Waters eyes Askren in chase for honors

The sophomore joined former Missouri national champion Ben Askren in elite company this week.

Sophomore Alan Waters was named Big 12 Wrestler of the Week for the third time this season. He ranks second only to former wrestler Ben Askren in Missouri wrestling history for most Big 12 Conference’s Wrestler of the Week honors. Courtesy of Kris Trgovich

Missouri sophomore wrestler Alan Waters joined elite company Monday.

The 125-pound grappler was named the Big 12 Conference’s Wrestler of the Week for the third time this season, becoming just the second Tiger in program history with three honors of the type, matching the record set by two-time national champion Ben Askren.

This season, Waters has accomplished what took Askren four years.

“They are both great competitors, and it comes from the practice room,” coach Brian Smith said. “Alan always wants to be here and is here early, and Ben was the same way. The people who are special at anything really enjoy doing what they’re doing. The two of them both have great motors. They never got tired.”

Current Oklahoma Sooner Kendric Maple and former Oklahoma State star Jordan Oliver are the only other wrestlers in Big 12 history to win the award three times in one season.

“It’s a big honor receiving the award, but it’s really just another thing to help boost my confidence,” Waters said.

The No. 3 wrestler in the 125-pound division has collected a 22-1 overall record this season, including a 13-0 mark in dual meets.

Missouri’s highest-ranked wrestler collected two shutout victories over top 15 conference opponents during the weekend. Waters came into the pair of duals with an 0-2 record against both No. 13 Jon Morrison of Oklahoma State and No. 8 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma, but won both matches.

With only one senior in the lineup, Waters has stepped into a leadership role for Missouri this season. The lone senior for the Tigers, Dorian Henderson, has welcomed the added leadership from his younger teammate.

“He’s a competitor,” Henderson said. “Even though he’s only a sophomore, he’s a leader on this team too. He goes out there and works hard. He has such a great mindset.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers have now collected four Wrestler of the Week honors this season, which marks the first time they have done so in the Big 12 era. The added confidence and leadership has helped the team to a 12-3 record and No. 13 national ranking.

The next big test for Waters and the rest of the Missouri wrestlers will come Saturday when the team heads to Piscataway, N.J., for the National Duals. Missouri has earned a No. 3 seed and will take on California Polytechnic State. The winner of that dual will take on the No. 2 seed Michigan Wolverines.

Waters is eager to get another shot at Minnesota’s Zach Sanders, who is ranked No. 2 in the country at 125 pounds and is the only wrestler to beat Waters this season.

“I should get another shot at (Sanders),” Waters said. “I’ve been working on a lot of what lost me my only match, so I think I should be ready this time.”

Waters mifght have as many Wrestler of the Week honors as Ben Askren, but Askren won something Waters has yet to accomplish, something Waters has stored in his sights as he moves through the remainder of the season.

“I have a chance to be a national champion this year,” Waters said. “And that’s what my goal is.”

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