Another Conference Title For Mizzou Wrestling

The Tigers won their third straight conference title on Sunday.

Beef:

Alright Mizzou sports fan…talk to me about how you felt when you read this tweet, considering how the final session had started for the Tigers with McGhee, Manley and Mayes all dropping their matches.

"Sudden victory at 149. Tied at 1 #TigerStyle"

BST:

Honestly, I was probably a bit over reactionary, but I thought that was it. There goes the team conference title. There goes the team top 10 at the NCAAs. I put my phone down for about a half hour at that point.

What about yourself?

Beef:

Only following on Twitter, it was tough to tell what the status of the team scores were. I was disappointed to read that sudden victory was coming, though that had been quite the narrative for Mizzou the previous day. I definitely was holding my breathe until Houdashelt came through with the late takedown in the SV period to clinch his third conference championship.

We will come back to Drake in a bit, but fast forward now about an hour when, all of a sudden, a J’Den Cox win sealed it for the Tigers.

BST:

Yeah, I thought were down at that point. When the team tweeted out that a win from Cox and a loss by the UNI wrestler who was wrestling for 5th I believe would seal it I was pretty surprised. To see Cox come back and avenge one of his 2 losses on the season by a 10-1 score was so fitting. Also, his weekend went like this: Pin, 11-1, 10-1. That is flat out dominant stuff.

Beef:

So let’s start to talk big picture from the weekend before we start to look ahead to the NCAA’s. What was your biggest Mizzou surprise and disappointment from the MAC-tion?

BST:

I think surprise has to be Johnston filling in for Eblen. Apparently he knew since wednesday he'd be wrestling but I think the kid came out and did a damn good job on short notice in a tough bracket. The biggest disappointment would be our light weights collectively. I know they are young but a collective record of 5-8 with only one automatic qualifier is not the sort of weekend I expected out of this group at all.

Beef:

For me, biggest surprise had to be the onslaught of not just wins, but bonus points on Day 2. Certainly you sometimes see bonus points on Day 1 of a tournament if the seedings are such that you get a 1/8 or a 2/7. But to see it on Day 2 when people are wrestling from the back (mostly) and facing people who may even be ranked higher. That is a testament to conditioning and great coaching.

As for disappointment, it is tough to be really disappointed with this sort of effort at this stage in the program’s life (young). That said, I will echo your lightweight comment. I was hoping for a little more from each of the M boys (McGhee, Manley and Mayes). In just a moment, I will take a look at their wildcard likelihood, but for each to lose their last match was a tough pill, especially at the time.

So, start to look ahead there starry-eyed fan.

BST:

Man oh man, looking ahead we have 2 sure fired (as sure fired as you can get) All Americans and national championship contenders on our hands. Houdashelt and Cox each have the stuff to win it all. I think we also have 2 other wrestlers who can be AA's and I wouldn't be surprised. They are Toal and Mellon.

Team wise I think the goal has to be a top 10 finish, 3 AA's and 1 champion. Get some of these young guys at least a couple of matches and high level experience going forward to build on last year.

What say you always balanced one?

Beef:

The preponderance of the bonus points gives me some hope for a high finish at the NCAA’s. Quite simply, it is how Penn State has come to become so dominant. It is not just that they win, but that they win with bonus points. It is often said that if they bring all 10, the bonus points are not just like having an 11th wrestler, but that 11th is an All-American. It is why we had our highest-ever finish of third. Askren was dominating, sure, but it was Matt Pell pinning everyone on his way to finishing third that really helped. So while I think Cox and Houdashelt have to be considered strong contenders in their classes, we will need for them to not only win, but dominate (like Cox just did), with a few others jumping in. I think Toal has an outside shot at AA, and I am not as high on Mellon as you. With the NCAA’s, it all comes down to the seeding and the draw. Can we get a few guys a couple of wins before they end up taking on the real-highly ranked wrestler? And then, once down in the consolation bracket, can they rip off a few more and avoid the highly-ranked guy who gets upset?

