March 17, 2007
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - On the heels of seniors Ben Askren (Hartland, Wis.) and Matt Pell (Luxemburg, Wis.), the Missouri wrestling team earned its highest team finish ever at the 2007 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships when they took third place, and fulfilled their season goal and "stormed the stage." The Tigers finished with 80 points, giving the University of Missouri its first NCAA team trophy since 1965, when the Indoor Track & Field team took home the title.
Askren, last year's NCAA National Champion at 174-pounds, grappled against Keith Gavin of Pittsburgh in this year's championship match. In an 8-2 decision, Askren topped Gavin for the third time this season to earn his second national championship. The two had met twice this season, with Askren pinning Gavin both times. With the win, Askren becomes the Tigers' only back-to-back national champion in wrestling and first for the University of Missouri overall since track star Derrick Peterson in 1998-99. Askren has never finished lower than second in the nation. He finishes his career with an 87-match winning streak, and goes 42-0 on the season. Askren pinned three opponents during the tournament and earned a technical fall in his pigtail match, and has not lost a match since the championship match in his sophomore season.
Despite his ninth seed, Pell finished the tournament in third place. Wrestling one of the best tournaments of his career, Pell won four matches by fall and registered a major decision, proving to be one of the most dominant wrestlers at 165 pounds. Pell pinned Michigan's third-seeded Eric Tannenbaum in the third-place match in 3:51, using a move that he used to pin his three other victims. Out of Pell's six wins, only one was decided by a decision; all the rest scored critical bonus points for the Tigers. Pell is the third Tiger to gain All-America honors at two different weight classes. In his sophomore season, Pell finished seventh in the nation at 184-pounds. Pell also received post-tournament accolades by earning the Gorrarian Award, given to the wrestler with the most pins in the least amount of time. Pell was the only wrestler with four pins, and he did so in a combined 22:46.
Bonus points played a key role in securing the Tigers' third-place finish. Mizzou scored the most bonus points out of any team in the tournament, securing extra points from major decision, technical falls and pins in 15 matches. With 10 falls, one technical fall, one disqualification and three major decisions, the Tigers had a total of 26.5 bonus points for the competition. Without bonus points, the Tigers would have had 53.5 total team points, which would not have put the Tigers in the top 10.
Junior Tyler McCormick (Leawood, Kan.), the last All-American for the Tigers, placed sixth, the highest of his career. McCormick lost an early bout to James Kennedy of Illinois, but wrestled his way back to sixth place. On his way McCormick scored a fall and a forfeit to give the Tigers four team bonus points. McCormick topped Jake Strayer of Penn State in a 4-1 decision to earn the team captain All-America honors for the second straight season.
The night closed an era for two Tiger wrestlers. Pell and Askren took the stage for the final time in the Black and Gold, and they did so in convincing fashion. Pell and Askren are both members of the Century Club for the Tigers. Pell finishes with a 121-35 record, while Askren finishes 153-8. Each hoisted Missouri's first wrestling trophy of all time, and Askren will close his career with the Tigers as a two-time NCAA Champion.
Final Team Scores
1- Minnesota 98
2- Iowa State- 88.5
3- Missouri- 80
4- Northwestern- 71.5
5- Oklahoma State - 69
6- Michigan- 62
7- Hofstra- 60.5
8- Iowa - 57
9- Edinboro- 56
10- Ohio State- 54.5
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