The No. 9 Missouri wrestling squad will travel to Kent, Ohio, this weekend for the Mid-American Conference Championships, trying for its third consecutive conference title.
Missouri comes into the 2014 MACs ranked second behind undefeated Northern Iowa. Ohio sits third in the standings.
Despite entering this season as the reigning champs, Missouri was picked second by the MAC coaches behind Ohio, a squad the Tigers defeated 23-10 in December.
Northern Iowa was the only Division I team to finish undefeated this season.
For the Tigers to end up on top of the podium, all 10 classes need to pull their weight. Missouri accumulates team points as wrestlers advance through the bracket.
The Tigers also have a chance to come away with several individual titles as well as the team championship.
Here are some keys for the 10 starters:
- At 125, freshman Barlow McGhee, seeded fifth, will have the chance to get the Tigers off to a good start, something he has done inconsistently this season. While finishing in the top three might not be in his cards, if he can win at least one match, the Tigers will be a good place.
- At 133, redshirt freshman Matt Manley, seeded fifth, also has struggled with inconsistency this season. He hasn’t topped any of the contenders in his weight class. Yet, to his credit, he has several finishes in the top three in tournaments this season, so that could bode well for the MAC.
- At 141, redshirt freshman Lavion Mayes, sitting at the fourth seed, is faced with the task of overcoming multiple contenders who have defeated him once already. Mayes has pulled out two matches against ranked opponents this season. However, he has already faced many the top wrestlers in his weight class, so he won’t be surprised by what they bring to the mat.
- At 149, junior Drake Houdashelt is seeded second, but the title is his to lose. Houdashelt has taken care of almost everyone in his weight with the exception of Ohio’s Tywan Claxton. He will have a chance to avenge that loss at this weekend’s tournament and capture his third individual championship.
- At 157, freshman Joey Lavallee, seeded third, has nine matches on his record after having his redshirt removed in mid-January. He enters the championship tournament as the fourth-ranked wrestler in his weight class and having two wins against ranked opponents under his belt. After finishing the regular season with a loss, Lavallee needs to build some momentum to make a run in the bracket.
- At 165, senior Zach Toal enters as the second seed in his weight class. To improve on last year’s fourth-place finish, he will have to top Cooper Moore from Northern Iowa. Toal lost to Moore in a 6-2 decision back in January, and he has wrestled three times since.
- At 174, junior Mikey England, seeded seventh, has a chance to salvage his rather lackluster season in a field with one ranked wrestler, but he has lost to all but three of them. He enters the tournament with a two-loss streak.
- At 184, junior Johnny Eblen, seeded second, will have to overcome top-ranked Ryan Loder from Northern Iowa if he wants to finish on top of the podium. Loder has been a perpetual thorn in the side for Missouri. Former Tiger Mike Larson settled for third place after losing to Loder last season. Eblen was pinned in 26 seconds and suffered an injury last time these two faced each other.
- At 197, freshman J’den Cox is seeded second behind Ohio’s Phil Wellington. Cox lost to Wellington, 6-4, in December.
- In the heavyweight category, Devin Mellon sits at the second seed and has the chance to keep the individual title won by former Missouri wrestler Dom Bradley. In his way is Ohio’s Jeremy Johnson, whom Mellon has yet to beat this season.
The MAC action starts at noon March 8, and the championships will be streamed on flowrestling.net.