With four champions, Missouri wins Big 12 title, edging Oklahoma State by four points
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Fourteen years ago some people laughed at Brian Smith's talk of winning a Big 12 Conference championship in wrestling.
He backed up those words on Saturday, leading Missouri to its first Big 12 crown, edging Oklahoma State by 4 Â½ points inside the Hearnes Center.
"We had an amazing tournament" said Smith, whose squad had four champions and who won what seemed like every match by the slimmest of margins. "I don't know that a team could have a better tournament. I was sitting in my sauna this afternoon because I was so stressed. I've never seen where you get eight guys in the finals and you have to fight to still win the tournament.
"The kids battled every round. Every guy battled. Everybody has put so much time into this. They thought I was crazy when I said we could do this."
The Tigers saw Alan Waters (25-2) win the title at 125, edging 2010 Big 12 champion Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma; freshman Drake Houdashelt (28-5) earn top honors at 157; Zach Toal (22-9) knock off top-seeded Andrew Sorenson of Iowa State at 165; and Mike Larson (21-4) get by Boaz Beard in the 184-pound final.
Sorenson entered the final at 26-1 and with a major decision against Toal earlier this year.
Larson had a wild day, rallying to beat Oklahoma State's Chris McNeil in the semifinals, then hold off Board.
"It feels great" said Larsen. "I didn't give up in that semifinal. I knew (McNeil) was tired and I could get that stalling call. He fell right into my takedown at the end. It was a wild day. It seemed like every match went down to the wire."
Missouri entered the finals with a 4 ½ point lead over Oklahoma and eight representatives. Oklahoma State, trailing by five, had six finalists, while the Sooners had three to work with. Four of the title bouts featured OSU and Missouri going head-to-head. The Tigers faced off with the Sooners twice in the final round.
Oklahoma State won four of its six finals matches but came up just short.
"I don't know how it happened" said Cowboy head coach John Smith, whose program was looking for its third straight Big 12 title. "We did just about everything we could, but (Missouri) just kept winning those close matches. We gave ourselves a chance but came up a little short."
Jordan Oliver (24-1) won his third Big 12 title in three tries. The 2011 NCAA champion pinned Iowa State's Shayden Terukina in the semifinals. In the 133-pound title bout he had a major decision against Missouri's Nathan McCormick. He was named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament.
Senior Jamal Parks (30-0) won his third conference crown, edging Missouri's Kyle Bradley in the 149-pound finals. Parks, a 2011 All-American, will enter the NCAA Championships with 119 career victories, tied with Chris Barnes for 14th all-time at Oklahoma State.
Another Cowboy, sophomore 174-pounder Chris Perry, remained unbeaten this season, improving to 25-0 with an 8-2 decision against MU's Dorian Henderson. Perry was also Big 12 champion in 2011.
Cale Byers (23-3) provided the Cowboys with its fourth champion, beating Missouri's Brent Haynes, 5-0, in the 197-pound title match.
Oklahoma, the third place finisher, saw 141-pound sophomore Kendric Maple (28-1) beat OSU's Josh Kindig for his first title.
Matt Gibson (24-8) provided Iowa State with a champion, beating OSU rookie Austin Marsden in the tournament's final bout.
The on-again, off-again errors in the scoring provided more drama late. Missouri led by 4 Â½ entering the final bout but the scoreboard continued to show the Tigers only up by four. Had Marsden beaten Gibson no telling what would have happened.
Missouri, whose sports programs will be competing in the Southeastern Conference in 2012-13, qualified nine for the 2012 NCAA Championships, along with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Iowa State will have four in St. Louis. At-large selections still remain, however.
Oklahoma had a strong bronze medal round going 7-0, getting a major decision by Jordan Keller at 133, a last-second takedown by Erich Schmidtke at 184, an overtime win by Keldrick Hall at 197, and an injury default at 285 pounds when MU's Devin Mellon could not continue early in the second period against Kyle Colling.
Oklahoma State went 2-2 in the third place round. Albert White (24-9) picked up a major decision at 157, scoring nine third period points, and 125-pounder Jon Morrison (19-8) beat Ryak Finch, 4-1.
Senior Chris McNeil (14-13) had a tough day, giving up a stalling point and a takedown in the final seconds to lose to Larson, 7-6, in the semifinals, then giving up a takedown in the final five seconds to Schmidtke to fall 3-2 in the third place match. Dallas Bailey (13-14) went 0-2 at 165 pounds.
All four wrestlers at 125 and 165 were allocated spots in the NCAA Championships.
Iowa State's disastrous and injury-riddled season continued. The Cyclones earned just four qualifiers, going 0-7 in third-place bouts.
Senior Jerome Ward entered Saturday at 1-0 and went 0-2. In the semifinals Ward scored a takedown in the final 20 seconds to force overtime against Byers, but the Cowboy senior bounced back with an overtime double-leg to advance to the final. 174-pounder Chris Spangler, after losing in overtime to Henderson in the semifinals, injury-defaulted his third-place bout.
Missouri had a strong semifinal round with a handful of down-to-the-wire victories. Waters edged Morrison, 2-0; McCormick got by OU's Jordan Keller, 4-2; Bradley beat OU's Nick Lester, 2-0; Houdashelt went to the first tiebreaker to beat White, 2-1; Toal got by Bubby Graham, 3-2; Henderson's thriller with Spangler; and Larson's heroics.