Mayes finds success after changing weight classes in offseason

Lavion Mayes won the starting gig at 141 pounds last December and has quietly helped his team.
Freshman Lavion Mayes wrestles Eastern Michigan's Nicholas Barber on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Hearnes Center. Mayes has grappled his way to No. 18 in the nation in his weight class.

Lavion Mayes hadn’t won a single tight match this season.

Then, this weekend, the 141-pounder finally captured a win in a second overtime bout against Kent State’s Tyler Small.

Coach Brian Smith said the win sends a message to the conference and is good for Mayes’ confidence.

“Lavion, as a freshman, is hidden, … (but he’s) having an awesome season,” Smith said.

Posting a record of 25-10, Mayes has climbed into the rankings to No. 18 nationally and fourth in the Mid-American Conference for his weight class.

The No. 9 Tigers (10-2, 7-1 MAC) have found a consistent wrestler in Mayes, who is now primed for a run at an individual conference title, Smith said.

Smith said Mayes’ strength lies in his intelligence. Mayes is a computer engineering major.

“A bright, bright kid,” Smith said. “Academic awards and all that stuff coming in. Characteristics are the same off the mat as on the mat. He is very smart. When we give him a game plan, he executes it.”

Yet Mayes wasn’t always Smith’s go-to guy at 141 pounds. He had to compete with sophomore Trevor Jauch for the spot in the starting lineup.

“It was (Mayes) and Jauch,” Smith said. “Honestly, Trevor (Jauch) had an injury. He got hurt before the Southern Scuffle and both of them were going in and out of the lineup. Then, at a certain point, we decided we were going to go with Lavion, and Lavion has really stepped up.”

Having to compete changed Mayes’ mindset toward his matches. Prior to his injury, Jauch recorded four bonus-point victories as well as six pins. Mayes admitted that scoring bonus points was tougher for him.

“I just told myself everything I go out on the match, I have to be able to score bonus points no matter who it is or what the situation is,” Mayes said. “And that’s just how I take it, and that’s why I have been getting big third periods. It’s just a mentality.”

On the mat this season, Mayes has recorded six major decisions, two technical falls and three pins, numbers that put him in the top three of the team behind top-ranked junior Drake Houdashelt and No. 2 freshman J’den Cox.

Dropping weight

Mayes came to Missouri from Mascoutah, Ill., wrestling at 149 pounds during his redshirt season.

Mayes said last season helped him to figure out his style as a college wrestler and discover his personal strengths and weaknesses.

However, Mayes would have had a tough time making the starting lineup at 149 after Houdashelt won an individual title at the MAC championships. In the spring of 2013, the coaches and Mayes made the decision to drop down a weight class to 141.

“Coach Smith took me into the room and looked at the board of All-Americans,” Mayes said. “He told me, ‘Look at everyone who dropped a weight class and how they improved.’ That’s my motivation.”

For wrestlers, making weight is essential. Weigh-ins are one hour before a match, and Mayes must weigh 141 pounds.

To drop a weight class, Smith said it’s all about discipline and losing pounds gradually.

“Is it easy? No, but he makes it and does it the smart way,” Smith said. “He’s eating and feeling good. He is wrestling with energy. Because of it, he has put himself in a position to become an All-American as a freshman, which is what we wanted.”

Mayes was able to shed weight with the help of shingles. He caught the virus over the summer and wasn’t able to eat much for two weeks.

“I guess that’s my secret, getting sick,” he said, adding that he doesn’t recommend it.

Dropping down to 141 helped put Mayes in the starting lineup, a spot he has occupied since Dec. 6 when Missouri wrestled Ohio in Jesse Auditorium. It’s also been the highlight of Mayes’ season.

“I was winning a close match and I ended up getting bonus points in the third period off a pretty big takedown, straight to his back, and I was able to get extra points for the team,” he said. “That’s when I knew I belonged where I belonged in the starting lineup.”

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