University of Missouri

Second-ranked Missouri wrestling set for title clash with top-ranked Iowa

The top college wrestling teams in the country are set to battle Sunday in the National Duals Final at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

No. 2 Missouri, 23-0, and No. 1 Iowa survived quarterfinals and semifinals showdowns Saturday, setting up a clash of the titans at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on the Big Ten Network.

The Tigers, who have won 27 consecutive duals dating back to the 2013-14 season, opened Saturday with a 23-13 victory against No. 12 Illinois.

Undefeated senior 125-pounder Alan Waters started the day in style.

Waters, a Park Hill graduate, knocked off Illinois senior and two-time reigning NCAA champion Jesse Delgado 6-2 in MU’s opening quarterfinal bout.

Fellow senior and former Park Hill teammate Johnny Eblen later broke a 10-10 tie by pinning the Fighting Illini’s Zach Brunson in 50 seconds at 174 pounds.

Two matches later, sophomore 197-pounder J’den Cox, the reigning national champion at his weight, clinched a berth in the semifinals with a 15-3 major decision against Jeff Joepke.

Sophomore 141-pounder Lavion Mayes also secured bonus points for Missouri with an 11-3 major decision against Steven Rodrigues, while seniors Drake Houdashelt and Devin Mellon also snagged wins at 149 pounds and heavyweight, respectively.

Facing No. 11 Lehigh, which upset third-ranked Ohio State, the Missouri machine marched on with a 23-9 victory in the semifinals.

Mayes and Houdashelt scored major decision wins for the Tigers’ only bonus points, while Waters, 26-0, and Cox, 29-0, stayed perfect on the season with comfortable decisions.

Eblen, Mellon and senior 165-pounder Mikey England also earned victories against Lehigh.

Meanwhile, Iowa, 17-0, made easy work of Tennessee-Chattanooga with a 44-3 quarterfinal win then beat No. 5 Cornell 24-8, securing a berth for the championship against Missouri.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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