After missing nearly a month, junior 125-pounder Alan Waters returned to the lineup for the No. 5 Tigers for their first two Mid-American Conference road meets against Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa. Waters won both of his matches, propelling Missouri to two duel victories over the weekend and improving their conference duel record to 2-1.
The Tigers opened the weekend on Saturday by trouncing Northern Illinois 39-3. Missouri won all but one match in the duel. Waters started off the day with his debut and pinned Nick Harrison of NIU at 2:27. Even though the Tigers scored 39 points in the victory, coach Brian Smith thought the team came out lackadaisical.
“I thought even though we scored 39 points we were sluggish,” Smith said. “We can’t come out and be sluggish in a first duel.”
On Sunday, Missouri took to the mat for a ranked matchup with No. 21 Northern Iowa. This time the team only dropped two matches in a 27-9 victory. The Tigers were able to pick up bonus points with three major decision victories by senior 133-pounder Nathan McCormick, sophomore 149-pounder Drake Houdashelt and senior 197-pounder Brent Haynes.
Waters finished the weekend 2-0 and improved his undefeated season record to 18-0. Waters is the No. 3 wrestler in the nation. Smith said it’s nice to have Waters back in the lineup.
“I think he is going to get better and have more confidence in his attacks,” Smith said. “He didn’t score as much as he usually does but that will come. It’s just good to have him in the lineup because you know he’s going to get a win there.”
Smith pointed at the 141-pound spot as an area of improvement for his team. Senior Nicholas Hucke and redshirt freshman Trevor Jauch split time at the 141-pound weight class. Hucke was the only Tiger to lose on Saturday and Jauch was pinned in a losing effort on Sunday.
“We wrestled aggressively,” Smith said. “We got bonus points in a bunch of matches which is important, but there’s still some areas where we need to get better. We’re still struggling at 141.”
Houdashelt was a highlight for the Tigers over the weekend. The sophomore won both of his matches by a major decision. He is ranked No. 15 in the nation in his weight class, and said major wins are important because of the bonus points it gives the team.
“I will take a win by major decision,” Houdashelt said. “I’ll take as many bonus points as I can get.”
The Tigers head into a weekend with two big matches, starting with No. 2 Oklahoma State on Friday at the Hearnes Center. Junior 165-pounder Zach Toal said no matter the opponent, the match is always tough.
“Every time there’s a match that’s tough,” Toal said. “All of these guys are college wrestlers. You really have to look over your opponents.”
The Tigers will be grappling with the Cowboys while at the same time the Missouri gymnastics team goes up against Auburn as both teams take part in the annual Beauty and the Beast crossover event.