Mizzou annihilated the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars on Wednesday night, earning five bonus point victories en route to a 34-12 victory in the team’s final dual meet at the Hearnes Center this season.
Following Sunday’s stunning loss to No. 19 Northern Iowa, coach Brian Smith challenged his No. 10 Missouri wrestlers to compete with greater intensity and aggressiveness in future matches.
It’s safe to say his challenge was met.
The Tigers got Wednesday’s win despite sitting two of the team’s starters, redshirt sophomore John Erneste and redshirt junior Joey Lavallee. Lavallee, still battling an ankle injury sustained in Sunday’s match against UNI, was replaced in the lineup by redshirt senior Matt Manley.
Manley ended up having the most exciting match of the dual meet. Wrestling two weight classes above the 141-pounder weight class he wrestled in during the 2016 NCAA Championships, Manley took on redshirt freshman Tyshawn Williams in the 157-pounder match with Mizzou leading the dual, 13-9.
Manley picked up a key escape in the third period to tie the score at two, forcing a one-minute sudden-victory overtime period. Then, when it looked as if Williams was about to score a takedown on Manley to end the match, Manley spun Williams around and pinned his shoulders and back to the mat to pick up the fall victory for the Tigers.
This victory effectively put any chance of an upset out of reach for the Cougars and drew lots of cheers from Mizzou’s bench. Smith said he wasn’t surprised about the reception Manley got from his teammates after he got off the matt.
“I understand how his teammates feel about him because he’s done a lot for the program,” Smith said. “He’s a leader of the team, so he got an opportunity. It was an awesome moment.”
Manley said the opportunity to wrestle one last time at the Hearnes Center was emotional for him and compared the finish of his match to the ending of a sports movie.
“It means the world to me,” Manley said. “Anytime you can get a pin for your team, it’s special, but it being probably the last match of my career in college, I’ll be thinking about it for a while. It’s really special.”
In addition to Manley’s fall, redshirt freshman Jaydin Eierman picked up a fall of his own in the 141-pounder match. Eierman recorded 10 takedowns in his match and seemed to occasionally toy with his opponent, Cougars’ redshirt junior Angelo Silvestro, allowing Silvestro to score a few escapes just so he could take him down again. Then, when it appeared he was going to win by technical fall, Eierman pinned Silvestro and won by fall instead.
Eierman, who entered the match as the No. 9 wrestler in the country in the 141-pounder weight class, said he’s been feeling more comfortable as the season has progressed.
“I’m going out there and wanting to perform and my practices are getting a lot better,” Eierman said. “I’m hitting more of my offense, too. It’s good to see [my work] pay off as the season is ending.”
Smith said he’s been pleased with Eierman’s progression since he made the move to the 141-pounder weight class at the beginning of the year.
“His practices have completely changed,” Smith said. “There’s days when he’s dead tired and exhausted, but he’s wrestling hard. We call it ‘going into the deep end,’ or ‘the deep water.’ He’s put himself there a few times in practice and gotten himself tired, but [in the process] learned he can wrestle in those positions.”
Smith also mentioned that he believes Eierman will be a threat at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in March.
In addition to Manley and Eierman’s successes, redshirt senior Lavion Mayes and redshirt sophomore Daniel Lewis each earned major decisions. Redshirt senior Matt Lemanowicz, who has struggled in the 184-pound weight class since All-American redshirt junior Willie Miklus went down with a knee injury in November, picked up a technical fall victory in his match.
With the regular season over, the Tigers will now turn their attention to the Mid-American Conference Championships, which are set for March 4-5 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Smith said the intensity will only pick up for his wrestlers in the coming weeks as the team prepares for championship matches.
“I think we’re going to have this pinpoint focus in the next few weeks, and I’ve told them that,” he said. “I see it in their eyes, so they’ll be [ready].”
Edited by Eli Lederman | email@example.com