It is a great time of year to be a college sports fan, as the fall seasons are coming to their exciting ends, but the winter seasons now start to overlap. We took a look at how Volleyball could wrap up their regular season, now let's take a look at how wrestling has started theirs.
The grapplers spent the weekend out in Dakotas this past weekend, kicking off their season with a 23-9 dual win against the North Dakota State Bison. That was followed up with a very strong showing at South Dakota State's tournament, where the Tigers took six (of a possible ten) championships. BST and I have teamed up to give you a review of the (potential) Tiger lineup and how they fared over the weekend. Each person's MUTigers.com bio has been linked to their name for easy reference (especially since there are many new names this season)
The Name you Know: Alan Waters (senior - red shirting)
You are reading that correctly. Waters has one year left, but is taking it off. He had an almost unreal year last season. He was undefeated and ranked #1 heading into the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately he lost in the semis and again in the 3rd place match and took 4th. Those were his only 2 losses of the year, finishing 33-2. Waters has decided to red shirt this year and get healthy after battling injuries and illness the last 2 seasons. He will most likely come back next season at 133lbs.
The Name you Don't Know: Barlow McGhee (true freshman)
McGhee won the first dual match of his college career, a 5-2 decision over 125-pounder Hunter Weber after two first period takedowns and an escape in the third period on Friday night. Over the weekend at the tourney he lost to Bruno of Northern St. 4-3 in the quarters, then rallied and beat his teammate Zach Synon 4-3, for 3rd place. Coach Smith had this to say about McGhee and his decision to start him as a true freshman, "With Barlow, he has just been the best guy in the practice room for the past three or four weeks" McGhee will have a couple of ranked MAC wrestlers to face this season along with the standard slate of tough out of conference and tournament draws.
Wilson started the dual on Friday night and won his match 4-2. However, he did not have very good luck over the weekend at the tournament however. He dropped a match early and went into wrestlebacks where he was ousted by teammate Cole Baumgartner. On the other hand, Manley just flat out dominated on his way to the 133 pound title. He gave up 1 point the entire tournament. His matches went like this: Pin, 3-0, 6-0, 8-1, 3-0. This wasn’t the toughest road to a tourney win you’ll ever see, but the youngster did what he had to and won. I’m excited to see him going forward, but I’m not sure what to make of this weight class this year. It could easily be a committee filling this spot. Like McGhee at 125, whoever comes out of this group for MU at 133 will face a couple of ranked MAC opponents.
Trevor Jauch (sophomore)
Trevor had a fairly successful RS FR year, wrestling mainly in open tournaments. He appears to be a solid sophomore who has some very good upside heading into this year. While he lose to 18th-ranked Justin LaValle on Friday night by a score of 4-1. he also had a relatively easy time with his division on his way to a championship. He had 2 pins and a major decision on the day among his wins before beating Anthony Abidin of Nebraska 5-3 to take home the gold. Come conference season, Jauch may have to navigate as many as four (or more) ranked opponents, so it could be a tough road for the budding sophomore.
Drake Houdashelt (junior)
Houdashelt is a returning All-American and ranked #3 in the country. Drake is going to be a wrestler to watch this year. He has what it takes to compete for the NC in this weight class and really showed it this past weekend. Drake started his season by winning a decision over Tyler Diamond 6-1 on Friday night. On Sunday, he won by pin, tech fall, pin, tech fall and major decision to make it into the championship match. In the championship match he faced off against Jake Sueflohn of Nubs who was ranked the #4 wrestler in the country. Drake beat Sueflohn 9-3 to take the title and make an early statement regarding his placement in the national rankings of the weight class. There are two other ranked MAC wrestlers at this time, but it would be a considerable surprise to not see Drake have his hand raised in those matches.
Kyle Bradley (senior)
Bradley starts off this season ranked #8 in the country after finishing 2nd in the MAC last year and qualifying for the NCAA’s for a second time. On Friday night, Kyle won by major decision over Matthew Gray 10-2. On Sunday, Bradley made his way to the finals with a pin, major decision, and decisions of 4-0 and 11-7 and was set to face off against #4 ranked James Green of Nebraska before he appears to have had to forfeit due to injuries. He is the top-ranked wrestler in the MAC, but it is a deep class this year, with three other wrestlers in the top-18.
Zach Toal (senior)
Zach has a chance to qualify for the NCAA's for a fourth and final time this season, and yet, it is hard to feel like his career has been a little underwhelming. He enters this season ranked 9th in the country, but was held out of the bout on Friday night against #3 Steven Monk. Instead, senior Jordan Gagliano came down from 174 to wrestle Monk, losing 6-1. On Sunday, Toal tore through the bracket, ending up against his MU teammate in the finals, where he took home the gold on a 15-3 major decision. No other MAC wrestlers appear in the current rankings, so Toal should have a nice road ahead of him as he goes about his final season.
Mikey England (junior transfer from Iowa State)
England came to the Tigers in the off season from the Cyclones and appears that he will step right into the spot at 174. On Friday night, he faced off against Zilmer of NDSU, losing 3-1 in the final match of the night. He had a better effort on Sunday, wrestling all the way to the finals (including one pin) before he was pitted against #4 Kokesh of Nebraska. He fell there via major decision (13-3). Looking ahead, the MAC has three ranked wrestlers currently, so England will have some chances to score some impressive wins.
Johnny Eblen (junior)
Eblen starts the season as the #15 ranked wrestler, and had a great run this past weekend. He got MU off to a good start on Friday night, wrestling the first match of the dual to a 3-0 win. On Sunday, Eblen moved through the bracket cleanly, scoring a tech fall along the way and only giving up one point in four matches. In the final, his fifth bout of the day, he defeated Minnesota's Brett Pfarr 5-1 to score the gold. As it pertains to the MAC, Eblen has only one other ranked wrestler, but it is #4 Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa. Should be some good bouts between those two this year.
J'Den Cox (true freshman)
Before you start, PLEASE click on Cox's bio as linked above. I'll wait.
I was SHOCKED to see Brian Smith not only use Cox this season (remember, he can still redshirt at any point), but to use him at 197. But that is what came across my Twitter feed on Friday night as Cox scored a major decision over Cole Castlebury of NDSU by the score of 14-4. Moving on to Sunday, Cox mowed people down left and right. Major decisions of 15-4 and 10-1 came before a Tech Fall of 18-3 and a spot in the semis against fellow MU true freshman Willie Miklus. Cox won 4-1 before crushing Richard Kokesh of Nebraska 14-4 in the finals to earn what should be the first of many tournament titles. Though Cox started the season unranked, I do not imagine it will remain that way for very long. The MAC does feature three ranked wrestlers, but as they are on the back-end of the top-20, it will be interesting to see how J'Den stacks up against them.
Devin Mellon (junior)
You might recognize this name as the person who filled in admirably for Dom Bradley when he took his Olympic red-shirt prior to his senior season. Mellon, ranked 16th, now returns as our heavyweight for this season, and perhaps the next (depending on what they decide to do with Cox going forward...perhaps he RS's next year and then moves to HWY). Mellon got his campaign off to a good start with an OT win on Friday night 4-3. On Sunday, Mellon made his way to the finals before dropping the final bout to Collin Jensen of Nebraska. As for the MAC, it is Mellon and #9 Jeremy Johnson of Ohio.