The Beef: Another weekend, and another Mizzou dual win, as the Tigers won their 30th dual meet in a row with a 24-19 win over MAC rival Northern Iowa. Before we get to the action on the mat, or even the action in the lineup before the action on the mat, I want to give props to UNI wrestling who worked with Iowa Wrestling to get a very nice live stream up on YouTube. Also, UNI and the West Gymnasium appeared to be a rocking place and a fun atmosphere.
Alright, so before we get to the results on the mat, let’s talk about 157 and 165, where some late lineup changes occurred. We know there seems to be some things up in the air at 157, but any reason for concern that you’ve been able to gleam at 165?
BST: 157 didn't surprise me at all, as we've heard that Lavallee may not be available this year for a while. 165 was weird though. I have yet to see any official or non-official explanation as to why Lewis wasn't in the dual, especially as he had a fall against Moore last year. I guess I would say I am a bit concerned, but Smith usually keeps these sorts of things pretty close to the vest, and they almost always work themselves out as well.
Shaffe: I think we're just going to accept that 157 is going to be an odd situation until at least the semester break. Maybe Lavallee is going through some eligibility issues similar to Devin Mellon last year? Maybe he's nursing an injury? We don't have a lot to speculate on, but the end result is that there's a bit of a hole at that spot in the lineup until we hear or see something otherwise.
As for why Lewis didn't step out at 165, my best guess is that Coach Smith maybe wanted to try and protect Lewis' seeding at the MAC tournament. Despite the past result Lewis had to be considered an underdog to a top 5 guy in the weight class, and saving a potential head to head loss could possibly come back nicely in March. Outside of that or an undisclosed injury I really don't understand why we didn't see a Lewis/Moore matchup. Thankfully it worked out though because it nearly didn't.
The Beef: Because nearly it didn’t is certainly an appropriate way to term it.
So let’s get to the action. At 125, a great lead-off with McGhee against veteran Dylan Peters. Started well for McGhee with a couple of first period takedowns, but he either gassed, did not understand the increased focus on stalling (or both) and ultimately fell 7-5. At 133, Zach Synon had a great 2nd period ride that pretty much gave him the 2-1 win and then Matt Manley followed it up with a solid win at 141. So after three, Mizzou was probably about where one would expect, up 6-3.
BST: Gotta say I was very encouraged that McGhee appeared to take the match to Peters. He didn't shy away in what was (as you said Beef) a rowdy crowd and awesome environment. It’s disappointing to lose the match after being up 5-1, but a solid effort none the less and a great learning experience. Synon showing off some top game is also a great sign for this year. Zach either didn't have that ability last year, or did not implement it at the right times. Getting this win will be big for MAC seeding and hopefully will boost Synon's confidence going forward. Manley I think was the biggest plus early. I had no expectations for him really, and getting a win that didn't really look in doubt at all was awesome.
Looking at it now, being up 6-3 early is HUGE. Not sure what Smith might have done at other weights had Synon or Manley also dropped their match.
Shaffe: Continuing the theme from last week, every time Synon/Manley go out and put up positive results and allow Brian Smith to keep the redshirt on the pups is a good time out for me. Can we get our crack research team to find out the last time Zach Synon lost to a MAC wrestler? It's been a while and I think he has eye set on not only keeping that spot in the lineup but also qualifying to the NCAA tournament again this year.
Circling back a weight, I was also bummed to see McGhee disappoint after taking the early lead. Conference matchups are so key when the postseason rolls around and this would have been a huge feather in Barlow’s hat. I also want to chip in that while he did do quite a bit of backing up I felt that Peters wasn't exactly taking many shots himself until the third period. Alas, with the new focus on stalling it didn't much matter.
For the sake of brevity, and because I was making dinner for much of the rest of the dual, I don't have a bunch to add to the individual matchups after Synon at 133. Manley and Mayes took care of business which was quite good since Luke Fortuna went and got himself pinned at 157 making for a slightly nervous midpoint break with a 9-9 tied team score.
The Beef: It was Matt Manley who went 1-2 in the three, first semester MAC duals. After that, Synon beat Keselring of CMU 3-2, Carlson of NIU 9-0, Gaul of UNI 6-0 and Pizzuto of EMU (2-1 TB1). The weight took a forfeit against Buffalo.
So to answer the question, he’s not lost one (since it was all Manley in 2013).
