This weekend’s Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational was a familiar scene for senior 125-pounder Alan Waters and senior heavyweight Dom Bradley. The two wrestlers continued their undefeated seasons by winning each of their respective weight classes.
But it was not enough for a team victory. The No. 7 Tigers finished second behind No. 5 Ohio State by just one point.
Nine Missouri wrestlers qualified for second day of competition, and six went on to championship contention. The only Tiger wrestler not to advance to the second day of competition was senior 141-pounder Nicholas Hucke, who lost both of his matches.
Of the six Tigers in the championship bracket, four won their semifinal matches and competed in the final for their respective weight classes. Waters prevailed in his championship match when he defeated Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett 6-4 in the final.
“I wish I would’ve expanded the gap even more than I did,” Waters said. “It was a close match in the finals. I am looking to score more in the future and not have it be so close.”
The championship match at the 133-pound weight class seemed to prove most costly to Missouri’s chances of winning the tournament. Senior Nathan McCormick was matched with Ohio State’s Logan Stieber. The top-ranked Stieber won the match over McCormick 12-1 in a major decision and provided the Buckeyes with some much-needed bonus points.
Missouri went on to split its next two championship matches. Senior 184-pounder Mike Larson fell in his championship match, and Bradley narrowly won his match 3-2 over Oregon State’s Chad Hanke.
Three other Missouri wrestlers placed in this weekend’s action. Junior 165-pounder Zach Toal placed fourth, and seniors Brent Haynes and Todd Porter finished eighth at 197 pounds and 174 pounds, respectively.
After Missouri and Ohio State went back and forth at the top of the leaderboard for most of the second day, Ohio State came out on top by a mere point over the Tigers, 124.5-123.5. This is the second runner-up finish for Missouri in Las Vegas.
Coach Brian Smith said this was not his team’s best performance.
“We have to get better,” Smith said. “We didn’t wrestle our best. We had some overall good performances, but we had too many lapses in the lineup where people didn’t wrestle seven minutes.”
There is a mentality missing from the team, as well as a belief in the team’s ability, Smith said.
“We don’t have that mentality that we are a great team and the confidence we have when we step on the mat,” Smith said. “And that’s my job. I got to get them to believe that, and we got to get 10 people wrestling better at the same time.”
The Tigers have to wait two weeks to rebound from their second-place finish. Missouri will return to dual matches Dec. 16 when it heads to Madison Square Garden to wrestle versus No. 8 Cornell and Bloomsburg University.
“We got to get ready for Cornell and Bloomsburg,” Bradley said. “We get to wrestle them at Madison Square Garden, and that’s a big deal. 'Madison Square Garden' is all I can say.”