By Gary R. Blockus
MANHEIM – It’s the literal challenge of the irresistible force running smack dab into the immovable object, and in this case, it’s undefeated fourth-ranked Missouri – riding a 37-match dual meet winning streak – heading into hostile territory to take No. 5 Oklahoma State 7 p.m. Friday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
The meet is not only a crucial showdown in the national rankings, but important as Missouri (9-0) seeks to keep moving forward in its quest to defend its NWCA Division Dual Meet National Championship.
The 2016 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division I National Championship Dual Series will take place Sunday, Feb. 21 as 16 teams battle in dual meets on
eight campuses across the country. The top team from the Big Ten will meet the top-ranked non-Big Ten conference winning team in the championship match. It’s imperative that Missouri keeps its ranking high in order to be that non-Big Ten champion.
“Oklahoma State is always a great challenge for us,” said Brian Smith, who is in his 18th year in charge of Missouri’s wrestling landscape. “A lot of these matchups go for seeding at the NCAA individual championships in March, but this is a challenge of being in their place and competing in a hostile environment. The atmosphere of team versus team, the intensity of a really good dual meet is fun to be a part of. I’m looking forward to this one.”
Missouri, which competes in the Mid-American Conference in wrestling, left the Big 12 wrestling conference for the MAC conference championships in 2013.
The Cowboys of legendary coach John Smith are no pushover. Despite a 6-2 overall record, Oklahoma State is led by a pair of No. 1 ranked wrestlers in sophomore 141-pounder Dean Hall (17-0) and 165-pound senior Alex Dieringer (17-0). Junior Kyle Crutchmer (13-2) is ranked No. 3 at 174 with 125-pound senior Eddie Klimara (18-2) and 285-pound senior Austin Marsden (16-1) No. 5 in their weight classes. Freshman Joe Smith (22-2) is ranked No. 7 at 157 to round out the Top 10 ranked Cowboys.
Missouri boasts second-ranked J’den Cox, a 15-1 junior, at 197, along with No. 3-ranked junior Lavion Mayes (17-0) at 149, No. 4-ranked sophomore Willie Miklus (13-2) at 184, No. 5-ranked freshman Daniel Lewis (17-3) at 165, No. 9 junior Matt Manley (22-4) at 141, and a pair of No. 10s in 125-pound sophomore Barlow McGhee (13-5) at 174-pound senior Blaise Butler (10-5).
Missouri last lost a dual meet almost two years ago when it visited Stillwater to suffer in a 28-6 setback. Since then, the Tigers have gone on to beat 14 teams ranked in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll.
Oklahoma State lost to No. 2 Iowa 18-16 to kick off the season, and 19-15 to No. 3 North Carolina State last Dec. 13. The Cowboys looked in high gear on an Eastern swing last week by blasting then No. 24 West Virginia 38-3 and No. 18 Pitt 36-0.
For more information, go to http://www.nwca.com.