At the completion of the quarterfinal round at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, both Mizzou and Illinois sit in the top-10 in the team standings; but the Tigers are in better shape.
They have three wrestlers still competing on the championship side of the bracket, Illinois only has one. Defending champ Iowa's chances of earning their 22nd national title is diminishing. The Hawkeyes look nothing like the team that dominated last year. They are in 4th place and 8 points behind #1 Ohio State. But they'll need a lot of help, especially from their five guys in the consolation brackets, to keep pace.
Mizzou's big three are Raymond Jordan, Max Askren and Mark Ellis.
Jordan, a senior, will face top-seeded Steve Luke of Michigan. Jordan has looked very strong so far, and has what it takes to pull of the upset of Luke. Jordan and Luke did not meet up during the regular season.
Askren, the younger brother of Mizzou's two-time national champ Ben, has fought his way to a semi-final match with second-seeded Iowa State's Jake Varner. Askren loss to Varner 9-4 in the Tigers' final dual meet of the year against the Cyclones. Varner finished second at last year's at nationals, losing in double-overtime. Askren has his hands full, and I see Varner moving onto the title match again.
MIzzou's highest seeded wrestler is 2-seeded heavyweight Mark Ellis. He's one win away from a potential rematch with top-seeded David Zabriskie of Iowa State in the championship tomorrow night. Ellis has dropped two decisions to Zabriskie this season. Ellis should win his semi-final tonight, but Zabriskie looks a little sharper.
If you're looking for the best local-related match tonight, it will feature Illinois' top seeded wrestler Mike Poeta at 157. Poeta has steam-rolled his way to the semi-finals, and now gets his toughest test; a rematch with Jordan Leen of Cornell. Leen topped Poeta for the 157 championship last year in St. Louis by just one point.
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