USA Wrestling Mizzou goes six-for-...

Mizzou goes six-for-six in finals to win MAC team title

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | March 05, 2017, 8:15 p.m. (ET)

Photo courtesy of Mizzou athletics

Athlete and coach interviews

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Missouri clinched its sixth-consecutive conference championship on Sunday afternoon, setting a MAC record with 154.5 points, shattering the previous record of 139.5 points set by the Tigers in 2015. Northern Iowa and Central Michigan took second and third with 106.5 points and 103.5 points, respectively, marking the first year in MAC history that three teams scored more than 100 points.

Dating back to 2012, its final year in the Big 12, Mizzou has won six conference titles in a row, including every MAC championship it has competed in.

The Tigers went six-for-six in the finals, giving them a total of 22 MAC champions in their five years in the conference. It was the most conference champions that the Tigers have ever collected in a single year. The 2017 MAC champs include John Erneste (133), Jaydin Eierman (141), Lavion Mayes (149), Joey Lavallee (157), Daniel Lewis (165) and J’den Cox (197).

In addition to their six champs, the Tigers qualified two others for the 2017 Division I NCAA Championships.

“It’s been special because this year we went through a lot of adversity,” Missouri head coach Brian Smith said. “We were up and down all year. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been training. We had talent and I knew that, but it just hadn’t come together in the last few weeks. Wow, I got it in the last two days, and I’m really proud of this team.”

Highlighting the day for Mizzou was 2017 Outstanding Wrestler J’den Cox, who won his fourth MAC championship, making him only the second four-time conference champion in program history and only the seventh wrestler ever to win four MAC championships.

Two-time NCAA champion Cox battled against Old Dominion’s Kevin Beazley, who forced the Tiger senior to wrestle all seven minutes. Recording a takedown in each period, Cox defeated Beazley in the 197-pound finals, 8-2.

“I feel like I have a lot more work to do, but I’m honored to have accomplished such a feat,” Cox said. “It’s a great feeling and I’ve worked hard for it, but I have to work even harder and get more done. Right now it’s the nitty gritty things, tightening yourself up and continuing to believe in yourself.”

The only other wrestler in the field to defend a 2016 MAC title was fellow Tiger Daniel Lewis, who redeemed himself against second-seeded Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa. The two wrestled just three weeks ago with Steiert taking the victory by fall. This time, however, Lewis, who entered the third period leading 4-0, fought off a furious comeback attempt by Steiert, holding on for a 7-5 win.

Erneste, Mayes and Lavallee all won tight championship bouts, with Erneste and Lavallee emerging victorious in overtime.

Old Dominion’s Jack Dechow returned to the finals for the fourth year in a row and picked up his third MAC title, with his first two coming in 2014 and 2015.

Entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed, Dechow faced top seed Drew Foster of Northern Iowa. The bout was tied 3-3 after regulation, forcing the match into sudden victory, where the Monarch secured a takedown with 10 seconds left to win MAC title No. 3.

“It feels god to get that third title,” Dechow said. “I’ve been [in the finals] four times. That was an ugly victory and not a good one to go to nationals with. The good thing is I have 12 days to go back to the drawing board and fix it.”

ODU’s finalists Beazley and Dechow will be joined by teammates Alex Madrigal (133) and Michael Hayes (149), who also received automatic bids to NCAAs.

Freshmen Jaydin Eierman of Mizzou and Taylor Lujan of Northern Iowa both won conference championships in their first attempts.

Eierman won the 141-pound bracket with a dominant 10-1 major decision over Ohio’s Noah Forrider. The young Tiger outscored his opponents 34-5 on the weekend.

Lujan also put up a major decision with a 12-2 victory against Trace Engelkes of Northern Illinois to win the only championship for the Panthers, who sent five to the finals.

UNI is guaranteed at least seven wrestlers to compete at NCAAs.

Buffalo picked up its first MAC champion since 2011 as No. 5 seed Jake Gunning defeated No. 6 seed Gage Hutchison of Eastern Michigan in a tight 3-2 decision.

The Ohio Bobcats earned just one automatic qualifier, Shakur Laney, who won the 125-pound bracket, taking out two-time All-American and four-time MAC finalist Dylan Peters in a 7-4 thriller.

With 141 and 157 pounds only allocated two automatic qualifiers, true-second matches were contested. Central Michigan wrestlers Mason Smith (141) and Colin Heffernan (157) came out on top, securing six NCAA spots for the Chippewas.

All nine MAC wrestling institutions will be represented at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., March 16-18.

