Mizzou tops Iowa in National Duals Final


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Tom Brands’ mind raced as he walked up the tunnel underneath Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon. He carried a blank stare on his face and a wooden second-place trophy in his hand.

He entered the media room and set the trophy in the corner — perhaps because, after losing to No. 4 Missouri, 18-12, in the finals of the National Duals, Brands wanted nothing to do with it.

“They came in to beat us,” Brands said. “And they did — at six weights.”

Indeed, the Tigers, now 24-0 in duals this season, wrestled aggressively. Missouri wrestlers scored first in seven of the 10 matches, managed an 11-6 takedown advantage, did not allow any one Hawkeye to score offensively in the first period until heavyweight, and racked up 5 points thanks to riding time.

“They rode tough on top and they control-tied us to death,” said Brands, whose team is now 17-1 in duals. “And they weren’t rides in which they had tricks. They were hard, driving forward-type rides.”

As such, coach Brian Smith and Company took home their program’s first-ever National Duals crown and will likely overtake the Hawkeyes in some prominent polls. But to win, the Tigers had to scrap and fight for everything they earned.

“You have to go out and battle,” Smith said. “I said this the other day, but our kids have been consistent all year. We’ve been to Ohio State. We’ve been to Cornell. This was just another venue, and this was just another team. You have to focus that way.

“We have to worry about our team. We had to go out and do what we could do. And we did that.”

Missouri’s Alan Waters opened the dual with a 5-4 overtime win over Thomas Gilman. In the midst of it, Gilman was called for an illegal slam, and Waters was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct. Afterward, Waters ran off toward the tunnel and into Iowa’s Topher Carton. That — and, really, the entire 125-pound match — pit the two Black and Gold fan bases against each other.

The Tigers won four of the first five bouts for a 12-3 lead, and that included wins in crucial swing matches at 149 and 157 pounds. Drake Houdashelt beat Brandon Sorensen, 2-1, in the former thanks to a riding-time point; Joey Lavallee scored a takedown in both the second and third periods to beat Michael Kelly, 6-1, in the latter.

Nick Moore and Mike Evans responded by winning at 165 and 174 pounds, respectively, making the score 12-9. But Iowa native Willie Miklus beat former high-school teammate and longtime friend Alex Meyer, 6-5, at 184 pounds in the dual’s last true swing match.

The very next match, defending NCAA champion J’Den Cox scored a third-period takedown and secured the riding-time advantage to beat Nathan Burak, 4-3, at 197 pounds, clinching the dual for Missouri.

“I knew where I was at, and I knew what I needed to do,” Cox said. “Coach just told me, you know, go out there and win, and that’s what I’ve been doing … It was definitely a big win.

“All around, it was a great team effort. But like I always say, we can always do better.”

Those exact words ran through Brands’ mind as he trekked toward the media room after the dual’s conclusion. He said this loss will not define his team’s season, but only if they learn from it and move forward the right way.

There’s still work to do, he said, especially with the Big Ten championships the next event on the schedule.

“We’re not going to stop working,” Brands said. “I don’t believe in that being a good loss. I don’t believe in that type of thing. I believe that the next step you take is a step after an evaluation, and you’re evaluating after the final whistle as you’re walking up that tunnel.”

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