Southeast Polk battle lifts Missouri past Iowa at Duals

Chad Leistikow

Missouri’s Willie Miklus met Iowa’s Alex Meyer at 184 pounds and won 6-5. Both graduated from Southeast Polk in 2012. “He was my drill partner, senior year, every day. Countless hours,” Miklus said.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Six months ago, Willie Miklus and Alex Meyer hung out at the Iowa State Fair, competing in casual cosmetic competitions.

Sunday, the former Southeast Polk state-champion wrestlers met up before 6,846 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena — with much, much more on the line.

Miklus outlasted Meyer in a surprise matchup of ex-Rams at 184 pounds, sending second-ranked Missouri to an 18-12 win over No. 1 Iowa to give the Tigers their first National Duals championship.

"That was fun," Missouri coach Brian Smith said.

Meyer normally wrestles at 174 as a backup to Iowa's Mike Evans, but got bumped up to 184 when Sammy Brooks didn't weigh in. Brooks limped off the mat after Saturday's loss to top-ranked Gabe Dean of Cornell.

That meant Miklus vs. Meyer could decide who had the nation's premier dual team. Missouri led, 12-9, entering 184 — one of many key swing matches.

"It was like wrestling my brother," Miklus said.

That's because Miklus and Meyer were competitive as classmates at Southeast Polk, too. Even though Miklus wrestled at 220 for the Rams and Meyer 170, they wrestled hundreds of times as drill partners — Miklus said he weighed 200 to 205 pounds as a senior and Meyer was around 190 before he cut weight.

Miklus holds Southeast Polk's single-season takedowns record (368); Meyer owns it for a career (714).

Sunday, one takedown — which was challenged by Iowa coach Tom Brands — late in the third period delivered Miklus a 6-5 win.

"Yeah, it's a takedown. It's in the books, man," Brands said afterward. "Probably shouldn't have flagged it. Their guy was on life support."

Miklus and Meyer, 2012 Southeast Polk graduates, went on a recruiting trip to Missouri together.

"We've been friends for a long time," Miklus said. "It was weird, you've got to put that aside, and he did. He brought it, and I brought it. It is what it is. This is something each of us have wanted since we were kids growing up wrestling."

They remain close, as evidenced by their time together in August at the State Fairgrounds — in a competition called Mr. Legs.

"You've got to show off your legs," Miklus explained with a grin. "He got second. I didn't win anything. I've got not-so-nice legs."

Meyer, who fell to 18-3, declined an interview request.

The team outcome wasn't all about 184, though. It was about Missouri's oppressive on-top dominance against the Hawkeyes. Iowa scored just one takedown — by Cory Clark — through the first five weights.

At 149 pounds, Iowa's second-ranked Brandon Sorensen lost 2-1 after being ridden by No. 4 Drake Houdashelt the entire second period.

"They control-tied us to death," Brands said. "They weren't rides where they've got tricks. They were hard, driving, forward-type rides. They came in to beat us, and they did at six weights."

Miklus' win pushed Missouri to a 15-9 lead and top-ranked J'Den Cox sneaked past Nathan Burak 4-3 at 197 to clinch it for the Tigers (24-0).

"I'll tell you, this stings," Brands said. "It stings, but you've got to keep walking. We're not going to stop working."

Two bigger competitions remain for Iowa, which finished the dual season 17-1 — the Big Ten Championships March 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio, and the March 19-21 NCAA Championships in St. Louis.

"It's not the end of the year. It's not the end of the season," said Evans, who dispatched fifth-ranked Johnny Eblen 4-1 to improve to 24-1. "There's another next competition, so you've got to focus on that."

NO. 2 MISSOURI 18, NO. 1 IOWA 12

125: No. 1 Alan Waters (M) dec. No. 5 Thomas Gilman, 5-4 (OT).

This went to extra time at 1-1, but Waters picked up three points on a clasped-hand penalty and reversal. Gilman recorded a late reversal but couldn't get back points.

133: No. 5 Cory Clark (I) dec. NR Zach Synon, 7-2.

The Iowa sophomore gave up an early takedown but capped a 3-0 weekend by punishing the lanky Synon in the top position, improving to 22-4.

141: No. 7 Lavion Mayes (M) dec. No. 10 Josh Dziewa, 13-6.

Dziewa escaped with 12 seconds left to stave off a major-decision loss. Mayes manhandled him from start to finish, six takedowns to zero, to improve to 30-1.

149: No. 4 Drake Houdashelt (M) dec. No. 2 Brandon Sorensen, 2-1.

Houdashelt overpowered Sorensen with a two-minute second-period ride and snapped the Hawkeye's 14-match winning streak. Sorensen's lone score was a stalling point with 12 seconds left.

157: No. 10 Joey Lavallee (M) dec. No. 8 Michael Kelly, 6-1.

Another rough second period for Iowa doomed Kelly, who gave up a takedown and 1:41 of riding time. Through five weights, the Hawkeyes had one takedown (Clark) and one reversal (Gilman).

165: No. 11 Nick Moore (I) dec. NR Mikey England, 3-2.

Iowa City native Moore picked up a second-period takedown and early third-period escape against England, who hails from Centerville, to improve to 20-7.

174: No. 4 Mike Evans (I) dec. No. 5 Johnny Eblen, 4-1.

Evans finished his Carver-Hawkeye Arena career in a very Evans way, scoring a third-period takedown with 37 seconds left to snap a 1-1 tie and earn his 101st victory.

184: No. 10 Willie Miklus (M) dec. Alex Meyer, 6-5.

Meyer scored a takedown to end the second period and escaped to start the third and led, 5-3. But Miklus recorded a disputed takedown on the edge of the mat and picked up riding time for the win.

197: No. 1 J'den Cox (M) dec. No. 5 Nathan Burak, 4-3.

Burak was awarded a stalling point late in the third period to essentially tie it, but sophomore Cox — the defending national champion — responded with a quick takedown with under 30 seconds left to move to 30-0.

Hwt: No. 6 Bobby Telford (I) dec. No. 20 Devin Mellon, 6-3.

With the team score out of reach, Telford notched his 99th career win in his Carver-Hawkeye finale on the strength of Iowa's first (and only) first-period takedown.

—Chad Leistikow