March 4-5 at McLeod Center, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Finals results
125 lbs.
1st - Shakur Laney (Ohio) dec. Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa), 7-4
3rd - Brock Hudkins win by medical forfeit Kyle Akins (Buffalo)
5th - Barlow McGhee dec. Noah Gonser (Eastern Michigan), 4-1
7th - Brent Fleetwood (Central Michigan) dec. Steven Simpson (Old Dominion), 8-2

133 lbs.
1st - John Erneste (Missouri) dec. Bryan Lantry (Buffalo) 6-2 SV1
3rd - Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) dec. Corey Keener (Central Michigan), 9-2
5th - Alex Madrigal (Old Dominion) dec. Anthony Tutolo (Kent State), 7-0
7th - Cameron Kelly (Ohio) dec. Alijah Jeffery (Northern Illinois),7-4

141 lbs.
1st - Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) MD Noah Forrider (Ohio), 10-1
3rd - Mason Smith (Central Michigan) dec. Kyle Springer (Eastern Michigan), 7-3
5th - Kevin Budock (Old Dominion) dec. Angel Velasquez (Northern Illinois), 2-1 TB1
7th - Chance Driscoll (Kent State) dec. Jason Estevez (Buffalo), 3-2

149 lbs.
1st - Lavion Mayes (Missouri) dec. Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa), 6-5
3rd - Justin Oliver (Central Michigan) MD Steve Bleise (Northern Illinois), 8-0
5th - Michael Hayes (Old Dominion) dec. Nick Barber (Eastern Michigan), 9-5
7th - Colt Cotten (Buffalo) fall Tim Rooney (Kent State), 2:04

157 lbs.
1st - Joey Lavallee (Missouri) dec. Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan), 4-3 TB2
3rd - Casey Sparkman (Kent State) dec. Zachary Carson (Eastern Michigan), 9-7 SV1
5th - Larry Early (Old Dominion) dec. Cullen Cummings (Ohio), 8-3
7th - Caden McWhirter (Northern Illinois) win by medical forfeit Paden Moore (Northern Iowa)

165 lbs.
1st - Daniel Lewis (Missouri) dec. Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa), 7-5
3rd - Shaun`Qae McMurtry (Northern Illinois) MD Seldon Wright (Old Dominion), 14-3
5th - Isaac Bast (Kent State) dec. Logan Parks (Central Michigan), 3-2
7th - Tyler Rill (Buffalo) MD Devan Marry (Eastern Michigan), 17-6

174 lbs.
1st - Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) MD Trace Engelkes (Northern Illinois), 12-2
3rd - Christian Brucki (Central Michigan) dec. Muhamed McBryde (Buffalo), 6-4
5th - Jacob Davis (Eastern Michigan) dec. Dylan Wisman (Missouri), 9-3
7th - Jerald Spohn (Kent State) fall  Arsen Arshughyan (Ohio), 0:58

184 lbs.
1st - Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) dec. Drew Foster (Northern Iowa), 5-3 SV1
3rd - Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan dec. Matthew Lemanowicz (Missouri), 4-3
5th - Bryce Gorman (Northern Illinois) dec. Brett Perry (Buffalo), 7-5
7th - Shane Mast (Kent State) MD Dontae McGee (Ohio), 21-11

197 lbs.
1st - J`den Cox (Missouri) dec. Kevin Beazley (Old Dominion), 8-2
3rd - Jacob Holschlag (Northern Iowa) dec. Shawn Scott (Northern Illinois), 6-4
5th - Austin Severn (Central Michigan) dec. Stephen Suglio (Kent State), 3-2
7th - Nathaniel Rose (Buffalo) dec. Derek Hillman (Eastern Michigan), 5-4

285 lbs.
1st - Jake Gunning (Buffalo) dec. Gage Hutchison (Eastern Michigan), 3-2
3rd - Austin Myers (Missouri) dec. Zack Parker (Ohio), 3-1
5th - Newton Smerchek (Central Michigan) fall Will Hilliard (Old Dominion), 1:14
7th - Caleb Gossett (Northern Illinois) win by medical forfeit JJ Everard (Northern Iowa)

Team scores
1. Missouri - 154.5
2. Northern Iowa – 106.5
3. Central Michigan – 103.5
4. Old Dominion – 94.0
5. Northern Illinois – 92.0
6. Buffalo - 80.5
7. Eastern Michigan – 64.0
8. Ohio - 62.5
9. Kent State – 55.0

NCAA automatic qualifiers by school
Buffalo – 3 (125, 133, 285)
Central Michigan – 6 (133, 141, 149, 157,174, 184)
Eastern Michigan – 1 (285)
Kent State – 1 (133)
Missouri – 8 (125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 197, 285)
Northern Illinois – 5 (125, 149, 165, 174, 197)
Northern Iowa – 7 (125, 133, 149, 165, 174, 184, 197)
Ohio – 1 (125)
Old Dominion – 4 (133, 149, 184, 197)