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Mizzou Wrestling - Wrapping Up Another MAC Title

The Tigers' march to their fifth straight conference title was never much in doubt this past weekend on the campus of Eastern Michigan. Let's take a look back at the action, as there were still many surprises through the weekend

Brian Smith has coached the Tigers to a fist full of conference titles
Brian Smith has coached the Tigers to a fist full of conference titles
The Beef

The Beef - Well gents, what surprised you most?  The amount by which Mizzou won?  Barnes and McGhee taking titles in their respective classes?  Or Mayes/Synon/Miklus each falling in a way/round we had not seen coming?

BST - Gotta go with the positive side. Barnes and McGhee wrestled really darn well this weekend, and those 2 getting titles after not being starters just a few months ago, is awesome.

Shaffe - I’ll take the negative and say my disappointment would be Zach Synon. I almost predicted last week that Mizzou would have a wrestler need an at-large bid, but to see a #2 seed go out and not make the 5th place match to even give himself a shot at an automatic bid was very surprising to me.

The Beef - Barnes really has to be the most surprising result of the weekend.  For McGhee, I felt like he was wrestling better of late and he had some early success against Peters in that MAC season-opening dual before getting stuck on the new stalling rules and losing the match.  My heart really does break a bit for Ian Miller in losing a shot at being a 4-time MAC champ, but that was the right call (regardless of whether it was concussion or neck/spine).

For Synon, it was surprising, but I guess not entirely. I was hoping he’d do enough to get in with an auto-bid, but was really not expecting much beyond that. If he is fortunate enough to make the NCAA’s, my goal for him is a single win and that’s about it.

Alright, since we are going to hold off on the NCAA previews until next week when we know more about the field and pre-seeds and everything else, let’s keep it to just this past weekend and start it with McGhee, who was one of five champions for the Tigers. He was ripping off majors to start and finished with a pretty dominant win. What changed?

Shaffe - I’m not sure what happened but he looked really impressive against Peters in the final. With the right break in the draw I could see him making the quarterfinals and challenging for an All-American finish if he wrestles that way next week. This is the Barlow McGhee that justifies his ranking for much of the season and I can’t wait to see what he does at Madison Square Garden.

BST - Agree on all counts. He looks an awful lot like our 125lb all american that graduated last year. All that time in the wrestling room against Waters looks to have seriously paid off for Barlow.

The Beef - I will say I don’t think he looks quite as good as Waters, but he is certainly trending in that direction, especially with two more years ahead of him.  His top game is improving (though he needs to improve some more), but the takedowns were flowing.

On to Zach Synon, who had a terribly disappointing finish to a season which was finishing in a disappointing fashion. Two losses and out in Michigan, but his prior record and some decent wins will ultimately afford him a chance to compete in NYC next week.  We will get into the previews later, but did you see anything from his work this weekend which gives you hope for the final weekend of the season for him?

Shaffe - Honestly? Not really. Synon’s best hope for the NCAA tournament is going to be a favorable draw that he might win in his first match before dropping to the backside of the bracket and then maybe winning 1-2 more matches before bowing out. Anything beyond a 2-2 record would be gravy from his spot as far as I’m anticipating.

BST - Agreed. The guys just doesn't look right. I hope 2 weeks in between matches helps, but I'm not holding my breath. (I'd probably die)

The Beef - Well…most of us hope you wont die.

Anyway, Matt Manley had a bit of a tough weekend, and I imagine we will know more about his status in the days and week to come, but that was a heck of a win against Horan after taking that somewhat unnecessary (in that the action should have been stopped before it happened) injury in the third and then winning late.

Shaffe - I thought he was done when I saw that injury happen. I can’t believe he 1)stayed in to finish the match and 2)held off a very game Zach Horan to secure the W. I’m hoping that since he was able to finish the match that the injury isn’t catastrophic enough to keep him out of the NCAA tournament outright but we’ve seen with Willie Miklus the fine line between healthy and just injured enough to struggle.

The Beef - Knowing that BST was not able to see the match this weekend, I will skip right over whatever schlock he might have added here and move the conversation on to Lavion Mayes.  Did we see a hiccup this weekend in a lazy, late-match moment or is this something which will concern you going into the NCAA’s where he should still stand to see a top-8 seed?

BST - Is this Mayes' MO now? He can be super aggressive at times, and get double legs at will. But for most of the year, hes kept matches close and used his superior top game to just ride guys out. This bit him in the MAC's last year against Mecate, and it happened again this season. I don't know why, but Mayes just doesn't seem to have that killer instinct to wrestle til the very end of the match.

The Beef - Mayes’ super top game?  You mean riding or you mean on his feet?  His ride is virtually non-existent (which was part of the issue with his being able to close out his match this weekend)

BST - On his feet, I apologize. His ride was so damn strong last year.

The Beef - Understood, though I will still disagree as to the strength of his ride last year.

We should probably let Shaffe talk now

Shaffe - For what it’s worth I do feel that Mayes has improved his riding ability this year, but it’s still mediocre at best.

It was super frustrating to see Mayes lose his focus, again, and drop a match at the last second, again, at the MAC tournament. For a guy that I think all 3 of us agree is capable of making a semifinal appearance he simply can’t have that issue in NYC. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it his MO but it is a bit of a disturbing trend. I worry what his two losses will do for his big picture seeding as he may find himself on the same side of the bracket as the machine known as Zain Retherford instead of on the side of the bracket of a Branden Sorenson that he dominated twice last year – but I suppose that’s for us to cover next week.

