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Mizzou Wrestling: Wrapping up the MAC Championships

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We get the band back together to go over what went down and how we perceived it from another conference championship weekend for the Wrestling team

Alan Waters did work over the weekend, earning the Wrestler of the Tournament distinction
Alan Waters did work over the weekend, earning the Wrestler of the Tournament distinction
The Bee

The Tigers are running out of steps to this dream season, but they took another couple of them this past weekend while hosting the MAC's at the Hearnes.  Shaffe was nice enough to join BST and I as we break it all down.

Beef - Alright gents, before we start to dig down into the performances from the weekend, let’s start with the appropriate gushing about how Mizzou took another step towards a potential National Championship and/or our best finish in program history.

Shaffe - Coming into the weekend the big picture goals were to win the tournament, qualify all 10 guys to the NCAA tournament, and don't get anybody hurt. As far as I know nobody got hurt, so all three of those got checked with varying degrees of ease. Finding anything to complain about would be picking nits, though I'm sure we can find a few in there.

To get some gushing started, I'd like to point out that Mizzou is the only team that auto-qualified all 10 wrestlers this past weekend. That is exactly the type of performance that will serve them well next weekend if they can repeat it. Thanks to the new at-large qualification system they won't be the only team with 10 guys at the tournament, but they are the only team this past weekend who did not slip up.

BST - I did not realize they were the only ones to auto qualify all 10. That is solid. I think it takes a bit of the tension off the next few days for the team as a whole and Smith I'm sure.

I think this weekend really shows what a damn good coach Brian Smith is. Beef and I talked a bit about the job hes done here on Saturday and its just remarkable. 3 straight conference tournaments won. 10 guys to the NCAAs. MAC regular season title. National Duals title. Theres just one thing left he hasn't accomplished and thats winning the big dog. Having taken a look at the last 5 top 5 teams at the NCAAs, we have the horses to do it for sure.

Beef - Four straight conference titles…we won the Big XII on the way out J

You guys are certainly both right.  We went into the weekend and did what we needed to do and not only won, but got all ten guys through.  They had some decent crowds at Hearnes and the sport is certainly growing a bit more in Columbia.

Since I watched them all, here were my thoughts on each wrestler:

  • Waters – No doubt was the best wrestler of the weekend.  Two techs and a near major in the finals.  Seemed a bit disinterested at the end of the Peters match and gave up a late take down, but otherwise he wrestled angry and clean
  • Synon – Did what he needed to do, and that was enough.  Honestly, he looked the best in the finals.  Did not look great in the first couple of rounds, which was worrisome considering the need for the ultimate result.  Big win at the end and hopefully that can build some confidence for him going into STL.
  • Mayes – I came away the most disappointed with his weekend, especially considering how great he looked at The National Duals.  His double was just not working all weekend and he got frustrated and passive.  When he got the stall warning against Mecate in the semis he needed to get aggressive and he just did not.  He allowed Mecate to finish regulation and then got taken down quickly in OT for the loss.  Mecate is solid and those two have had some battles, but it was still disappointing.  Encouraging to take third, but still did not look as good doing it as he had in the past couple of weeks and I imagine he probably cost himself a seed or two.
  • Houdashelt – Workmanlike is the one word I would use.  Claxton from Ohio was a tough opponent in the semis and he did well with him before pulling out the win in the finals.  First ever wrestler to win four conference titles is a pretty tremendous accomplishment.  Will be interested to see where he gets ranked going into STL.
  • LaVallee – The first match showed the LaVallee who could be on the fringe of a podium finish in STL.  He gutted out the win in the semis and just came up against a beast in Miller from Kent State in the finals.  He is a real swing guy for us at the NCAA’s.  Could see him winning three or four…or none.
  • England – Quite the weekend and the LONG way around to getting qualified.  He took some damage in the first Wohlfert match and could just never get going.  The second time around he showed how strong he is from the top and dominated.  Truth be told, I forgot how the "challenge" thing works in wrestling and left before his LAST match (If you did not wrestle the person in the spot ahead of you, you can challenge for the spot.  England did not wrestle against the kid from NIU who came in fourth, so he got to try for the spot).  Great to get him into the NCAA’s, and hopefully he can get some decent seeding and pull out a couple of wins.
  • Eblen – He kind of ho-hummed his way to second place.  Was not terribly aggressive in the opening round (which, along with others like Synon, Mayes and England made the coaches be somewhat visibly on edge).  Walters from Ohio is no slouch, but Eblen certainly had a great chance in that match and could not escape from the bottom late.
  • Miklus – Speaking of ho-hum, that was how Miklus looked in his opening match…right up until he ran and arm around his opponent’s head and pinned him straight away.  Dechow is a monster in the finals, but Miklus was not aggressive and almost seemed like he was waiting for OT. Credit to Dechow for getting the last second TD on the edge of the mat for the win.  Really interested to see what sort of tournament Willie has in STL.
  • Cox – Only wrestled two matches thanks to a medical forfeit in the semis.  Looked annoyed after the first match and looked…well…disinterested after the finals.  Fact is, I don’t think most people are going to be able to score anything more than an escape off of him.  I just think he has another gear to his offense that he has not reached yet.  Tough to argue about a guy who has won 52 straight matches, but I hope he turns it up a bit more heading to STL.
  • Mellon – Was really thrilled for him to break through against  Cabell.  Mellon was assertive all weekend and that was on full display with his early, clean takedown of Cabell to start the finals.  Hopefully this earned him a little bump headed into STL, but it was also a great way to close out an interesting senior year at home.