Back to the mat, Mayes looked very good at 149 before it was Luke Fortuna (and not Lavallee or even Lemanowicz) at 157 getting pinned and then Nick DeLoach getting teched easily by Cooper Moore, making the score 14-9 UNI. At that point, you had to believe MU would be favored in three of the last four (not at HWY), but the dual could hinge on the result of the HWY with an experienced Blaise Cabell looming.
But then Mizzou fans got their first glimpse of Blaise Butler. The match started quickly with big four point moves for Butler (putting his opponent straight to his back) and was looking very strong for a major and perhaps a tech. In the third, it suddenly seemed like Butler gassed a bit with his opponent scoring a takedown and cutting Butler to make the score 12-4 Butler (with presumed riding time at that point). But Butler scored a quick takedown and cradle to end it quickly, putting the Tigers right back in front. That, coupled with Miklus scoring a first period pin and giving his signature, "Are you not entertained?" look put the Tigers up 21-9 and out of danger.
Care to weigh in BST on those two pins and then close us out?
BST: Butler & Miklus are just fun to watch. They can both put guys on their backs with what looks like an effortless ease, and also be a bit maddening to watch as well. I feel like Blaise was looking to sew up team points with at least a major first, and then got ticked and went straight for the pin in the 3rd. Willie just went out and did what big Willie does, kick ass.
J'Den took the mat at 197 and did really all he needed to against an over-matched opponent. Win and stay healthy, with the team up 12, we had no worry really about the dual at that point, so he took care of business and I have no problem with that. HWT saw Cabell who is ranked 6th, currently, pretty well toy with Romero, who has shown a few (very few maybe) glimpses of what could be promise in the future. Romero was well out of his depth in this match and I have little to no expectations for the 285lb weight class this year.
Anything you'd like to disagree with Beef?
The Beef: I remain slightly put-off by my perceived lack of explosion and aggression from J’Den, but you are very right in that he did what needed to be done. I (like Shaffe) did not get to see the HWY match, but 25-10 tells me that Cabell did whatever he wanted. In the end, 24-19 is a nice win on the road to start the MAC dual season.
Shall we shift our focus to the weekend and the team competing in one HELL of a field at the Cliff Keen in Vegas?
BST: This weekend is the annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite. It appears there will be over 20 teams in attendance including the (Intermat team tournament rankings) 4, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 19, 22, & 23 ranked teams in the country. Ohio St, Cornell, Oklahoma, UNI, & Wisconsin are the big hitters, and each has multiple ranked wrestlers that will be in attendance. Before we get into the individual weight classes and what our guys might be looking at, any thoughts on the tournament or competition level over all?
The Beef: Considering we appear to be sitting out the New Year’s tourneys (either Midlands or Scuffle), this is a really interesting chance for our team to stack up against a VERY strong, national field. While we look at the MAC season and the national season in two, slightly different entities, I will be curious to see how our well-regarded (Mayes, Butler, Miklus and Cox) guys stack up, while also very interested in McGhee, Synon, Manley and Lewis to start to get a sense for what sort of NCAA aspirations or goals they may have.
Shaffe - Looking at the big picture Ohio State predictably leads the field with 8 wrestlers ranked inside the top 20 of their weight class. Oklahoma follows close behind with 7 ranked wrestlers, which surprised me. Mizzou has 6 guys ranked and a pair of schools (Cornell and UNI) follow up with 4. Team-wise those should be the main challengers for the overall team title. Can Mizzou win this tournament? I don't think it's all that likely they can topple the Buckeyes with Ohio State's quality among their depth, but they can certainly challenge for a top 3 podium finish as a collective.
BST - Ok, on to the individual weight classes. At 125, Barlow McGhee would be just about in the middle of the ranked pack coming into the tournament with 5 guys rated higher than him, and 4 lower. After McGhee's maybe slightly disappointing end to his match at UNI, what are you looking from Barlow in Vegas against a tough group?
133lbs isn't any easier than 125. 10 ranked wrestlers are slated to appear, including Albers from UNI. What are your expectations for Zach Synon, coming off a solid win against a ranked opponent at UNI?
The Beef - I’d like to see each with top-6 finish, and I think that is pretty obtainable. Synon is a real grinder, which might help in a tourney format. For McGhee, hopefully the lesson against Peters and his moving backwards will keep him moving forward, though I do worry about his energy level over the course of the two days if he gassed out against Peters.
