Missouri wrestling finishes sixth at NCAA championships

Individually, four wrestlers — Eierman, Leeth, Lewis and Miklus— achieved All-American status.
Missouri Tigers wrestler Willie Miklus gets his arm raised after securing seventh place Saturday, March 21, 2015, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. File Photo

First, it was an undefeated regular season for the Missouri wrestling team.

And then, record-breaking domination at the 2018 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships.

Then, this weekend, a strange, disappointing end at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

After going 19-0 in the regular season and then winning the MAC Championships with 177 team points, the team was hoping to capture its first national team title. Missouri finished sixth overall in the NCAA Tournament with 61.5 team points and no individual titles above fourth place.

“We had really high expectations of where we wanted to finish here and what we wanted to accomplish, and [we] just lost a lot of tight matches,” head coach Brian Smith said in a video interview posted by Mizzou Athletics. “So my overall feeling is disappointment, but I’m still proud of my kids.”

Of the nine Mizzou wrestlers who competed at the championships, redshirt sophomore Jaydin Eierman, redshirt junior Grant Leeth, redshirt junior Daniel Lewis and redshirt senior Willie Miklus were named All-Americans. All but Leeth had achieved All-American status before this season.

The other five Mizzou wrestlers headed to the consolation bracket after only the first session of the tournament. Probably the most surprising loss was John Erneste’s. The redshirt junior, ranked No. 5 in the 133-pound weight class, was upset 8-3 by an unranked opponent, NC State redshirt freshman Tariq Wilson. Both Erneste and redshirt senior Joey Lavallee lost in the round of 12 to come one match short of All-American status.

Eierman and Lewis each placed fourth, with Leeth and Miklus placing sixth and eighth, respectively. Lewis, ranked No. 3, lost in the semifinals by fall, his first loss of the entire season after going 29-0 before the NCAAs. He then won by injury default and lost his final match to finish fourth. It is Lewis’ third consecutive season that he has finished as an All-American.

The No. 2-ranked Eierman also placed fourth, losing 7-2 to his No. 4-ranked opponent in the match for third place. According to Mizzou Athletics, Eierman’s finish was the highest for an All-American at Missouri in the 141-pound weight class.

Leeth, ranked No. 3 at the NCAAs, wrestled in the MAC for the first time this season after transferring and then being sidelined due to injury for a season. No. 6 Miklus, on the other hand, became an All-American for the third season and will wrestle again next year with Mizzou. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after missing the majority of two seasons, including last year.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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