Alright...165. Gone is Zach Toal, and this is currently the only weight class which does not feature a nationally-ranked Tiger wrestler. I believe the Tigers are going to go with (to start) RS Senior Ty Prazma, who was 17-5 last season in tournament action. Is this what you are hearing BST?
165lbs is very interesting. I am hearing that Prazma will get the first crack at things but also don't be surprised if local kid Daniel Lewis (Blue Springs, MO) gets a shot as the season progresses. Prazma deserves the chance first. He was decent last year as you said, going 17-5. Guy appears to be a model student as well,he's already in grad school. Lewis should be nipping at his heals the whole way. He was a 4 time state champ in Missouri, only the 2nd to win 4 titles in 4 weight classes (the first being J'Den Cox). He also has 3rd and 7th place finishes at major national high school tournaments. I'd love to see Prazma put together a solid 5th year campaign and cap his career off at Mizzou with a season to be proud of, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the true frosh get some seasoning, ala Manley Lavallee last year.
This brings us to 174lbs and Sr. Mikey England. England was solid last year, finishing the season 19-16, 5th in the MAC and an NCAA qualifier. Mikey finished 8th at the always tough Southern Scuffle and gave the team huge bonus points with 2 wins and a MD at the MACs. England enters this season ranked 15th nationally and 2nd in the MAC. He should have some good upper classmen competition with #9 Walters of Ohio and #16 Marsh of Kent State also in conference.
Certainly happy to see England finish off his career with the Tigers, as he filled a need for us in his move over from Iowa State. He won the matches he needed to win last year, but was a little lacking against big-time/ranked opponents. I certainly think he will play a big role in our effort to win our fourth straight conference title (3rd in the MAC), but I do expect/hope for some wins out of him at the national level at the NCAA's to cap his time on the mat.
To 184, and another ranked wrestler, and it took this preview to remind me that Sr. John Eblen did not finish last year because of an injury. It will be nice to have him back in the lineup, as he enters the year 15th in the nation and a solid 2nd in the MAC (behind #2 Dechow-soph of ODU). Eblen won the Williams/Daktroincs Open last year, but an injury forced him down to 6th in the Parisi Open. He was 2nd at UNI and then did not place at the Southern Scuffle (though his record book says he won a bunch of matches). He was 5-1 in the MAC (including a win over Dechow) before his year ended in late February. Where do you see Eblen and his potential in with the other mid-teen ranked wrestlers?
Honestly, I forgot that he was hurt last year also. It is nice to see 2 seniors here in the bigger weight classes that I have to feel like they have something to prove. They've been solid guys in and out of the wrestling room and would love to finish things off in college with a conference title and AA run. I think Eblen has every bit of it in him to upset Dechow again and win the conference and make a run at the AA. This is a weird weight class also, 4 of the top 5 ranks are out of the EIWA. The top 2 are sophomores and half of the top 20 are underclassmen. You don't see that very often this far up in the weights.I hope Johnny is recovered from his injury and ready to go for his senior year.
197lbs. J'Den Cox. Uh, what do I put here..... National Champ. MAC Champ. MAC Wrestler of the year. MAC Freshman of the year. 38-2. J'Den had himself quite the year. Once again the sky is the limit. He will win the MAC most likely, he'll be a top 3 finisher at the NCAAs again most likely. The biggest concern is staying hungry. He seems to have a great head on his shoulders and the drive to go out there and want to continue to succeed at a high level. Cox started out the season ranked 1st in the country but did drop the season opener 5-3 in OT to #2 ranked Scott Schiller of Minnesota. Cox dropped to 2nd after the NWCA classic, but I think that is a good thing. He'll have revenge on his mind through out the season and may just have something he feels like he has to prove. What say you on the most outstanding freshman in the country, Beefaroni?
Strangely, our record book does not show that Dechow was even ranked last year when Eblen beat him. That is one meteoric rise.
