Tiger wrestlers place second in tournament

In what was essentially a home meet for the wrestling team, the Tigers managed to place second in a talented field Saturday at the Big 12 Tournament at the Hearnes Center. With each participating team ranked in the top 20, there was no room for error.

The top three individual wrestlers in each weight class in the tournament qualified for the NCAA Championships held March 20 to 22 in Kansas City.

The Tigers finished second, their best finish ever, and seven wrestlers qualified for nationals.

Coach Brian Smith said he was happy with the results, but he said he thought there was room for improvement.

"I'd rather have 10 (NCAA qualifiers), but seven's a good number," Smith said. "Last year we sent four."

There were no easy matches for the seven qualifiers. Scott Barker (184 pounds) and Tyron Woodley (165) won their divisions" Kevin Herron (heavyweight) and Kenny Burleson (157) placed second" and J.P. Reese (141), Jeremy Spates (149) and Dante Stone (197) took third.

Woodley and Barker are MU's first ever Big 12 Champions.

"It feels good, man," Woodley said. "It's good to make history."

The second-place team finish did not seem like a viable goal at the start of the meet. Mark Bader (125), Chris McCormick (133) and Reese lost the Tigers' first three matches.

Spates was pinned in MU's first match of the semifinals before Woodley and Burleson each won his match.

Meanwhile, No. 1 ranked and heavy favorite Tyrone Lewis (165) of Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State's Nick Passalano with seconds remaining, sending Lewis to wrestle in the third place match. Woodley said he was not disappointed to have missed Lewis.

"I wanted to wrestle him" I think I could beat him," Woodley said. "But I'm not disappointed."

Jon Sioredas (174) lost MU's next match to No. 1 seed Chris Pendelton of Oklahoma State. Sioredas had the match all but won, leading 6-5 with seconds remaining, but Pendelton scored on a two-point reversal to claim victory.

The Tigers had four wrestlers involved in the championship round and finished an even 2-2. Burleson was first and failed to capitalize on leads on two occasions, losing 8-5.

Woodley officially became MU's first Big 12 champion with a tiebreaker win over Passalano, while Barker defeated No. 13 Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State 9-1.

Herron and Oklahoma State's Willie Gruenwald were tied at two with one minute remaining in the match. Herron had a riding time advantage and needed to only maintain hold of Gruenwald to win. Gruenwald, however, succeeded on a reversal with four seconds remaining to win 4-3.

Spates, a team co-captain, summed up the experience.

"At the beginning of this one, it looked like it might be a repeat of last year," Spates said. "Then guys started stepping up and wrestling well. We finished second, which is the highest ever, and now we've got nationals. I think we're going to be ready to go."

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