Oct. 10, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The 2013-14 collegiate wrestling season officially began Thursday, and prior to the Tigers first official practice, Head Coach Brian Smith announced the team captains for this year's squad. Senior Kyle Bradley and juniors Drake Houdashelt and Johnny Eblen will lead the Tiger wrestling team that is expected to compete for a second MAC team championship and send multiple grapplers back to the NCAA tournament next March.
"Drake (Houdashelt) is the quiet leader of the program," said Smith after making the announcement. "He's one that exemplifies how to do things the right way. He wants to become more of a leader in our program because he wants to have success not only as an individual but as a team as well. Kyle Bradley has shown a lot of leadership throughout the summer and preseason. We as coaches have seen him meeting with the guys, and taking the new guys under his wing, so that was an easy decision to make. And Johnny (Eblen) has just evolved and has the personality of a leader. It's a good dynamic from three different types of personalities, and I believe that they make up the leadership that is important to our program's success."
Houdashelt (O'Fallon, Mo.), a 2013 All-American at 149 pounds, was the only sophomore starter in Missouri's nationally ranked lineup last season. He posted a 31-12 record, finished second on the team with 46 takedowns, and won an individual MAC title for the Tigers. Houdashelt looks to build on a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships and returns as one of Missouri's most experienced starters.
(St. Peters, Mo.) notched a 27-15 record, as last season's 157-pounder. The senior captain earned his a third consecutive trip the NCAA Championships, along with a second-place finish in the MAC tournament last March. Bradley's signature victory came against Iowa's top-ranked national champion Derek St. John at the Cliff Keen National Duals in February. Missouri upset the No.1-ranked Hawkeyes 18-16 in that dual.
Johnny Eblen (Kansas City, Mo.) was a frequent contributor at 184 pounds last season as a sophomore. Eblen wrestled his way to a 20-4 record behind 2013 All-American Mike Larson. He took first place at the Kaufman Brand and Roger Danker Opens and filled in for Larson admirably during the 2012-13 regular season. Eblen will hold down the fort at 184 this season and looks to embrace his new role as a starter and team co-captain.
Along with Missouri's season-opening practice, the MAC Conference released their 2013-14 preseason rankings today. The Tigers start the season ranked third in the MAC behind Old Dominion and Ohio. Missouri defeated Old Dominion last season 35-(-1) and hold a 3-0 all-time record against the Ohio Bobcats. Four Tiger starters were pegged in the MAC's preseason weight class rankings, with Houdashelt Bradley, and fellow senior Zach Toal perched at the top of their weight classes.
Missouri opens their dual season on Saturday, November 1, at North Dakota State. The Tigers defeated the Bison last year in Columbia, 37-7. With the season now underway, the Tigers have a few weeks of practice before the annual Black & Gold exhibition on Saturday, October 26. This year, many former Mizzou grapplers will make their way back to Columbia to compete against the present Tigers. Stay connected with Mizzou Wrestling by following us on Facebook and Twitter, and right here on MUTigers.com.
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