As for Cox, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about staying hungry. You hope for some good competition at the Cyclone Open (and you assume, at least, a matchup against #3 Gadsen, who is now one of three wrestlers to beat him in college). He should wrestle against #10 Atwood of Purdue in a dual. He should get #9 Wellington from Ohio, as well as super-frosh #7 Snyder from Ohio State. He will have the Southern Scuffle, which is typically a great field. He should get #8 Bennett from Cornell and later, #16 Schafer from Okie State. That is a decent amount of action before MAC's and NCAA's, so I feel like he will be challenged. But that is going to be the key, because the MAC is not real strong and he could have some snorers in there where he just needs to sharpen his saw and get better.
That bring us to HWY and the last of the ranked Mizzou wrestlers in Sr. Devin Mellon. He checks in at #16, but is the only ranked MAC wrestler. He was 2nd last year in the MAC's and has had some wins over ranked opponents. He got a bit of a bad draw in the NCAA's, getting #9 Medbery (now #6) of Wisconsin right out of the gate and then dropping his first wrestle-back in OT. Is it MAC Champion-or-bust for Mellon this season?
Mellon has not had a very envious task. He followed up 2 of the best HWY wrestlers in Mizzou history He has been solid, has picked up some good ranked wins and gave the team some decent points. He has not been flashy in any way though. I think we need him to win the MAC and get a solid draw to make a run at least at the AA round for us if we want to challenge for a top 5 finish. He can do it, he has the seasoning and battles some damn good wrestlers every day. I hope he does. I'm really pulling for all of these Sr's to go out on top and I think each and every one of them has a legit shot at winning the conference and making a run at an AA.
So. thats all of our starters. Now, lets move onto the team as a whole. We talked a bit about the outlook going forward but what does this team have to offer this year? It has a couple returning AAs and a returning National champ. Those are certainly nice to have in your corner. Intermat has Mizzou ranked as the #9 tournament team and #6 dual team in the country heading into the season. First in both categories in the MAC. With all this returning firepower, seniors looking to head out on top, a trio of talented and remarkably well experience sophomores, is it MAC Champ and Top 5 NCAA finish or bust?
I think anything less than MAC champions is going to be disappointing. With what we have returning and their collective experience, as well as where the conference seems to be (down a bit this year), I think he should be a strong favorite there.
So...what does it take to get 5th place in the NCCA's? Let's take a look.
Last season, Edinboro (good for them by the way) came in 5th with 62 team points (ahead of Ohio State with 57 and behind Iowa with 78.5). Edinboro did this with a third-place finish and two fourth-place finishes. Three All-Americans. Similarly, Lehigh had three AA's (2 6th's and a 7th) and that got them 18th overall with 29.5 points).
Let's see how it broke out for the Scots:
125: 2-2, one pin
133: 4-2, 4th place, one pin, one major
141: 6-1, 3rd place, two pins, three majors
149: 6-2, 4th place, one pin, two majors
157: 1-2, one pin (in OT no less...wow)
HWY: 2-2, one major
25 wins, 12 with bonus points (damn near half).
Depth and bonus points..that is what it is all about. Edinboro got fewer wrestlers into the NCAA's than we did last year, but all of them won at least one match, with 6 of them winning two. Five of them scored bonus points at some stage. Hell...Okie State had 2 champions and 2 runner-ups, but without the bonus points and with only one other AA, Penn State topped them (as did Minnesota...with NO champions).
Could Waters win the title at 125? Certainly. Could Drake at 149? Absolutely. Could J'Den repeat? Sure. Will those three doing that get us to the top-5? Probably, but we will still need bonus points along the way (always the M.O. of Penn State in this run), as well as the depth. So while Waters/Drake/J'Den should all be AA's, it is that next batch (Manley, Mayes, Lavallee and Eblen primarily in my eyes) who need to come through. A couple of AA's and a couple of people going 3-2 before they drop out all helps.
Thats all we have for now. What say you fellow Mizzou wrestling fans. What is our ceiling this year? What are your predictions and just how much fun is this season going to be?