Shaffe - It's tough to project too terribly much until a bracket comes out, but with a 24 man bracket I'd look for McGhee to give his quarterfinal opponent a very good run for his money, if not pull out the victory. Going straight by Intermat rankings McGhee would be #6 in this bracket and Peters would be #3, so we might have quick retribution on our hands.
Synon is now ranked #15 by Intermat, and this tournament features half of their top 20 at the 133 pound weight class, but I will still be surprised if Synon doesn't place in the top 8 here. I think he's worthy of his ranking at this point, and If he gets that tough draw he's going to have to fight like crazy to get that top-8 finish, but as Beef alluded to I think his style of wrestling may suit him well in the wrestlebacks. I'm not sure if this tournament will take unattached wrestlers, but if they do then this would be a FANTASTIC opportunity to see Jaydin Clayton/Eierman against a pretty stacked field.
At 141 Matt Manley doesn't face nearly the hill that Zach Synon will. By Intermat there are only 4 ranked wrestlers here and none higher than #9 Tommy Thorn of Minnesota. While I regard Synon a bit higher than Manley respective to his weight class, it wouldn't shock me to see Manley wind up with a higher place if he can simply avoid a bad loss in the field.
The Beef - BST, how about you take us through the middleweights, or at least 149, 165 and 174 (no offense to whoever it is at 157)
BST: At 149lbs, Mizzou's Lavion Mayes is the highest ranked wrestler in the field (now #5 by Intermat) and SHOULD easily get the #1 seed. There will be 6 other top 20 competitors in the field, I'm not sure at this point, this early in the season I'd go as far as saying that anything but a title is a disappointment for Mayes. I would say that any more than 1 loss (barring injury) would be. If Lavion is in shape and ready to keep that A+ shot of his going, and staying aggressive, he should be the prohibitive favorite at this weight class.
165 is in my opinion, the real opportunity that Daniel Lewis may have been waiting his (albeit short) college career for. If Lewis gets the nod, he will be in a field with 7 top 20 wrestlers, including a few from the MAC. Assuming Lewis does make the trip to Vegas, I think he comes out of the weekend with a top 4 finish, including a couple of "upsets" and is ranked after the weekend is over. He can be a dominate wrestler and just needs the right opportunity to show it.
174lbs has the #1 and 2 ranked wrestlers in the country in attendance. They are the only two rated higher than our own Blaise Butler, who is now #5 and who really shouldn't be challenged outside of those two. Butler got a fall against UNI, and I'm sure is ready to go out and show everyone that was no fluke. He’s going to want to push the pace and challenge guys early, showing that he is not only a legit AA candidate, but someone who could finish near the top of the podium at the NCAAs
Shaffe: If Mizzou is going to make a serious run at Ohio State for the team title at this tournament it'll probably have be largely on the back of Willie Miklus, or more accurately the backs of Miklus' opponents. Without the depth at all 10 weight classes they had last year the strength of Mizzou in a tournament setting will have to come in the form of bonus points from their biggest guns and we've all seen what Willie Miklus is capable of. Intermat rankings put Miklus at 4th best in this field so some early bonus points from him on the way to at least a semifinal appearance would be nice to see.
At 197 we need to say J'den do his thing like we all know he can. He hasn't shown a big propensity over the last year plus to really rack up bonus points, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing a couple of major decisions at least from the early favorite at this weight class. There are 5 other ranked wrestlers here but none higher than #6 Brett Pfarr of Minnesota. A finals appearance is the minimum that we should be seeing out of Cox this weekend.
Beef, should we expect anything at all out of James Romero at this point?
The Beef: At HWY, I think the best we can hope for from Romero is a win or two, presumably out of wrestle-backs. HWY is different than most other classes in that there can be instances where you beat people you probably shouldn’t just based on size or speed (since a HWY rarely has both). Trip a guy at the right time, and it can be over. Romero certainly has shown the ability to finish people, but he has also shown he is prone to getting rolled as well. A win with a pin would be lovely if we are looking at team points, but I would imagine the field will be daunting.
Any final thoughts before we wrap it up?
BST: 5 top 20 guys at HWT, it’s actually probably, the weakest field of any weight class.
Other than that, wrap it up!