The Maneater

With just the MAC championships remaining before the NCAA championships, Mizzou wrestling seeks domination

Brian Smith’s team is set to head into the conference championships after going undefeated for the second time in program history.

Jaydin Eierman tries to lock down on his Virginia Tech opponent in 2017. Maneater File Photo

The Missouri wrestling team will look to send as many wrestlers from all 10 weight classes to the NCAA championships as possible after the MAC championships in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

With a 7-0 conference record and 19-0 overall record, the Tigers captured the MAC regular season conference title, going undefeated in the regular season for the second time in school history. This week, the Tigers look to extend an impressive streak of consecutive conference titles to seven, a streak that dates back to the Big 12 era.

Head coach Brian Smith said during Tuesday’s media availability that his team is ready.

“I know we’re prepared,” Smith said. “We’re healthy.”

This year, the NCAA has allocated 25 spots to the MAC for wrestlers to compete in the NCAA championships. According to the MAC website, the MAC will be the fifth most represented conference in the national championships.

While Missouri has a history of winning, especially in the MAC, this team seems to be head and shoulders above the competition this year. The Tigers are just one of two teams in the MAC in the top 25, with Central Michigan at the 20th slot. Missouri has the highest ranked wrestler in every weight class besides the 125-pound and heavyweight class.

In those two weight classes where Mizzou isn’t the top dog, it will be a tough journey to the NCAA championships, as both No. 33 125-pounder Barlow McGhee and unranked heavyweight Wyatt Koelling struggled in MAC duals, combining for a record of 7-13 in conference wrestling.

However, Smith believes the two underdogs can capture a qualifying spot.

“Barlow is ready; I know Barlow is ready,” Smith said. “We put Koelling in a tough situation where he was a backup at 184, and now he’s going up to heavyweight...but he’s going to go out there and battle.”

As for the wrestlers who are heavily favored to win in their respective weight classes, John Erneste, Jaydin Eierman, Grant Leeth, Joey Lavallee, Daniel Lewis and Willie Miklus are all looking to get one more dress rehearsal before the NCAA championships.

Wrestlers such as Eierman, Lavalle and Leath have been huge for the Tigers this season, and Smith will be the first to say it.

“It’s consistency; that’s a big deal,” Smith said. “They are really consistent in the practice room, too. They are just doing what they do best.”

The six wrestlers have combined for 132 wins and just nine losses on the season. Twenty-six of those wins have come from 174-pounder Daniel Lewis, who went undefeated on the season.

If Missouri succeeds in taking home the team championship, Smith will have a strong case for his sixth consecutive MAC Coach of the Year award. The 20-year head coach could also repeat as the NWCA Coach of the Year.

After this weekend, the Tigers who qualify for the NCAA championships will get a 10-day break before they try to wrestle their way through the gauntlet that is the 33-man national championship brackets.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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