The Maneater

Five takeaways from Missouri wrestling’s Black and Gold Dual

The team heads into the regular season this week with its home opener against Illinois on Nov. 4.

Missouri Tigers wrestler Willie Miklus gets his arm raised after securing seventh place Saturday, March 21, 2015, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Maneater File Photo

The Missouri wrestling team went head to head with itself Friday night in the annual Black and Gold Dual at Hearnes Center. The squad split into two and wrestled someone in the same or similar weight class in an exhibition match-style dual to prepare for the Nov. 4 home opener against Illinois at Mizzou Softball Stadium.

After 14 matches, the Gold team won 28-16. Redshirt senior Joey Lavallee said the match presented challenges to the Tiger wrestlers.

“It’s tough; we’re wrestling our own teammates,” he said. “We see each other in the room so much, and we know each other’s tendencies better than anyone else out there is going to know them.”

Head coach Brian Smith said the team has little things to work on before the home opener on Nov. 4.

“Seeing guys just having a hard time finishing with shots, but we’ll work on that,” Smith said. “I just feel like we need to get out and wrestle some other teams now. But we need to do this for just getting out in front of a crowd with a referee.”

Here are five things to look out for going into the team’s first match:

One of four seniors, Joey Lavallee is back and ready to lead

Lavallee, a redshirt senior, won the Mid-American Conference championship last year in the 157-pound weight class. Lavallee’s energy could be a sign of leadership to come this season; he could not sit still in the matches leading up to his own, doing tuck jumps and moving up and down the sidelines. Lavallee won his Black and Gold match against redshirt sophomore Luke Fortuna in a tight 3-2 decision that began the third period with only one point scored.

“I mean, it’s a practice run for next week, and that’s how I look at it,” Lavallee said after the match. “Just, ‘Okay, what can I do now to prepare and get all the cobwebs out now before [the home opener]?’”

Redshirt senior Willie Miklus is back after being sidelined last year due to injury

Miklus, who wrestled in only two matches last season due to a knee injury, last wrestled on Nov. 20, 2016, against Virginia Tech. He wrestled in the 184-pound weight class and forfeited his match due to injury less than two minutes into the match. This year, Miklus is back and wrestling in the 197-pound weight class; he defeated 184-pound redshirt sophomore Dalton Voyles in a major decision at the end of the first period.

“It was last November last time he was on the mat, wrestling a match like this, so that was good,” Smith said. “Now he’s ready for Illinois.”

Not counting his redshirt season freshman year, Miklus has a 54-19 career record. He was an All-American in 2015 and 2016 in the 184-pound weight class. Miklus moved up to the 197-pound weight class this season. And he has big shoes to fill, as the 197-pound class is where former Mizzou wrestler J’den Cox wrestled last season. Miklus’ three years of experience could be valuable with the graduation of two standout leaders, Cox and Lavion Mayes.

A constant: Eierman remains impressive

Redshirt sophomore Jaydin Eierman wrestled at the U23 World Team Trials in Minnesota at the beginning of October. He finished third in his weight class. Eierman seems ready to step into a leadership role as one of the team’s top returners.

According to a press release by the team, Eierman became the fourth consecutive Missouri freshman to earn All-American status when he placed fifth at the NCAA championships in March. Eierman also won the MAC championship last season in the 141-pound weight class.

“I’ve really opened up on my attacks and offensive a lot,” Eierman said in a post-practice interview on Oct. 19.

Smith also said on Oct. 19 that he has seen improvement in Eierman since last season.

That offensive approach was clear in Eierman’s performance at the Black and Gold dual, where he won by fall against redshirt junior Nick Nasenbeny after four minutes and eight seconds. Eierman had a takedown in the first minute of the match.

Freshman to watch: Lane Stigall

Not much is known about Lane Stigall, a freshman from almost 2,000 miles away. The Aurora, Oregon, native wrestled in the 149-pound weight class in the Black and Gold dual against redshirt freshman Sean Hosford, who wrestled at 157 pounds.

Even with the weight difference, the two were tied at five points apiece after a back-and-forth first period. Stigall pulled ahead in the second period, ending the period with an 8-5 lead. Stigall’s 10-7 win added to the Gold team’s lead. The Black team came back to lead for a match after freshman Dack Punke’s victory over freshman Cameron Valdiviez, but the Gold team ultimately had more depth and prevailed.

What to look for: emerging leaders

On a team with only four redshirt seniors, leadership is still being determined. Redshirt junior Daniel Lewis, who did not wrestle in the Black and Gold dual but, according to Smith, is ready for the season, could also play a leadership role. Lewis has dominated the 165-pound weight class for the past two years, winning the MAC Championship and placing fourth and sixth place nationally in 2016 and 2017, respectively, in the weight class.

Lewis, Miklus, Miklus and Eierman may be the emerging leaders, but the leadership void created by Cox’s graduation remains an unknown headed into the season.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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