Updated Fri, Dec 6, 2013 9:35 am
To be the best, you have to beat the best. That is just the task the Ohio Bobcats (3-0) have in front of them late Friday afternoon when they take on the No. 9 Missouri Tigers (1-0) at 5 p.m.
The Bobcats have conference championship aspirations on their mind, and they will be going up against a Tiger team that claimed the Mid-American Conference Championship last season.
Last year was Missouri’s first year in the MAC and it made quite a splash, unseating the Central Michigan Chippewas, who had claimed the team title for 11 straight years. The Tigers capped off their season with a seventh place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
Coming into the dual, Missouri has six ranked wrestlers on its roster. No. 1 Drake Houdashelt earned All-American honors with a sixth place finish at last season’s championships and No 6. Kyle Bradley and No. 10 Zach Toal also qualified for the tournament.
Mizzou boasts an impressive lineup, but Ohio has a vaunted group in its own right. The Bobcats will enter into tonight’s matchup with five ranked wrestlers, five NCAA-qualifiers and one returning All-American.
The dual will showcase four matchups between ranked grapplers. At 149 pounds Division I All-American Houdashelt will take on No. 18 and former Division II All-American Tywan Claxton. The 157-pound bout between Bradley and No. 18 Sparty Chino will be a matchup of returning NCAA qualifiers. Ohio’s returning All-American at 174 pounds and No. 7 Cody Walters is set to take on No. 20 Mikey England. To finish off the clashes of the ranks, 197-pounders square off as No. 15 Phil Wellington will have his hands full with No. 8 J’den Cox. Cox, Missouri’s super freshman, went 195-3 in high school. All three losses came as a freshman at Hickman High School and like Houdashelt, he remains undefeated this season.
Other ranked wrestlers to hit the mats will be No. 10 Johnny Eblen at 184 pounds for the Tigers and No. 9 Jeremy Johnson – the Bobcats’ heavyweight.
In the preseason Ohio was picked to win the MAC by the conference’s coaches. Missouri was picked to finish third. The Bobcats are not just looking to hand Missouri its first loss of the season, but also to make a big statement that they deserve the coaches’ acclaim.