COLUMBIA, Mo. — For the first time in program history, Missouri captured the Big 12 championship, winning it in front of its home crowd on Saturday night. Missouri sent eight of its 10 starters to the championship round, with four capturing individual titles. The four champions are the most in program history, besting the previous high of three set in 2004 and again in 2007. All four placed first for the first time in their careers.
“It is an accomplishment of so many people though that put some put effort in,” head coach Brian Smith said. “I thank all the wrestlers that wrestled for me and all the people that donate to the program and make it get to where it is, all the trainers and doctors, there are so many people. I am just really, really proud of everybody. This team did an amazing job today.”
Alan Waters, the top-seeded wrestler at 125 pounds, got the Tigers off on the right foot with a dominating 7-0 victory against No. 2 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma. The two were scoreless into the third when Waters reversed Patterson and scored five points in near falls in the final seconds of the match to get his second win against the Sooner this year.
Oklahoma State tightened up the team race with wins against Missouri at 133 and 149 pounds, but redshirt-freshman Drake Houdashelt topped No. 1 seed Nick Lester of OU with a 3-1 win. Lester had a 1-0 lead in the third but Houdashelt reversed Lester and rode him out to secure the extra point. Lester had beaten Houdashelt in both their previous matchups this season.
Arguably the biggest win of the tournament came from Mizzou’s Zach Toal, who upset top-seeded and fourth-ranked Andrew Sorenson in the championship. Toal, who was majored by Sorenson early in the season, hit the first takedown and took a 2-1 lead into the second period. After Sorenson evened the score, Toal got the escape in the third and scored the victory.
The Cowboys were victorious at 174 and 197 pounds, but junior Mike Larston captured his first individual crown at 184 in a 5-4 win against No. 2 seed Boaz Beard. Beard hit the first takedown of the match and led 2-1 after one, but Larson tied it up with an escape and hit a takedown with short time left in the second. Up 4-2 in the final period, Beard evened things up with a reversal, but Larson escaped less than 10 seconds later and held on for the win.
Heading into the final match of the night, Missouri held a four point lead against the Cowboys, who had one of the two competitors in the heavyweight bout. A win by decision would have brought the Tigers and OSU to a tie, while a win with bonus points would’ve given the Cowboys their third consecutive conference title. However, Iowa State’s Matt Gibson hit three back points in the second and rode that to an 8-3 win against OSU’s Austin Marsden, clinching the trophy for Mizzou.
Overall, the Tigers qualified nine of their 10 starters for the NCAA Championship, which runs March 15-17 in St. Louis. The nine NCAA wrestlers will match last year’s program record-setting total.