CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Eighth-ranked Missouri continues to crown champions this season, placing first in six of 10 weight classes at the UNI Open Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In the final event of the 2013 calendar year, 10 Tigers advanced to the finals, and a total of 19 grapplers finished in the top-5 of their respective brackets.
Mizzou has had six champions one other time this season, in early November at the Daktronics Open on South Dakota State's campus.
At 133 pounds, senior Eric Wilson simply never gave up. In his first match of the day, the Colorado-native trailed Drew Walker of Campbell University with little time left. But the senior battled and battled and eventually scored two points on Walker with seconds remaining. Wilson met with Northern Iowa's Levi Wolfensperger In the finals, and again took the lead in the third after trailing for the majority of the bout. Wilson trailed 4-2 with two minutes remaining, but found a way to turn Wolfensperger for a three backpoints and an eventual 5-4 decision. Wolfensperger was nearly an All-American last year, falling to former Tiger Nathan McCormick in the All-American round via the fall.
Two Tigers, Lavion Mayes and Trevor Jauch, advanced to the 141-pound final with Jauch edging out Mayes. As time ticked away in the third, Mayes escaped Jauch's grasp to take a 4-3 lead, but the Tiger sophomore fired right back with another double leg, making the score 5-4 with under 20 seconds left. Jauch wrestled hard all day, tabbing two wins via major decision and a fall in the first round.
Junior-captain Drake Houdashelt did what he does best on the mat Saturday, winning all five matches with bonus points, outscoring his counterparts 88-19, including the 21 points he scored in a pin over Jacob Colon. Houdashelt responded well after his first loss of the season to Tywan Claxton of Ohio earlier this month. He ranks No. 3 in the nation at 149 pounds, a weight class that has been a game of musical chairs in the top-5 so far this year.
If one thing stood out on Saturday, it is that the Tigers continue to shine at 157 pounds this season. Not only do they have the sixth-ranked 157-pounder in the nation in Kyle Bradley, who took the title match, but freshman Joey Lavallee just keeps on winning in open tournaments. The two combined have finished either first or second in six of seven open tournaments this year, with the exception being Lavallee's fourth place finish at the Daktronics Open, his first collegiate wrestling tournament ever.
The 165-pound final also showcased two Tigers in seniors Zach Toal and Jordan Gagliano. Toal only needed 2:14 to top his teammate by pin, his third of the afternoon. Toal, ranked No. 10, improves to 12-1 on the year with five falls.
True freshman J'den Cox, ranked 12th by USA Today/AWN at 197-pounds, continued to dominate open tournaments with his third title in as many tries. Cox blew through the top of his bracket, posting four decision wins while never being taken down by his opponents. In the final, Cox faced off against Northern Iowa's Basil Minto. Cox scored in the first few minutes of the match to lead 3-0, and was able to defend against an urgent Minto en route to a 3-1 win. He, like Houdashelt, responded well after falling to Ohio's Phil Wellington last Friday.
Mizzou dropped championship bouts at 125 and 184 pounds. Redshirt freshman Zach Synon lost a shootout to Northern Iowa's Dylan Peters, 11-8. Synon struck first with a takedown early, but Peters responded with a reversal, escape and takedown of his own after Synon was pegged for a locked hands penalty. Mizzou's 125-pounder battled hard on top in the third period but couldn't find a way to turn Peters. Mizzou's junior-captain Johnny Eblen lost his final match of the day to Minnesota's Kevin Steinhaus, 3-1. Eblen held a 1-0 lead all the way into the third, but Steinhaus escaped the down position to start the period, and followed with a takedown at the edge of the circle. Steinhaus ranks as high as fourth in the nation for the Gophers.
In addition, nine Tigers placed third, fourth or fifth.