The Beef - So let’s move on to something super positive, and that was the performance of Leroi Barnes.  The story of Barnes and his movement this season is certainly well documented, and we have been very excited about how well he has done since cracking the lineup, on his way to earning a likely spot at the NCAA’s thanks to earning the MAC a 5th allocated spot.  Getting Miller in the 2nd round was certainly no surprise, and we all figured he would need to win coming back to get into 5th.  Tough break for Miller to be sure for that match to end the way it did (though I certainly thought the stoppage was correct and appropriate), but it should also be noted that Barnes was hanging tough at that point.  But to go on and win the entire weight class is just such a great finish to the MAC season for one of the two Mizzou senior starters.

BST - I'm damn proud of Barnes and what hes gone through this year. I did catch this match in its entirety and was pleasantly surprised with how well he was hanging with Miller until the stoppage. Barnes did not back down, nor look over matched. It was a difficult result for Miller, but I'm glad the medical crew and whomever else had a say in the decision made it. It was the correct call for that young man long term, and for the sport as a whole.

Shaffe - Le’Roy Barnes is by far the biggest positive surprise for the year in my eyes and I think he’s going to make some waves with the right draw at the NCAA tournament. His upside probably isn’t quite All-American status but I’m sure not going to count him out until he loses that second match. Beef is right in that he was really hanging with Miller before the injury and he’s looking better and better as he continues to really adjust to his new weight. Once he was past Miller it didn’t surprise me one bit to see him win the championship match.

The Beef - So let’s move on to someone whose ceiling certainly IS All-American this year in Daniel Lewis.  I was saddened to see him give up points in his final match (albeit the first one off of an illegal hold) because I thought he had a shot at wrestler of the tournament if he had shut out three people.  Alas, twas not to be, but those first two matches were all sorts of dominant.

Call your shot right now…is Lewis going to be a four-time MAC champ when all is said and done?

Shaffe – Yes

BST - I think so. The list of recent 4X MAC champs isn't very long. Really, Mizzou guys are gonna be the only ones to do it on a regular basis in the near future, as Brian Smith and Co. just gets a higher level of athlete than the other schools. Lewis has had just about as good a freshman season as you could expect (outside of Penn St).

The Beef – Alright, from a potential four-time champion to someone with the somewhat rare two different conference champion in Blaise Butler.  Commence with railing against his opponent’s wrestling style in 3…2…1…

BST - Semifinal and finals match were sooooo slow. The semis weren't as bad as Ottinger tho. I mean, I don't know how you expect to win "wrestling" like that. Both guys who went up against Blaise could have beaten him if they had stayed aggressive and worked hard, they just didn't seem at all interested in doing so.

Shaffe - I’ll echo much of BST’s thoughts here. It’s great that Butler won, and I think he is certainly worthy of his title, but it sure could have been a little more entertaining for the fan there.

The Beef - I’ll go in a slightly more positive direction with his performance in that it showed that while he was stymied a bit by people completely unwilling to mount any sort of offensive game that he could still win that way.  The announcers spoke very highly of his motor and ability to create offense as he did in the first match, and I think we can all agree that is his preferred style, being on his feet and open.  I give him extra credit here for being slowed down by probably the best in the weight class at it (Ottinger, in part because of how short and stocky he is for a 174’er) and still coming out on top.

Alright, on to 184 where the entire MAC bracket was certainly turned on its head. What did you think of the performance of Mr. Miklus?

Shaffe - I think we saw that Willie is still working back to the top of his game from his February injury. He put forth a pretty strong effort after dropping his semifinal match which does encourage me going forward, but I can’t help but feel a 100% healthy and on his game Willie Miklus wins that tournament.

BST - Agreed that Willie is almost back. He is so aggressive at times that it bites him, and with him hurt I believe he almost doesn't know how to back off and wrestle tentatively. The way he bounced back after the loss was encouraging and I believe the two weeks off will only help Big Willie.

The Beef - So, Mr. Cox against Phil Wellington....nuff said?

BST - This was all that I could hope for from J'den. He was on point, stayed aggressive, stayed within himself, and flat dominated the match. Very happy to see the maturation from earlier this season, and the win of course.

Shaffe - I'll keep things simple and say that I think that Cox is wrestling as well as I've ever seen him. Not that he was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he's really got himself on top of his game right now. In fact I almost wish he would have another chance at Kyle Snyder. Yes, Word Champion Kyle Snyder. Did you guys know that Kyle Snyder is a World Champion? Because he did win a World Championship.

BST - Pretty sure B1G is more important than a world championship.


But seriously, I respect the hell out of Kyle Snyder and he's a damn beast. It just gets a little annoying any time he wrestles on any sort of visual media how many times the broadcaster feels the need to mention his international accolades. We get it, he's pretty good.

The Beef - Better than Cody Johnston at HWY at least

BST - Hey, Cody went out there and battled. I'm damn proud of the way he handled himself this season, showing up all over the lineup. EFF KYLE SNYDER

The Beef – Shall we end on that note?

Shaffe - I think we should end with tipping our collective hats to Cody Johnston, so I'll chime in to bring him to the forefront one last time. It was really awesome to see him wrestle well outside of his comfort zone and pick up two wins in the tournament and finish on the podium. What a way to go out for the senior who was such a good soldier for the program. How many guys finish their career wrestling at 4 weight classes? How many guys wrestle at 174 and 285 in the same season? In the immortal words of Jonny Gomes "it's unbelievable what (he) did".