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    Missouri wins school's first NWCA National Duals title

    In a fitting finale to the regular season, the last two unbeaten teams in the country would square off for a national dual meet championship.

    Missouri won its first National Duals title (Photo/Sara Levin)
    In the end, the University of Missouri would stand alone as the 24-0 Tigers topped previously undefeated and top-ranked Iowa 18-12 at the EAS Sports Nutrition/NWCA National Duals presented by Hibiclens and the United States Marine Corps in honor of Cliff Keen at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on Sunday.

    The championship is the first in the school's history and the Tigers become just the seventh program to claim a National Duals title, joining Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State, Cornell and Iowa State as event winners.

    "That was fun," said Missouri head coach Brian Smith. "I told the kids before the match it was going to be a battle and the atmosphere and all that, but enjoy it and embrace it. They showed up and wrestled."

    For Smith, he can finally check off the National Duals as a tournament his program was looking to finally win. It was also a long journey to get to this point when he took over a Missouri program that was regularly finishing in the bottom of the Big 12 at the time.

    "One of my first calls was with a kid who signed with the previous coaching staff and the mother was asking are we Division I? I was like, wow, we have a ways to go here. It's been a long journey, it's been a fun journey. Missouri has been unbelievable to me and my family. I can't say enough about how much they really believe in our program. I looked at my phone and the first one was a huge letter from my AD about how pumped up he was."

    Missouri's Alan Waters topped Thomas Gilman 5-4 in a wild 125-pound opening match between two of the nation's top wrestlers at the weight. The two wrestled even through regulation and headed into overtime tied at one. After no scoring in sudden victory, Waters started on bottom and earned a penalty point for locked hands. He immediately reversed Gilman for a 4-1 lead heading into the second half of the tiebreaker period. Gilman and Waters then got into a bit of a tussle, with penalty points exchanged on both sides. Gilman reversed Waters to his back at the buzzer, but didn't have enough time to score nearfall points.

    Iowa tied the dual up as Cory Clark defeated Missouri's Zach Synon 7-2 at 133 pounds. Synon scored first to take an early 2-0 lead, but Clark tied the score with two escapes and then went ahead for good with a takedown 29 seconds into the second period. Clark went to work on top, drawing two stall points and earning a riding time point.

    Fifth-ranked Lavion Mayes scored six takedowns en route to a 13-6 decision over sixth-ranked Josh Dziewa at 141 pounds. Mayes hit three double legs in the first period and picked up over two minutes of riding time, controlling the bout from start to finish. Mayes was nearing a major decision late, but a Dziewa escape with 12 seconds to go saved the team point for Iowa.

    Fifth-ranked Drake Houdashelt upended second-ranked Brandon Sorensen 2-1 at 149 pounds. Houdashelt earned an escape point in the third but accumulated over a minute and a half of riding time for an additional point. Sorensen's lone point was a stall point in the final minute of the bout.

    Missouri picked up a huge swing match victory at 157 pounds as ninth-ranked Joey LaVallee beat 13th-ranked Mike Kelly 6-1. Kelly took a 1-0 lead in the second period with an escape, but LaVallee took the lead for good with a takedown with 35 seconds left in the second. LaVallee went up 3-1 after an escape and iced the match with a takedown with five seconds remaining.

    "We won four of the first five in battles," said Smith. "They didn't let anything faze. We stuck with game plans. It was like the seventh or eighth match and I looked over to my assistant and said, 'Gosh, everything I'm yelling out to the kids, they're trying and doing'. Even the matches we lost, battling our butts off. I just couldn't be more proud of the team."

    Iowa got one back at 165 pounds as Nick Moore used a second-period takedown to defeat Iowa native Mikey England of Missouri 3-2.

    Third-ranked Mike Evans of Iowa converted a single leg takedown with 35 seconds to go to break a 1-1 tie and earn a 4-1 win over sixth-ranked Johnny Eblen. Evans tacked on the fourth point with riding time. The win would draw the Hawkeyes within 12-9 going into 184.

    At 184 pounds, it was an intriguing matchup between two former high school teammates as Missouri's Willie Miklus and Iowa's Alex Meyer took to the mat. Meyer, filling in for Sam Brooks, who didn't weigh in, is a 174-pounder who bumped up for the match. Both wrestled for Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, just outside of Des Moines.

    Miklus went up 3-0 with a second-period escape and then a takedown, but Meyer picked up a point for locking hands and an escape to bring it to 3-2. Meyer went up 4-3 with a takedown as time expired in the second period. Meyer, starting on bottom, got out to extend his lead to 5-3 before Miklus scored a takedown with 47 seconds left to the the score. Miklus rode out Meyer to get the riding time point and an exciting 6-5 win.

    "I had a pretty good idea that I was wrestling Alex," said Miklus. "We've wrestled hundreds of times. He was my drill partner my senior year every day pretty much. We've gone countless hours, countless gos. We still stay in touch, we're still buddies. We know each other in and out and through and through."

    Defending NCAA champion J'Den Cox sealed the championship for Missouri with a 4-3 win over returning All-American Nathan Burak. Cox fell behind in the third period after he was hit for his second stalling call, but moments later, he'd score the decisive takedown and add a riding time point to end it.

    With the dual decided, two-time All-American Bobby Telford of Iowa was steady in a 6-3 win over Devon Mellon.

    "They rode tough on top and the control-tied us to death. They weren't rides where they got tricks, they were hard, driving forward type of rides. They came in to beat us and they did at six weights," said Iowa head coach Tom Brands.

    Fifth-ranked Cornell defeated EIWA rival Lehigh 22-15 for third place.

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