Mizzou wrestling tops four schools in South Beach Duals to remain undefeated

Grant Leeth toppled another top-tier opponent, and Joey Lavallee joined the 100-win club on two dominant days for the Tigers.
Maneater File Photo

Grant Leeth seems to like it most when the opponent is best.

Missouri’s 149-pound, giant-slaying redshirt junior dealt No. 24 North Carolina a critical blow Friday afternoon by earning a decision over Troy Heilmann, the defending Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestler of the Week and owner of the No. 3 national ranking in his weight class.

No. 4 Mizzou (12-0) went on to top the Tarheels 27-9 at the South Beach Duals in the Tigers’ second dual of the day, not long after they dismantled Kent State 44-3. On the second day of competition in Deerfield Beach, Florida, the team beat both No. 22 Rider and No. 12 Cornell to remain unbeaten in the 2017-18 season.

On Friday, the country’s fourth-ranked Tigers showed off their depth and dominance with a pair of routs. Redshirt sophomores Jaydin Eierman and Connor Flynn and redshirt seniors Joey Lavallee and Willie Miklus all provided falls against their Kent State counterparts. Eierman went on to add a go-ahead major decision for Missouri in his next match, against No. 18 A.C. Headlee of UNC.

Also having a big day for the Tigers was redshirt freshman Canten Marriott, who came away with clutch overtime decisions in both 184-pound matches, including one against No. 16 Chip Ness of the Tarheels. It was the second sudden-death takedown in two hours for Marriott, whose Kent State match had been extended after a last-second penalty point tied things up.

After Leeth’s magic against Heilmann, Lavallee added another statement win against a ranked opponent with a 17-2 technical fall against North Carolina’s 19th-ranked Kennedy Monday. It was Lavallee’s 100th win for Missouri, making him the 27th Tiger to reach the milestone.

Mizzou’s consistent command of the dual against North Carolina came after a rocky start, when redshirt senior Barlow McGhee surrendered a decision that put UNC ahead 3-0. McGhee didn’t get to wrestle in the earlier competition after Kent State had to forfeit the 125-pound match without an opponent, so he was left winless on the day, along with the Tigers’ heavyweight redshirt freshman Rodrigo Diaz.

The only other defeat on the day for Mizzou belonged to Miklus on a match-ending stalling penalty in sudden death overtime against North Carolina. The Tigers beat their two opponents by a combined score of 71-12.

Day 2

The second day at the South Beach Duals brought similar results for Missouri wrestling. On Saturday, the team beat both No. 22 Rider and No. 12 Cornell.

“Our wrestlers wrestled aggressively this weekend,” head coach Brian Smith said in a news release from the team. “We came down to the tournament with small goals like get the first takedown and getting more bonus point wins, and I really saw a lot of that.”

Three technical falls, a fall and a major decision later, the Tigers overpowered Rider in a quick 31-8 victory. Eierman, Lavallee and Miklus all won their matches by technical falls, with redshirt junior Daniel Lewis recording the fall and Marriott recording the major decision. McGhee, Flynn and Diaz recorded the only three losses.

Less than an hour after Rider, the Tigers faced Smith’s former place of employment, Cornell, where he was an assistant coach from 1992 to 1997.

The 125-pound wrestler for Cornell missed weight, so the Tigers jumped to an early lead. The team led 27-0 until the 184-pound class, where Marriott lost a close 4-3 match.

The bottom three weight classes struggled, with three consecutive losses by Marriott, Miklus and redshirt freshman Dante Jiovenetta. It was Jiovenetta’s season debut. For Miklus, ranked No. 2, the loss against an unranked opponent came as a surprise. Miklus, who went 2-2 in the South Beach Duals, lost to Cornell freshman Ben Darmstadt in a 9-0 major decision. According to the Cornell stats, which had not been updated for the four matches in the South Beach Duals, Darmstadt had not recorded a major decision yet this season.

On a more positive note, redshirt sophomore Jaydin Eierman scored a takedown and a near fall in the final seconds of his match to defeat the No. 1-ranked, 141-pound freshman Yianni Diakomihalis 9-4.

The Tigers have a conference-heavy schedule ahead, with four of the seven remaining matches against Mid-American Conference opponents. Missouri will face Buffalo next in a MAC duel on Jan. 11 at Hearnes Center.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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