Wrestling dominates at Cyclone Open, anticipates strong season

By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Sunday, Nov. 9-

The Missouri wrestling team began the year off in sublime form, capturing eight championships and 20 medalist finishes at the 2014 Harold Nichols Cyclone Open.

With a veteran squad having a ranked wrestler in each of the ten weight classes, the Tigers can truly field an incredibly strong side on all fronts–a key attribute that led the team deep into last year’s MAC and NCAA tournaments.

Redshirt senior Alan Waters (125), redshirt sophomore Matt Manley (133), redshirt sophomore Lavion Mayes (141), redshirt senior Drake Houdashelt (149), redshirt senior Mikey England (174), redshirt freshman Willie Miklus (184), sophomore J’den Cox(197), and redshirt senior Devin Mellon (HWT) all took home their first event titles of the season.

Waters was eager to start the year off on a high note, especially after seeing very minimal action last season. He was followed by sophomore Barlow McGhee (3rd) and freshman Chase Brennan (4th). Ranked 23rd in the nation, McGhee will look to build off of a 21-11 record last season alongside the promising freshman.

The three-headed animal of Waters, McGhee and Brennan virtually give the Tigers a betting chance at taking gold, silver and bronze in the 125 pound weight class.

In the 133 pound competition, Mizzou flexed its muscles in arguably its most deep category, Manley took first, followed by Zach Synon (3rd), Cole Baumgartner (4th) and John Erneste (5th). With all four grapplers listed as underclassmen, the Tigers will look to dominate the weight class not only this season, but in the ensuing years to come.

Mizzou continued its force in the 141 pound class, as Mayes (1st) was trailed by teammates, freshman Sam Crane (4th) and redshirt junior Le’Roy Barnes (5th). Despite the potential upside of both Crane and Barnes, the Tigers will rest their shoulders on Mayes throughout the year in the 141 pound category. The redshirt sophomore, ranked 16th with a 29-14 record last year, will be the main man for the Black and Gold.

Although the Tigers failed to place another medalist in the 149 pound class, Houdashelt seems capable of carrying the load himself as one of the premier wrestlers in the country. Ranked 2nd with an astonishing 38-3 record, the redshirt senior from O’Fallon, Mo. will definitely be one to look out for throughout the year.

Mizzou did not take first place in either 157 nor 165 pounds, but managed to take second in 157 pounds through 10th ranked sophomore Joey Lavallee. Ty Prazma (2nd), Cody Johnson (3rd) and Daniel Lewis (5th) added medals to the 165 pound class.

At 184 pounds, redshirt senior Johnny Eblen (2nd) lost to Miklus in the final to give the Tigers gold-silver combo. With a combined 37-13 record last year, this one-two punch will inevitably be a safety net the Mizzou coaching staff will lean on.

In the heavyweights, the Tigers racked up first place finishes in both 197 pounds through Cox and the HWT through Mellon. With a 38-2 record and ranked 4th in his class last year, Cox will also be a notable to watch for throughout the season as one of the nation’s top grapplers.

Mizzou ended the tournament with a remarkable 114 victories and only 44 losses. Of the 44 defeats, 12 came from matches that paired two Tigers together. Head coach Brian Smith will definitely be pleased with a top drawer performance by the depth of his team, with the only flaws stemming from the two middle class divisions.

The Tigers will be in action at the Hearnes Center next Saturday against Truman State at 5 p.m. and Missouri Baptist at 6:30 p.m. in a dual opener before a month-long road stretch beginning with Old Dominion the following Saturday.