COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The 16th-ranked Missouri Tigers took to the mat for the first time Friday night, taking the season opener 23-9 at the hands of the North Dakota State Bison. Mizzou won seven of the first eight bouts at Bison Sports Arena in Fargo, N.D., en route to their first win in 2013-14.
Junior-captain Johnny Eblen set the tone for the Tigers on Friday, defeating 184-pound counterpart Kurtis Julson by decision, 5-2, in the opening match. After a scoreless first period, Eblen picked up an escape point in the second period after starting in the down position to take the lead. He would fall behind in the third after a Julson reversal, but an escape and a late takedown in the third sealed the victory and three team points for the Tigers.
True freshman J'den Cox followed suit at 197-pounds, tabbing six takedowns against North Dakota's Colt Castlebury in his first career collegiate match, a 14-4 victory by major decision. Head Coach Brian Smith opted to leave the redshirt off of Cox and fellow freshman Barlow McGhee in 2013-14, dressing both for the Tigers season debut. McGhee also won his first dual match, a 5-2 decision over 125-pounder Hunter Weber after two first period takedowns and an escape in the third period.
"With Barlow (McGhee), he has just been the best guy in the practice room for the past three or four weeks," said Smith following the team's first win. "And with Alan Waters redshirting and with the possibility of Barlow wrestling at 125-pounds again next year, we thought that this year would present us with a good opportunity to get him some experience."
"And with J'den (Cox), the coaches have all the confidence in the world that he can do great things this year. He's mature enough and he knows he can get better. He's a hungry wrestler with the potential to bring great things to this team already."
With Mizzou holding on to a 13-0 lead after the first four matches, seniors Eric Wilson and Kyle Bradley, and 2013 All-American Drake Houdashelt added wins to seal Missouri's first victory. Wilson fell behind 2-0 after an early takedown by Justin Scherkenbach in the first period, but he would respond with a takedown of his own, supplemented by two more escape points en route to a 4-2 win. Houdashelt added a 6-1 decision over Tyler Diamond at 149-pounds, and Bradley quickly followed with a major decision fueled by a 5-point third period over NDSU's Matthew Gray.
The night's closest matchup came at heavyweight in a bout featuring MIzzou's No. 16 Devin Mellon and North Dakota's Evan Knutson. Scoring was hard to come by for both program's ‘big men,' as both were only able to muster up points on escapes through the first three frames. With the score knotted at two-a-piece, the match went to extra time, where Mellon was able to pick up the decisive point via riding time in the second tiebreaker, giving Mizzou three more team points with a 4-3 decision.
North Dakota won three decisions on the night thanks to 18th-ranked Justin LaValle, 3rd-ranked 165-pounder Steven Monk and 174-pounder Hayden Zillmer.
With the first win in the books, the Tigers will take a break from dual action until their next match scheduled for December 6th versus MAC-foe Ohio in Columbia. A total of 27 Tigers will make the short drive to South Dakota State for the WarrenWilliams/Daktronics Open set to take place this Sunday in Brookings, S.D.
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184: Johnny Eblen (MU) won by decision over Kurtis Julson (NDSU) 5-2. (3-0 MU)
197: J`Den Cox (MU) won by major decision over Colt Castlebury (NDSU) 14-4. (7-0 MU)
HWT: Devin Mellon (MU) won in tie breaker 2 over Evan Knutson (NDSU) 4-3. (10-0 MU)
125: Barlow McGhee (MU) won by decision over Hunter Weber (NDSU) 5-2. (13-0 MU)
133: Eric Wilson (MU) won by decision over Justin Scherkenbach (NDSU) 4-2. (16-0 MU)
141: Justin LaValle (NDSU) won by decision over Trevor Jauch (MU) 4-1. (16-3 MU)
149: Drake Houdashelt (MU) won by decision over Tyler Diamond (NDSU) 6-1. (19-3 MU)
157: Kyle Bradley (MU) won by major decision over Matthew Gray (NDSU) 10-2. (23-3 MU)
165: Steven Monk (NDSU) won by decision over Jordan Gagliano (MU) 6-1. (23-6 MU)
174: Hayden Zillmer (NDSU) won by decision over Mikey England (MU) 3-1. (23-9 MU)