The Beef: So before we get to discussing who we think might be likely to fill the void here, let’s talk about the void being left by Alan Waters. Talk about how important it was to have Alan Waters return healthy to this squad and what he meant to the team this season.
Shaffe: The void left by Waters is pretty huge. Leaving the lineup for good is a guy who was literally unbeatable in the regular season and who only lost a super close match to the eventual national champion in the semis at the NCAA tournament. Even more than the obvious production standpoint, Waters was unquestionably one of the leaders of this year's squad. It was mentioned a lot in interviews how big it was for Waters to go out in every dual meet and set the tone and it's no small reason behind the 24-0 record Mizzou put up. Needless to say, Missouri probably isn't getting that kind of production out of the 125 spot next year, but I'm sure BST has a little insight on who might try to fill the gap in 2015-16.
BST I think the loss of Waters may be the biggest loss of this year’s groups of seniors. He went undefeated during the regular season both his Jr. & Sr. seasons. Alan had the most "gumption" of anyone on the team outside of maybe the mad man that is Willie Miklus. He wasn't afraid to mix it up a bit with anyone, even at their place (see the national duals at Carver-Hawkeye). He was a guaranteed 3 points each meet and he is going to be missed. Big time. I'd say that Barlow McGhee is the leader to fill this weight class next year, since he wrestled at 125 last season and will have another year in the wrestling room under his belt, going up against Waters every day.
The Beef: So let’s talk a bit about 125 and McGhee before moving on. 125 was a bit of a mixed bag in 2013-2014 because of Waters’ injury, but McGhee eventually made his way into that spot, earning an NCAA berth along the way. What are your expectations for him moving into next season, especially coming off of the red-shirt season where he got to work with Waters each day in the room. Either one of you see anyone else potentially making a run at this spot?
BST: I think with another year in the room and with what McGhee went through 2 seasons ago, I'd say a seeded NCAA tournament appearance SHOULD be the expectation for that weight class.
Shaffe: I'll be going into next season with little to no expectations for 125. It's encouraging that McGhee was able to lock down an NCAA bid in his one year as the starter while Waters took his redshirt, but if I'm remembering correctly he wasn't super impressive overall. As for who might step up other than McGhee, there's Chase Brennan, who is already listed at 125 on the roster who will likely be the main competition for the leadoff spot. I also wouldn't be shocked to see one of the four guys listed at 133 on the roster try to drop down, namely the Manley/Synon loser. If McGhee or whoever wins the spot struggles early on I feel this may be a possibility.
The Beef: Alright, with 125 done and covered, let’s turn our focus up the ladder to 133 where Zach Synon (who will be a junior next season) will presumably be returning as the sitting MAC champion and NCAA qualifier. However, there has certainly been some discussion about Synon’s ability to hold on to that spot, either from someone already in the room (soon-to-be Jr. Matt Manley) or perhaps an incoming freshman. So not only talk about the season Synon had, but where you see this spot landing. I will be curious who has the boldest prediction here.
BST: Synon had a pretty solid year, finishing 31-13 with 4 pins, 2 Tech Falls, and 3 MD"s. He won the MAC and made the NCAA's, I think this is his spot to "earn" and keep for the bulk if not all of next season. If he had missed the NCAA's then I'd be a bit more down on him but I really feel like he showed some grit at the MACs to get the automatic berth. As far as what we can expect from him next year? I wouldn't say all that much more than this season. He needs to win about 75% of his matches again, finish 1st or 2nd at the MACs and make the NCAAs, anything above that is gravy (sausage gravy preferably).
What do you say Shaffer, anyone gonna take it from Zach?
Shaffe: I'm not going to outright say that Synon loses his spot, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he did. For one, Matt Manley held that spot just the previous season and put out just about as much success as Synon did. For two, there's a lot of time for things to change between now and next season even just between those two. And for three there are a couple of freshmen coming in that are very similar in weight (141 range) that one could possibly try and cut down to 133 and compete there. Between Manley, the glut of guys already in the room at 133, and the two freshmen Jaydin Clayton and Will Roark the competition will be fierce at this weight.
