Mizzou wrestling takes second at Southern Scuffle, continues strong conference season

The Tigers went 5-1 during winter break, including three MAC dual meet victories.

On Military Appreciation Day, wrestlers paired with a member of the student ROTC program to walk out before the team’s 24–8 win over the Chippewas.

**The Missouri wrestling team had very little time to rest over winter break as a jam-packed schedule saw them go 5-1 in dual meets and take second in the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Jan. 2.

Senior J’den Cox won his second Southern Scuffle individual title of his career and led his team to three Mid American Conference victories to improve the Tigers’ overall conference record to 5-0. Here’s how the meets over break went down:**

The break didn’t exactly start according to plan. Coach Brian Smith announced on Dec. 15 that redshirt junior 184-pounder Willie Miklus had suffered a “significant” knee injury on Nov. 20 against Virginia Tech and would not be able to wrestle again this season. Miklus, a two-time All-American, has since been replaced in the lineup by redshirt senior Matt Lemanowicz.

Mizzou started with back-to-back home bouts against Kent State and No. 21 Appalachian State on Dec. 20. The Tigers dominated in both meets, winning 16 of 20 individual matches and defeating Kent State 34-4 and Appalachian State 23-14.

Mizzou jumped out to an early 10-0 lead against Kent State, denying the Golden Flashes of any chance of pulling off an upset early.

The match was highlighted by two major decision wins by No. 3 redshirt junior Joey Lavallee, who won 19-8, and No. 3 Lavion Mayes, who earned a commanding 10-2 victory. In addition to Lavallee and Mayes’ victories, No. 1 Cox won by technical fall, defeating his opponent 18-3 in 7 minutes. No. 4 redshirt sophomore Daniel Lewis dominated his opponent, winning by fall in 38 seconds.

Mizzou carried the momentum it earned in the Kent State match right into its match against Appalachian State. The Tigers won seven of 10 matches against the Mountaineers, including Mayes’ second major decision victory of the day and Cox’s second technical fall. They were joined by redshirt junior No. 7 Barlow McGhee, who won 11-3 by major decision.

The team began the 2017 calendar year with the Southern Scuffle, where Mizzou took second place with 126 points, falling only to No. 1 Oklahoma State, who scored 198 points.

The second-place finish was Mizzou’s third in program history at the Scuffle, which is considered the premier regular season wrestling open meet. The Tigers earned a second-place finish in 2015 as well, the last time the team competed in the open meet.

Cox took home the 197-pound individual championship, scoring a crucial takedown with less than 15 seconds left to take the lead and secure a 6-4 victory over No. 2 Brett Pfarr. His 5-0 record at the Scuffle earned him MAC Wrestler of the Week honors.

Along with Cox, Mizzou had three other top-three finishers in the Scuffle. Lewis (165 pounds) and Mayes (149 pounds) both finished second in their respective weight classes, falling only to their OSU counterparts.

The Tigers suffered a setback on Jan. 8, however, as the team’s depleted depth due to injuries finally caught up to them in a 24-18 loss to No. 18 Oklahoma. The loss was Missouri’s first to Oklahoma since Feb. 5, 2011.

Redshirt sophomore 133-pounder John Erneste and redshirt freshman 174-pounder Dylan Wisman each picked up wins by fall for the Tigers in their individual matches against the Sooners, and Mayes and Cox both picked up wins over ranked opponents. However, redshirt freshman heavyweight Austin Myers lost by fall in the final match of the meet, clinching the victory for the Sooners.

After losing to No. 18 Oklahoma, Missouri came back with a vengeance in its return to conference play Jan. 12 in Buffalo, New York, as the Tigers picked up a 28-8 victory over the Buffalo Bulls.

Mizzou won its first seven matches of the meet, including a 12-0 major decision wallop of Austin Weigel by Lewis, to jump out to a 25-0 lead. Other big performances for the Tigers came from Mayes and redshirt freshman Phyllip DeLoach, who won 8-3 and 7-4, respectively. Myers also turned in a good performance, rebounding from his previous loss in Norman to defeat his opponent, 6-1.

The Tigers continued their grueling stretch of three matches in four days, taking on No. 7 Cornell on Jan. 14 and Eastern Michigan on Jan. 15. Mizzou overpowered both, earning 25-11 and 22-12 victories.

Similar to earlier in the week, the Tigers won seven straight matches against Cornell before dropping the last three matches and six matches against EMU.

Lewis continued his dominance in his match against Cornell, defeating No. 16 Joey Galasso 17-0 by technical fall, while redshirt freshman Jaydin Eierman and Mayes earned major decisions. The Tigers also picked up four major decisions against EMU, with Ernseste, Eierman, Lewis and Weisman all dominating their respective opponents. Lewis’ efforts earned him MAC Wrestler of the Week honors on Jan. 18.

The Tigers return home on Jan. 22 to face conference foe Central Michigan, the beginning of a stretch of six straight meets at the Hearnes Center. Mizzou will also take on No. 1 Oklahoma State on Jan. 27, with a special “Tigers With Titles” event for fans to meet UFC champions and Mizzou alums Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren just before the meet.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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