Points were hard to come by Friday night when the No. 9 Missouri wrestling team battled Ohio on the Jesse Hall stage in its MAC opener.
It was the first athletic event held in Jesse Hall.
Freshman 197-pounder J’Den Cox and junior 149-pounder Drake Houdashelt saw their first defeat of the season while two redshirt freshman won in their dual competitions debut. Cox was ranked eighth going into the dual and Houdashelt was the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class.
“It’s a win,” coach Brian Smith said. “We have a lot of work to do, I know that.”
Seven of the 10 matches did not break 10 points but the Tigers prevailed in the tight bouts to win the dual, 23-10.
In a meeting dubbed “The Clash of the Cats,” the Tigers and Bobcats brought 10 top-20 wrestlers to the stage. Ohio, No. 1 in the MAC, came with four and Missouri had five.
Many of the night’s matches were decided by a few points, including many low scoring bouts. In fact, 125-pounder freshman Barlow McGee got two points and the win off a takedown in the final 40 seconds of the third period.
Redshirt freshman 133-pounder Matt Manley also kept the score low, winning his match, 1-0, courtesy of a point off an escape.
The winning streak for the young wrestlers continued with redshirt freshman 141-pounder Lavion Mayes, who dominated Bobcat Noah Forrider in a 12-3 major decision. He was the only freshman to outscore his opponent by such a margin. Mayes finished the match with a takedown and near fall to seal his victory.
He was the only freshman to record a major decision of the dual.
“He is a competitor,” Smith said. “He has good double legs and good quickness. He went out and took shots. If you take shots, you have more opportunities to score takedowns and he does.”
Mayes received the start for Friday’s match after winning an individual title at the Joe Parisi Open on Nov. 23. Mayes is not alone in the 141 weight class as he beat out two other contenders to start.
“We have three pretty good kids in the room that are battling for the spot and he is sending a message that he wants the spot, so that’s good,” Smith said.
Mayes said his conditioning made the difference.
“All last week, I worked with Drake Houdashelt,” he said. “He didn’t quite have the results he wanted and hoped for. Just working with him helped me to get better so now it’s my turn to push him in the practice room and make sure he is getting better.”
Houdashelt fell to Ohio’s Tywan Claxton in a match with two takedowns. Houdashelt’s three points of the match came off three escapes.
After the dual, Houdashelt had little to say struggling to sort through his defeat. He said he has to fix some things.
While Houdashelt experienced losing a few times last season, Hickman High School ’13 graduate Cox has not lost in four years.
“Champions got to bounce back,” Cox said. “That’s what I am going to do. I am going to fight for it and this team can help me do it.”
Cox said he is going to dissect the match and be ready next time he faces Ohio’s Phil Wellington.
“He did what he had to do and he got it done tonight but I’m going to work hard and I will see him again,” he said.
Smith said he’s looking to improve after Friday’s dual. He said the team made lots of mistakes and lost their composure.
“We have things to work with, we know that, but we have a lot to work on,” he said.