Missouri avenges 2017 loss against UNI, clinches 8th straight MAC regular season championship against Central Michigan

Seniors John Erneste and Daniel Lewis led the way in Missouri’s win over UNI.

While most students were still at home or on vacation, the No. 5 Missouri Tigers wrestling program had an eventful weekend with two home duals in three days.

Missouri came into Thursday night’s matchup at the Hearnes Center against Northern Iowa winner of 31 straight duals.

Some of those victories came in landslide fashion – the Tigers defeated Old Dominion 40-3 in November and SIU-Edwardsville 48-0 in December – however, Missouri is aware that No. 14 Northern Iowa (UNI) doesn’t fold easily. The last time Missouri lost a dual was against the Panthers two years ago on Feb. 12.

With revenge on its mind, Missouri (13-0) extended its win streak to 32 against UNI (2-4) led by two pins from seniors John Erneste and Daniel Lewis.

Freshman Dack Punke led off in the 125 weight class for the Tigers with a 6-3 victory following three strategic takedowns throughout the bout.

Next up was Erneste, who dominated Jack Skudlarczyk of UNI, earning a fall in the opening 30 seconds of the bout. Erneste’s win gave Missouri a 9-0 lead.

Following a rare loss from All-American Jaydin Eierman at the 141, Missouri went on to win three out of the next four bouts, including a win by fall for Daniel Lewis in the 174.

As one of the leaders of this Missouri squad, Eierman knew his individual loss was miniscule in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s alright to lose if the team is in a position to win,” Eierman said. “You’ve got to be willing to go out there and try new things every time on the mat.”

At a score of 22-6 following Lewis’s victory, Missouri forfeited the 184 weight class to make the score 22-12 with two weight classes remaining.

Following a 5-1 victory from Wyatt Koelling in the 197 weight class, heavyweight Zach Elam closed out the night for the Tigers with a 10-2 victory to clinch the Tigers’ 32nd consecutive win in dual play by a final score of 29-12.

With only one day off on Friday, the Tigers were back on the mat Saturday against Central Michigan.

For the back end of their homestand, the Tigers traveled across the street from the Hearnes Center on Saturday to face Central Michigan at Mizzou Arena for the 10th annual “Beauty and the Beast” event. Competing simultaneously next to the No. 20 Missouri gymnastics team, the wrestling squad thumped Central Michigan 32-15.

Despite losing the 125 round on a takedown in sudden death, Missouri was able to control the middle weight rounds, winning the next 4 out of 5 bouts by fall or technical fall.

In the 133 round, Erneste pinned Deven Perez of Central Michigan early in the first period by using his legs to get his opponent’s back on the mat. Erneste’s pin gave Missouri a 6-3 lead and the Tigers did not look back.

“It felt good to get the pin and get the team momentum going in the right direction,” Erneste said.

All-American and No. 3 Jaydin Eierman avenged his loss on Thursday with an aggressive, dominating performance against Central Michigan’s Drew Marten.

After seven takedowns, a reversal and a four-point near fall, Eierman finally pinned Marten late in the third period. It was his 10th pin of the season.

Despite all the music and distractions taking place inside Mizzou Arena, coach Brian Smith knows how valuable a rambunctious environment can be in preparing his team for nationals.

“This atmosphere gets them to practice that for NCAAs where they’ll have 20,000 people and the place is going crazy,” Smith said.

Following two more pins from his squad, Smith and the Tigers had a 29-3 lead heading into the 184 bout. Similar to Thursday night, Smith decided to forfeit the match to rest his star senior Daniel Lewis.

“[Lewis] said he would weigh in and wrestle if we needed him, but I’m glad we didn’t have to put him out there because he’s under the weather badly,” Smith said.

A close win by a score of 5-3 for Wyatt Koelling put things away for the Tigers despite freshman Zach Elam losing by fall in the third period of the heavyweight bout.

With the win, Missouri clinched its eighth straight conference championship in the Mid-American Conference, and its 33rd consecutive win in dual play.

“It’s one of our team goals to win the regular season, so it’s another trophy in the case,”coach Smith said of the conference title.

Next up, Missouri heads north to take on Northern Illinois (5-6) on Friday, Jan. 25 at 7.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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