Houdashelt tops the podium after pinning Nick Dardanes (left) at 2:52 in the finals.
Jan. 2, 2014
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The seventh-ranked Mizzou Wrestling team took fifth place with 102.5 team points in a very competitive field that included three of the nation's top five teams at the Southern Scuffle on Thursday (Jan. 2). Seven Tigers placed in the top-8 of their respective brackets, including junior Drake Houdashelt and true freshman J'den Cox. Houdashelt pinned the nation's top-ranked 149-pounder Nick Dardanes from Minnesota to win in the finals. Cox solidified his status as one of the nation's elite by defeating Penn State's No. 3 Morgan McIntosh twice Thursday en route to a third place finish.
Houdashelt's bout with Dardanes is a possible matchup later in March at the NCAA Championships as Houdashelt, the nation's No. 2 149-pounder, pinned Dardanes in 2:52 Thursday evening. Houdashelt had great mat awareness as he locked up a cradle on the edge, barely keeping his toes in bounds. Houdashelt reserved his spot in the championship bout with a 5-3 decision over Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State, his second victory over Kindig this season. The Tiger junior is now a team-best 22-1 on the season.
"He's a very disciplined person, and he's disciplined in with his whole lifestyle," said Head Coach Brian Smith of Houdashelt. "His focus in life is winning a national title this year. What he does with his schoolwork, to how he is at practice, to how he cuts his weight and lifts - everything is disciplined. And that's why he is successful. That's why he is the most consistent kid we have in the program."
At 197 pounds, Cox defeated Penn State's Morgan McIntosh with an 8-2 decision in the third place match, scoring on a takedown, reversal, and a three-point nearfall after putting McIntosh in a cradle. His third place win was the second defeat over No. 3 McIntosh on the day, as Cox and McIntosh met in the quarterfinals with Cox winning 2-0. Mizzou's true freshman was a takedown away from having his own birth in the championship round, dropping his semifinal match in sudden victory to No. 2 Kyven Gadson of Iowa State.
"After the tournament, (J'den) was disappointed that he didn't win it, but I told him that you don't win a national title on January 2nd," said Smith. "He's doing a good job, and he really works hard, so it's good to see the growth in him."
Among other notable finishers for the Tigers on Tuesday was unseeded redshirt freshman Zach Synon, who's four wins on Thursday earned him a sixth place at 125 pounds. Synon's day was highlighted by a 5-3 decision over No. 12 Evan Silver of Stanford. The Tiger 125-pounder wrapped Silver up twice in the first period to take a 4-1 lead, one he would not relinquish. Synon fell in the fifth place bout to Old Dominion's Brandon Jeske, 9-1.
At 133 pounds, Oklahoma-native Matt Manley cracked the top-8, fueled by his upset over No. 5 Ryan Mango from Stanford in sudden victory, 8-6. He dropped the seventh place bout to Mack McGuire of MAC-rival Kent State, 3-2. McGuire ranks 18th in the nation by Intermat.
Senior Kyle Bradley wrestled to an eighth-place finish as well at 157 pounds, falling to another MAC foe in Luke Smith of Central Michigan. For the fourth time in the tournament, Bradley's match went into overtime, where he fell in the first OT 6-5, failing to escape Smith's grasp.
In the 165 bracket, 9th-ranked Zach Toal turned in a fourth-place effort after going 5-2 in the two-day tournament. Toal's two losses came against top-ranked and former NCAA champion David Taylor of Penn State and No. 3 Nick Sulzer of Virginia in the third place match.
Junior Mikey England finished 4-3 in this year's Scuffle, placing eighth at 174 pounds. The Centerville, Iowa-native fell to Oklahoma State's Kyle Crutchmer in the seventh place bout, 7-3.
Mizzou will be off for a week as it prepares for one last non-conference dual against SIUE before getting into MAC-conference competition. The Tigers will then close out the month of January on the road with three straight conference duals versus Central Michigan, Northern Iowa, and Northern Illinois. For all the latest on Mizzou wrestling, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
1. Penn State - 189
2. Oklahoma State - 164.5
3. Minnesota - 161
4. Cornell - 114.5
5. Missouri - 102.5
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