Thoughts?

BST - I too was lucky enough to see the entire first round and most of the Semis so here are my thoughts to add to Beefs:

  • Waters: Dude was just clinical. He did look like he was wrestling angry, but in control.
  • Synon: Did what he had to do.
  • Mayes: Agreed fully with Beef. The Mecate match was directly in front of us and while Mecate didn't do much, Mayes didn't really either. All Mayes had to do was take 1 or 2 shots at the end of the 3rd and he almost certainly would have gotten the stalling point in his favor. He didn't do it and deserved to lose that match.
  • Houdashelt: Good on him. I like the way hes looking heading into STL.
  • Lavallee: This kid is super fun to watch. He puts a lot of energy out there on the mat and isn't afraid to mix it up. The funniest part of the whole weekend was having his dad behind me for his first 2 matches and just freaking out over each and every single point.
  • Eblen & Miklus: Both lackluster and could have provided a lot more energy. If those 2 come out like that in STL, we may not finish on the podium. If each of them wrestles up to their top 8 capabilities, then we could be at the top of the podium. I think they are really the keys.
  • Cox: Dude was just doing work. I think hes looking forward to some real competition and showing that 52 in a row isn't a fluke.
  • Mellon: I am seriously happy to see this Sr grab the conference title and hopefully improve his seeding by a position or two.

Shaffe - I was not lucky enough to go jetsetting to the exotic land of Columbia, MO to watch some in-person wrestling. But I did catch most of it on the internets so I will offer my opinion anyway.

Before I get into the individual analysis, HERE is a link to the official pre-tournament guide for the NCAA wrestling championships. Note that they will be seeding 16 wrestlers at each weight, up from 12 in the past. Also note that the field, and I believe the brackets overall, will be announced this Wednesday 3/11. Moving on...

The Big Three did exactly what they needed to do. Win and win in dominating fashion when the situation called for it. Waters deservedly won the most outstanding wrestler award and for good reason as he put on an absolute clinic. Dylan Peters is no slouch and he couldn't get anything going until Alan did his Waters thing and shut it down once the match was firmly in his hand. Houdashelt did exactly what he needed to do but Tsirtsis winning the B1G title may get in his way for that #1  seed. (Aside: 149 will be very interesting to see how it is seeded).

Synon and England also did exactly what they needed to do. Synon a little more directly than England, but qualifying is qualifying. For the record I feel confident that Synon would have gotten an at-large bid and also feel good about Kesselring getting one. England very nearly didn't make it at all and it's a damn good thing for those challenge matches because thanks to some upsets in the B1G he would have been out of luck for an at-large bid.

You both mentioned some disappointment with Mayes, and while it was a bit of a downer to see him not wrestle nearly as well as he did the last time out there is a silver lining there. Coming into this weekend at 141 Mayes was considered right around 5th in the country which would put him squarely in line for a semifinal matchup with The Machine that is Logan Stieber. Maybe dropping the match to Mecate will knock him down to 6th or 7th and he will avoid Stieber until possibly the finals (if he makes it that far). Of course if he continues to be passive like he was this weekend he'll have a tough time making the semis anyway.

LaVallee and Miklus dropping their championship bouts was a bummer overall, but they honestly lost those matches to better wrestlers and it shouldn't kill them too much in the big picture. They both should still find themselves within that top 16 and avoid the randomness that has killed Mizzou in the past of the unseeded random draw.

Eblen was probably the biggest non-Mayes disappointment from the weekend in that he didn't lose to a guy obviously better than him, but Walters is pretty damn good in his own right. 174 has a top four that Eblen was never going to break seed-wise but no Logan Stieber to try and avoid, so seeding really doesn't mean a ton to him. No matter what he would be facing one of those top four in the quarterfinals and they are all just as tough as the next.

Finally I get to Mellon. Him beating Cabell will most surely lock a seed up for him as well. Him winning meant that he might be in the 9-12 range from a seed perspective instead of the 12-16 range. We've seen all year that Mellon has a tough time breaking through against top-5 guys but has the ability to perform well within that tier just below. Winning the MAC title will really put him in a position to maybe go one round further in the championship bracket before wrestling back to a possible top-8 finish.

I think I'll stop there for now.

Beef - Unless anyone else has anything else about the weekend past, let’s call it a post.

Shaffe – I think I’ve blathered enough for now

BST – He’s becoming aware…

Beef – We will have lots more on NCAA’ as seedings and brackets become available.