J’den Cox leads Mizzou to its sixth consecutive conference championship

Cox becomes the second wrestler in program history to win four conference championships.

Maneater File Photo

Missouri wrestling came into this weekend’s Mid-American Conference Championships looking to avenge a heartbreaking Senior Day loss to Northern Iowa that cost the team a regular season MAC Championship.

And, as the Tigers found out on Sunday afternoon, revenge is sometimes just about the sweetest thing there is.

Mizzou dominated its opponents in this weekend’s championships, as the Tigers had six wrestlers crowned MAC champions of their respective weight classes en route to a conference record 154.5 team points and the team’s sixth consecutive conference championship on Sunday in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Coach Brian Smith was ecstatic with his team’s performance.

“We were up and down all year, but we have a lot of talent on this team, and I knew we needed to put a consistent effort together at this tournament, and did I ever get it over the last two days,” Smith said. “I’m proud of the program [and] proud of Mizzou.”

The Tigers, who had eight of their 10 wrestlers qualify outright for the NCAA Championships, were led by senior 197-pounder J’den Cox. Cox defeated No. 12 Kevin Beazley of Old Dominion 8-2 in the final to add a fourth conference championship to his already historic resume, making him the second wrestler in Missouri history to record four conference championships in a career. He was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the MAC Championships for the third time in his career.

Smith said he has greatly enjoyed coaching Cox over the last four years.

”The way he works and the way he lives his life is the model of what every student-athlete should be,” Smith said. “He’s a special young man.”

In addition to Cox, redshirt sophomore 133-pounder John Erneste, redshirt freshman 141-pounder Jaydin Eierman, redshirt senior 149-pounder Lavion Mayes, redshirt junior 157-pounder Joey Lavallee and redshirt sophomore 165-pounder Daniel Lewis also all took home individual championships. Lewis’ championship is his second consecutive conference championship, while the rest of the wrestlers were first-time conference champions.

The Tigers were able to get themselves into such a favorable position for Sunday by winning 16 of their 20 matches on Saturday, 10 of which were by bonus points, scoring 117.5 team points. The impressive day gave the Tigers a 27-point lead over Northern Iowa, which they extended to a 48-point margin by the end of the weekend, tying a conference record previously set by Mizzou in 2013.

The Tigers will conclude their season March 16-18 in St. Louis at the NCAA Championships, where Cox will look to win his third career NCAA championship.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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