Wrestling wins first ever National Duals Finals Championship; tops No. 1 Iowa

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By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Sunday, Feb. 22–

An already historic season became all the more memorable Sunday afternoon as the No. 2 Missouri Tigers defeated the No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes 18-12 at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in the NWCA National Duals Finals.

Mizzou now has its first National Duals Championship and remains the only unbeaten D1 team in the nation. Tiger Style will soon hold the top spot in the rankings along with three No. 1 wrestlers in their respected weight classes.

Missouri came into this one only 1-4 all-time against the Hawkeyes. However, the win did come at the very same National Duals back in 2013. The Tigers looked to repeat history and as always, Mizzou’s redshirt senior Alan Waters kicked off the meet in fine form. The undefeated (27-0) captain made no mistake in the tiebreaker against No. 5 Thomas Gilman, using a key reversal-takedown combo for the 5-4 (TB1) victory.

Up 3-0, twentieth ranked Zach Synon could not get by No. 6 Cory Clark, as the Hawkeye rallied after conceding an early takedown to win 7-2 at 133 pounds. The loss made it three defeats on the season for the wrestler.

Saturday evening the Tigers throttled Lehigh behind exquisite major decision victories by No. 5 Lavion Mayes and No. 1 Drake Houdashelt at 141 and 149 pounds. On Sunday, Mayes nearly replicated his prior performance with six crowd-roaring takedowns to grab the 13-6 decision.

The redshirt senior on the other hand, battled in a much tighter contest against No. 2 Brandon Sorenson. It wasn’t until 90 seconds left when Houdashelt escaped for the 1-0 lead. A stalling call evened things up, but the riding time advantage gave the O’Fallon, Mo. native the 2-1 victory. The Tigers took a commanding 9-3 lead through four duals.

After losing both his matches on Saturday, No. 12 Joey Lavallee took control in his matchup against No. 16 Michael Kelly. The Nevada native had a huge escape before a pair of takedowns. Lavallee also controlled riding time to make it a 6-1 decision victory.

Halfway through the contest, the Tigers owned a 12-3 advantage in enemy territory.

The 165 pound matchup featured Mikey England for the Tigers and ninth ranked Nick Moore for Iowa. Moore edged the senior 3-2 with riding time proving the difference to cut the deficit to 12-6 with four matches remaining.

In the next two draws, the teams split decision victories to hold the deficit at six (15-9). No. 3 Mike Evans of Iowa overpowered No. 4 Johnny Eblen 4-1 at 174 pounds, tarnishing an almost perfect weekend for the senior who had a killer fall and critical decision victory on Saturday.

On the flip side, No. 9 Willie Miklus was able to salvage a rather disappointing weekend by rallying in the third period for a 6-5 decision at 184 pounds.

With the chance to make history, the Tigers could not have asked for anyone other than undefeated (30-0) No. 1 J’den Cox to step to the plate. The Columbia native continued to extend his NCAA record of consecutive duals won to 50, dating all the way back to last January.

Cox broke the deadlock late in the third period with a signature takedown and used his riding time to silence the home crowd and clinch the most important victory (4-3) of the season so far.

No. 10 Devin Mellon in the HWT matchup couldn’t withstand a late push by No. 4 Bobby Telford losing 6-3. The Hawkeyes grabbed the final three points for nothing more than a consolation, making it an official scoreline of 18-12 in the Championship dual.

The Tigers finished the regular season a perfect 24-0 and will now have two weeks to recover ahead of the MAC Championships. The three-time defending conference champs will host the tournament in Columbia, Mo. from March 7-8.

About a week and half later, Mizzou will punch its ticket the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. For more Tiger Style info and live match play-by-play follow @MizzouWrestling.