Roberts, much older & wiser, meets Hafizov again in Final X
Photo: Dalton Roberts (left) beat Ildar Hafizov at the 2023 U.S. Open...
By Mike Finn
When Brian Smith took over the Missouri program 17 years ago, he wanted to change the way people — including his wrestlers and fans back in Columbia — looked at university’s wrestling program … and came up with the phrase “Tiger Style.”
Off the mat, that means creating a family among his wrestlers, including six native of Missouri who are in the current Tiger lineup.
But on the mat, it means controlling the tempo of a a match … and for the most part, Tigers were able to do that more effectively than Iowa Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena as second-ranked Missouri won six bouts and knocked off top-ranked Iowa, 18-12 for Missouri’s first NWCA National Duals championship.
By not allowing Iowa an offensive point in a first period until the heavyweight match — after Missouri had already clinched the dual — the Tigers eliminated any home mat advantage the Hawkeyes might have enjoyed with the majority of 6,846 fans dressed in Iowa black and gold.
“You have to do that,” said Smith, whose team raised its record to 24-0 by scoring 11 takedowns to just six by Iowa. “We’ve been consistent all year in scoring first period takedowns. That’s something we teach; get to your ties, get to your scores.”
“They rode tough on top and control-tied us to death,” said Iowa coach Tom Brands, who saw his team lose for the first time in 18 duals this season. “They were hard driving with their rides. They came in to beat us and they did at six weights.”
The first of those victories came at 125 pounds, where second-ranked Alan Waters defeated No. 5 Thomas Gilman 5-4 in overtime as the Tiger senior outscored the Hawkeye sophomore, 4-3, during the tiebreaker phases. Waters scored three points off a locked hands call and reversal in the first 30 seconds, before Gilman cut the final margin to one with a late reversal. Both wrestlers were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when Gillman was first called for a slam when he took his Hawkeye opponent (then on his back) straight backwards.
“That victory set a tone for us,” Smith said. “Alan has been doing that for us all year.”
Waters will most likely be ranked No. 1 in next week’s rankings after the native of Kansas City defeated two-time defending national champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois in a quarterfinal dual on Saturday.
Perhaps the most critical match came at 184 pounds where Missouri’s Willie Miklus defeated Alex Meyer, 6-5 to give Missouri a 15-9 lead.
This was a match-up of two former high school wrestlers from Southeast Polk near Des Moines, Iowa.
“He was my drill partner my senior year,” said Miklus, a redshirt freshman. “We’ve gone countless goes and we still stay in touch. We know each other through and through.”
Miklus also learned early that he was wrestling Meyer, a sophomore who normally wrestles as a reserve at 174, instead of regular starter Sammy Brooks, who did not weigh in Sunday morning.
Brands did not explain why Brooks did not weight in but added, “We like Meyer and we could have won that match.”
After Miklus scored a takedown 30 seconds into the second period to take a 3-0 lead, the Hawkeye responded with an escape, locked hands call against Miklus and a takedown with one second left to lead 4-3 after two period.
In the final period, Meyer escaped to lead 5-3 before Miklus scored a takedown with 50 seconds left and the rode out the Hawkeye the rest of the match for a 1:57 riding time advantage and a 6-5 win.
Missouri scored riding time points in five of the victories, including top-ranked J’den Cox’s 4-3 win over Nathan Burak at 197 pounds to clinch the team championship.
Brands said he would not let this loss define his team’s season.
“It’s a matter of what do you want,” Brands said. “Once you decide what you want, then go get it. It’s not going to be handed to you. That’s nothing new. This stings but you have to keep walking. I don’t believe in good losses. I believe in the next step you take after an evaluation.
“We have ability to score points on our feet and it has to come out. But when they are heavy and on your head, it’s hard.”
Despite the Tigers’ spotless record this season, there have been doubters about the talent level of this program.
Smith said he expects those doubts to continue up until the 2015 NCAA Championships, which will be held in St. Louis, Mo., March 19-21.
“People are always going to doubt us because we are not one of the traditional programs,” said Smith, who added he would like to develop more of a rivalry with Iowa even though this was just the sixth meeting between the landmark schools of neighboring states.
“I know the Big Ten schedule is tough and we are a tough team. No one wants to wrestle us because we are good.”
Smith and his Missouri team also showed how good the Tiger Style is.
#2 Missouri 18, #1 Iowa 12
125 – Alan Waters (Missouri) over Thomas Gilman (Iowa) TB-1 5-4
133 – Cory Clark (Iowa) over Zach Synon (Missouri) Dec 7-2
141 – Lavion Mayes (Missouri) over Josh Dziewa (Iowa) Dec 13-6
149 – Drake Houdashelt (Missouri) over Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) Dec 2-1
157 – Joseph LaVallee (Missouri) over Mike Kelly (Iowa) Dec 6-1
165 – Nick Moore (Iowa) over Mike England (Missouri) Dec 3-2
174 – Michael Evans (Iowa) over John Eblen (Missouri) Dec 4-1
184 – Willie Miklus (Missouri) over Alex Meyer (Iowa) Dec 6-5
197 – J`Den Cox (Missouri) over Nathan Burak (Iowa) Dec 4-3
285 – Bobby Telford (Iowa) over Devin Mellon (Missouri) Dec 6-3
3rd/4th Place Consolation Match
#5 Cornell 22, #11 Lehigh 15
125 – Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) over (Lehigh) Forf
133 – Mason Beckman (Lehigh) over Mark Grey (Cornell) Dec 6-2
141 – Randy Cruz (Lehigh) over Dylan Realbuto (Cornell) Dec 8-6
149 – Christopher Villalonga (Cornell) over Drew Longo (Lehigh) Maj 11-2
157 – Brian Realbuto (Cornell) over Mitchell Minotti (Lehigh) Dec 5-3
165 – Dylan Palacio (Cornell) over Marshall Peppelman (Lehigh) Dec 6-4
174 – Santiago Martinez (Lehigh) over George Pickett (Cornell) Dec 2-1
184 – Gabriel Dean (Cornell) over Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) Dec 7-2
197 – Jace Bennett (Cornell) over Elliot Riddick (Lehigh) Dec 4-1
285 – Douglas Vollaro (Lehigh) over (Cornell) Forf