So…seven guys in…Top-10 may be tough with that few. Unfortunately, as I went through the conference title results at 125, 133 and 184, I think Mizzou is up against it at 133. Best I could tell, 125 held chalk pretty solid in each tourney, so I think McGhee has a shot to make it, even though he finished 6th (and not 5th as I hoped he might).  At 133, the news is even worse, as AT LEAST six (if not seven) potentially allocated wrestlers missed out. That makes Manley’s chances of getting a wild card pretty slim in my book.  At 184, I dont know what is going to happen.  Eblen earned the seed that Johnston used, and helped to earn the five spots allocated to the conference.  Though Johnston finished 5th, it does not say that he is automatically in.  Looking at the numbers across the conference tournaments, it is a little tough to tell how the 184 class did nationally.  Most of the chalk held, and where it did not, it was lower down in the seedings/rankings.  Only in one case can I see where a nationally ranked person did not make their allocation (Neb wrestler in Big 10), but as many as five others may not have in other classes.  Not sure how this works with the replacement and what happens if Eblen is healthy and able to return. {Edited thanks to Shaffe's note in the comments}

BST:

Man, thats rough news for our guys trying to get wild cards. I've got to think we get at least one more. I know that we are on the outside looking in at a top 10 right now but I think we can do it. You are right on about the bonus points. These guys have rounded out and become hungry for more points. Certainly not something we saw last year.

What are your expectations from Drake and J'Den?

Beef:

I go back and forth on them a bit. For J’Den, you start with the fact he is a frosh. I will be forever scarred by Max Askren, who entered the tourney his freshman season as the #1 in the nation, and promptly lost his first two matches (making his championship as a senior all the sweeter). Now, I think Cox will be #2 to Gadsen (and not a #1 like Askren), who beat him back at the Southern Scuffle 3-1 in OT. I watched Gadsen this past weekend wrestle #6 Rutt of OU in the finals, and though he won, he did NOTHING (neither wrestler did actually). Cox beat Rutt 6-1 when MU and OU wrestled, and I think Cox has been getting better and better as the season has gone on.

For both of them, I worry a bit about competition. The Southern Scuffle is a great tournament (right there with the Midlands), and gave each guy a number of ranked opponents. Hell, it was Houdashelt beating Dardanes of Minnesota in the finals which gave him the #1 spot. And the MAC has done very well for itself with the addition of Mizzou and ODU in terms of its overall wrestling strength. But for some of the rest of the season, competition level is not always amazingly high. Drake went 7-1 in matches against ranked wrestlers in the regular season. J’Den went 6-2. That’s not a TON of high-level exposure.

That said, Drake has defeated the #2 and #4 ranked people in his class, while J’Den beat #3 twice, while also beating #7 and #8 (and lost to #1 in OT as mentioned previously). In terms of how they are coming in, I actually feel a little better about J’Den. The last match he wrestled that was "close" was a 8-5 win against Scott of NIU. Before that, it was his OT loss to Gadsen. Drake just went to OT and had some tight matches as the year finished out, so I think J’Den comes in a little hotter. I will wait until our NCAA preview to make a selection (because I want to see how the draw settles out)

BST:

Again I agree with your assessment above. Drake reminds me a lot of Waters last year. Hes beaten who he is supposed to but has done a lot if it very closely and hasn't been dominant hardly ever. Cox has a lot to prove as a frosh in the NCAAs, but he could go on to show he is the best frosh in the country.

Beef:

And a note on Drake. He is in line to do something which no one at Mizzou has ever done, though he is a year away from being able to accomplish it. Drake is aiming to become the first four-time Conference Champion in program history. Of course, that would be split over two conferences, as Drake (somewhat surprisingly) took home the title in the Big XII before winning the past two in the MAC. Ben Askren won three, and was almost lucky to do that considering his career record against Chris Pendleton from Okie State. The one time Askren beat him was in a Big XII title match. Four-time winners in any conference are not terribly common, as I was watching just a bit of the ONE HUNDREDTH Big 10 Wrestling Championships yesterday and David Taylor and Ed Ruth of Penn State were only the 12th and 13th wrestlers ever to become four-time champions in that great conference.

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