Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Wrestlers Dominate in Winning Fourth Straight Conference Title

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Wrestlers Dominate in Winning Fourth Straight Conference Title

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, Mo. * Three down, one to go.

The Missouri wrestling team, ranked No. 1 in the nation, took another step toward its ultimate goal of a national championship with a record-setting effort this weekend in winning its fourth straight conference tournament .

Mizzou scored a tournament-record 139.5 points Saturday and Sunday in the Mid-American Conference tournament at Hearnes Center to beat out runner-up Old Dominion (97.5) and the rest of the field for the Tigers' third MAC title in as many seasons. In 2012, its last in the Big 12, Missouri captured its first wrestling conference title.

Sunday's victory marked Mizzou's first four-time conference champion since the men's basketball team accomplished the feat in 1980-1983.

"It feels great. It's incredible," sophomore 197-pounder J'den Cox said. "But what it means to us and you're going to hear this a lot over the next couple of weeks is that we still have work to do."

The Tigers' first three goals the MAC regular-season title, the national duals championship and the MAC tournament title have been reached. Next up: the NCAAs on March 19-20 at Scottrade Center.

"These guys are wrestling for a bigger purpose," Missouri coach Brian Smith said. "It's a very unselfish team, which makes it a special team. I'm excited for the national tournament because these guys just believe right now and that's important."

As important as winning four straight league titles, the Tigers also qualified all 10 wrestlers for the NCAAs for just the third time. Mizzou also sent a full lineup to nationals in 2012 and 2013, but this marks the first without any at-large bids.

"That's important because we have 10 guys who can score and we'll need that at the national tournament," Smith said.

The Tigers, who went 5-3 in title matches Saturday, received a record-setting 5-2 decision at 149 pounds from Fort Zumwalt West High product Drake Houdashelt, who became the program's first four- time conference champion. Houdashelt (32-1) controlled the match after surrendering an early takedown.

Houdashelt has earned All-American honors the last two seasons, placing sixth in 2013 and fifth a year ago. …

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