Missouri wrestling continues dominance with seven conference titles, individual conference titles

The seven individual titles broke the team’s 2016-17 record of six.
Jaydin Eierman tries to lock down on his Virginia Tech opponent in 2017. Maneater File Photo

After last weekend, one thing is clear: Seven is Missouri wrestling’s magic number.

The team won its seventh straight conference championship Monday with seven individual titles in the 2018 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships. Six of those tournament championships have been in the MAC, where the Tigers have competed since leaving the Big 12 after the 2011-12 season.

“When I got to Missouri 20 years ago, we had never won a conference championship, but now it’s an expected thing,” head coach Brian Smith said in a phone interview after the championships. “That’s real pleasing.”

After a season without a loss, the team dominated competition on both days of the tournament. Of the seven athletes going to the championships, 11 of their combined 14 matches on Saturday were bonus point victories, including two technical falls from redshirt senior Willie Miklus. Smith commended the team’s aggressiveness, specifically in the championship round.

The team toppled its own record of six individual MAC champions with seven this year. Redshirt junior Daniel Lewis and Miklus both won their championships by tech-falls in the first period, and redshirt sophomore Jaydin Eierman won his with a 24-9 tech-fall.

The only Missouri wrestler to finish with a perfect overall record this season, Lewis won his third career MAC Championship at 174 pounds after moving up a weight class this year. Lewis wrestled three times this weekend, securing nothing but bonus-point victories: a fall, a tech-fall and another fall on Sunday. He joked after his match about competing with Eierman for the most falls. Going into the MACs, Eierman had 12 falls, and Lewis led the team with 14.

149-pound redshirt junior Grant Leeth won his first MAC Championship in his first season in the conference. Leeth wrestled at Duke before being sidelined by injuries for two seasons, reminiscent by a neck brace that has [its own Twitter page.](https://twitter.com/LeethsNeckBrace]

“I guess somebody just took a liking to it and thought it’d be funny to make a neck brace account,” Leeth said Feb. 27. He said that he knows the owner of the account but wants to keep it private.

In his first season in the MAC, Leeth went 6-0 and finished with a 16-0 record in duals, 19-2 record overall. He said before the MAC Tournament that he can’t stop thinking about the NCAA Championships, which start March 15 in Cleveland.

In addition to Leeth, six more Tigers won their weight classes: Miklus, Lewis, Eierman, redshirt junior John Erneste, redshirt senior Joey Lavallee and redshirt sophomore Connor Flynn.

“It’s competitive, and they let the other teams know that now we’re the new standard,” Smith said.

It seemed almost that Missouri’s biggest competition was its own record book this weekend. As a whole, the team beat its own record for team points in the conference tournament with 177, after setting a new record in the 2017 MAC tournament with 154.5.

“That was the thing I saw in this tournament: We were scoring a lot of points,” Smith said. “That’s what does well at the national tournament — guys not just trying to win, but guys going after it.”

The seven champions never lost a match in MAC duals this season, so nationals will provide a true test of competition.

“We’re hopeful that we can get some national champions,” Smith said. “We have opportunities for that, putting a lot of guys on the podium. And then of course, as a team, our goal is to win a team trophy.”

This is only Smith’s second undefeated season in his 20 seasons with Mizzou — but it is also the second time in the past three seasons that Missouri wrestling team has gone undefeated.

“I would love nothing more than to be the first national championship team for [Mizzou], and I definitely think we have that capability as long as everybody performs,” Leeth said.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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