Preview: J’den Cox, Missouri wrestling look to make some noise at the MAC Championships

The team has won six straight conference titles, including five straight MAC Championships.

Maneater File Photo

The Missouri wrestling team is full of anticipation and ready for revenge headed into the Mid-American Conference Championships in Cedar Falls, Iowa, this weekend.

The Tigers, who finished 7-1 in the MAC, suffered their only conference loss on Feb. 12 against Northern Iowa on Senior Night at Hearnes Center. Not only will the team be seeking its fifth straight MAC Championship and sixth straight conference championship overall on UNI’s home mat, where the MAC Championships will take place, but for redemption over the Panthers as well.

Coach Brian Smith said he’s raring to go and believes his team is as well.

“I’m just ready to go on the bus,” Smith said. “At this point, we are [ready] physically, mentally and all 100 percent [healthy] right now, which I haven’t been able to say all year.”

It’s been over two weeks since Mizzou’s last dual meet, which has allowed the team to rest and recuperate for championship season.

“It’s worked out [well],” Smith said. “We’ve had some great training [and] a lot of individual practices going on. A lot of confidence is coming back … it’s been a great week for the program.”

Five wrestlers claimed individual conference titles for the Tigers last season, and this year Mizzou enters the MAC Championships with five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the conference in their respective weight classes.

Additionally, senior 197-pounder J’den Cox, redshirt sophomore 165-pounder Daniel Lewis and redshirt junior 125-pounder Barlow McGhee are Mizzou’s three returning MAC champions from last season. With a championship win on Sunday, Cox would join Drake Houdashelt as the second four-time individual conference champion in Mizzou wrestling history.

Although Cox said the individual accolades “would be nice,” they’re not what’s most on his mind.

“It would be cool to bring a sixth straight conference title to Mizzou and continue the streak of being one of the most dominant and winningest teams [in] Missouri program history,” Cox said. “It would be awesome to continue that tradition.”

Other wrestlers on the team, however, said they see the conference tournament as a chance to avenge the team’s regular season loss to UNI.

“Last year, I had something to prove, and this year it’s not really different [for us],” Lewis said. “We want to take what we think is ours, and that’s a conference tournament championship.”

Lewis said he wants his team to perform well this weekend and live up to its billing as a top team in the country.

“[We want to] do big things [at the MAC Championships] and really make a statement before the national tournament,” he said.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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