The Beef: I will say I believe Roark has said the coaches expect him to compete at 141 to start (so more on that as we start to move up the ladder), and I don’t believe I have read anything about where Clayton ends up. I will weigh in and say that I believe Synon will keep the spot over Manley, though I certainly understand the season Manley had the year previous. To me, with Synon actually taking the spot from him towards the first third of this past year, I think he will be able to hang on to it and build off of his MAC title..
Let’s move it on up the chain to one of the (in my eyes) bigger surprises of this past season with Lavion Mayes. Certainly Mayes showed some good qualities in 2014, but he really exploded on the scene this season. When he got that double leg attack going (as he did against Iowa in the Duals), he really could not be stopped. He has some ways to go on his top ride game, but as someone with two seasons remaining, what do you see for the future of Mayes?
BST: Sooooooo, I think you hit it on the head. Mayes has 2 things he really has to take care of if he wants to be considered a legit threat for the national title, and they are: riding hard and finishing out periods. His top game is not close to as good as I think it could be. Hes obviously strong enough to hold guys and really work for back points, but I wonder if its purely a matter of conditioning or most mental. Conditioning could also be a cause for the finishing out periods issue. He gave up points and matches last year by lolly gagging at the end of periods or just shutting down in the last 10-15 seconds and he flat out cannot do that. Guys are gonna give him all they've got these next 2 years and he needs to return that favor.
All that being said, I think he can be a top 4 guy each of the next 2 seasons and would consider it a slight disappointment if he didn't make the semis in the winners bracket at some point either. Shaffe, what say you?
Shaffe: It seems to me that a logical explanation to Mayes struggling on top last year was due to what appeared to be a pretty sizable cut to get to 141. He acknowledged this directly after the National Duals and for months it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would move up to 149 to step into Drake Houdashelt's shoes so he wouldn't have to maintain that cut. My hope is that with a whole offseason to work he can continue to adjust his body to better accommodate 141 and keep some of that necessary strength to ride hard on top and keep guys on the mat when he needs to. Then again, as far as I know him being at 141 this last year wasn't a surprise so I'm not sure how much he can really do that. BST you are correct in that if he can improve his top game to even adequate levels he becomes a very serious threat at the 141 lb weight class. Put me down for at least one semifinal appearance in the next two years as well.
Now that the season is coming upon us Brian Smith has officially shut down that "Mayes to 149" speculation by surprising us the other way. The MAC preseason poll came out a couple of weeks ago and there was indeed a new name at 149, but it wasn't Lavion Mayes, instead it was Joey Lavallee. The Junior had been ranked in the top 10 nationally going into this season at 157 but apparently he'll instead be the man tabbed to fill Drake Houdashelt's shoes at 149. What the heck should we make out of this, gentlemen?
The Beef: I will admit to being VERY surprised to see that name. I figured between Mayes and/or Grant Leeth, who transferred back home after starting his career at Duke, one of those two would get the spot at 149. Lavallee was very solid at 157, both in body frame and record. I feel like 149 is stronger nationally than 157, so the move surprises me a bit to that end. In the conference, I think it is a bit of a toss-up, and I’d expect Lavallee to perform well (as long as he can make the cut in a healthy manner) no matter where he falls. We will talk about what this does at 157 in just a moment, but BST, how shocked were you and how do you see this move playing out at the conference and national level?
BST: I gotta say I'm pretty darn surprised all around here. Mayes staying at 141 AND Lavallee cutting to 149! I didn't see either of those coming down the pipe of course. Mayes seemed like he needed to carry a few extra lbs and Lavallee looked extremely comfortable at 157. I have, of course, learned to not question Brian Smith when it comes to these matters. If these two can keep their weight in check, they'll be forces to be reckoned with at their weight classes.