at 3 p.m. to face No. 11 Lehigh, who scored a huge upset of its own against third ranked Ohio State (21-18) earlier in the day.