COLUMBIA — For a 12th straight year, Missouri has qualified five or more wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, which begin in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Seven of 10 Missouri wrestlers earned automatic bids to the NCAA tournament based on their place at the Mid-American Conference Championship, where the Tigers won their third-consecutive conference title.
Five wrestlers make their NCAA Championship debut Thursday. Senior Zach Toal will make his fourth-consecutive appearance. Juniors Drake Houdashelt and Devin Mellon have both qualified in previous seasons as well.
Houdashelt will open as the No. 1 seed nationally at 149 pounds. Missouri freshman J'den Cox holds the No. 2 seed at 197 pounds. Freshman Joey Lavallee rounds out the seeded wrestlers for the Tigers this weekend with the No. 14 seed at 157 pounds.
Houdashelt, Missouri's team captain, has posted a 34-1 record this season and was voted MAC Wrestler of the Week twice this season. This will be Houdashelt's third straight NCAA appearance.
Cox has done well his first year at Missouri by going 33-2 overall and wrestling his way to a MAC Championship title at 197 pounds. He looks to become the first freshman national champion in Missouri wrestling history.
Last year at the national championships, the Tigers finished with five wrestlers in the top eight and finished in seventh place as a team.
Missouri finished the 2014 regular season ranked No. 9 by the National Wrestling Coaches Association and USA Today Coaches Poll.