Missouri wrestling third at NCAA nationals; Waters, Eblen end career

Missouri came home with the second NCAA Division I Championships team trophy in school history this past weekend. Just not the desired one. Park Hill graduates Alan Waters (125 pounds) and Johnny Eblen (174 pounds) both experienced disappointing ends to their careers, while the Tigers ended up fourth overall. They were shooting for the first national championship in program history, entering the four-day tournament ranked No. 1 and with the 2015 dual national title to their credit.

The No. 1 seed, Waters reached the semifinals but lost 4-2 to Ohio State freshman and eventual national champion Nathan Tomasello, who scored the winning takedown with 3 seconds remaining. Waters — the only four-time state champion in Park Hill history — battled back to win his final two matches to claim third place in his second All-American season. His 136 wins ranks second all-time in program history, and his .907 winning percentage also ranked second all-time.

Eblen suffered a worse fate and hurt Missouri’s trophy chances in the process.

Seeded fourth for his first trip to nationals, the three-time medalist, two-time finalist and state champion at 189 in 2010 for Park Hill suffered an upset loss in the opening round. He came back to win his next two matches before falling behind 7-0 in the opening period against Illinois’ Zac Brunson.

With a loss impending, Eblen trailed 9-4 at a restart with 5 seconds to go. He lowered his head for a desperation shot and butted Brunson before taking him down well out of bounds.

Eblen — a second-year starter who missed the 2014 postseason — drew a disqualification, which cost Missouri his three team points plus a one-point penalty.

Missouri senior Drake Houdashelt finished off the Tigers’ tournament with a 3-1 overtime win against Edinsboro’s David Habat, becoming the fifth individual and sixth overall national champion in program history. Houdashelt’s win locked up fourth place for Missouri, which finished with 73½ points — two back of Edinsboro and two in front of fifth-place Cornell for the final trophy.

Five wrestlers earned All-American honors, a program record for a single season, and the team finish marked the best since a third-place showing in 2006-2007.