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Previewing the MAC wrestling championships (Part 1)

The Tigers heard north to Ypsilanti, Michigan, which gives me the chance to try to spell Ypsilanti correctly without looking it up

Can the Tigers take down their fourth straight MAC tournament title?
Can the Tigers take down their fourth straight MAC tournament title?
The Beef

The Beef - The weekend off is over and now it is time for us to start focusing on the Tigers as they make their way north to Ypsilanti, Michigan and the campus of Eastern Michigan to take part in their 4th MAC Championships.  In our short time in the MAC, the Tigers have won each of the previous three Championships and they look to break their tie with Bowling Green for most MAC titles all-time (Central Michigan leads with 16).   Of the three, the Tigers have dominated two (2013 by 48 points and 2015 by 42 points) and EEKED out the other (2014 by 2.5 points).  Coming off of a regular season which saw the Tigers win all eight MAC duals (ahead of a 7-1 Kent State and 6-2 Central Michigan), the Tigers have to be considered the obvious favorite here.  But before we get into breaking down each class, I am going to put you on the spot now and see if it holds up by the time we finish.  Do the Tigers dominate, eek, somewhere in the middle or even not win in 2016?

BST - According to the last MAC rankings that were put out, Mizzou has 4 #1 seeds, 3 #2 seeds, and 2 #3 seeds. I'd say the *should* dominate, and win this sucker by at least 25 points.

Shaffe - I don't see anything less than domination this year. Probably not quite as much as last year, but I look for the Tigers to have probably half a dozen finalists and 2-3 more guys placing in the top 4 at their weight. Heck, maybe Romero wins his first match and makes the semifinals himself.

The Beef - For me, I certainly agree with you guys that a big win should be expected here, provided J’Den doesn’t put Wellington through a table and lose all our points NCAA-style similar to what happened to us last year (#StillBitter)

Anyway, let’s start at the top.  Considering he defeated all but one MAC opponent (and did not face another), it sure feels like McGhee will be a 2-seed at 125.  With the NCAA giving four allocated spots to the MAC at this weight class, it sure feels like he will safely make it.  I suppose then the only remaining question is, can he get over the hump (in this case, likely Dylan Peters from UNI) and take the title?

BST - Barlow is 7-3 in his last 10 matches, losing those 3 by a combined 6 points. He has won 5 straight, and appears to be rounding into shape for a possible AA run at just the right time. I think the expectation should be at the very least a MAC finals appearance for him. If it is Peters that he matches up against, Barlow is 0-2 lifetime, losing 4-2 last season, and 7-5 this season. Those are respectable scores, against the #5 ranked wrestler in the class. I think Barlow can win the match, but I'm not going to predict that he does. 2nd place finish and a top 12 seed at the NCAA's is what I'm expecting for McGhee.

Shaffe - For what it's worth Peters hasn't wrestled since UNI's February 6 dual against Kent State. I would speculate he might be fighting an injury but in a bit of searching around I wasn't able to confirm that information. If Peters isn't 100%, or if he injury defaults after making the semis and securing his bid, then I'd say McGhee is very much capable of winning that weight. Even if Peters is full strength after strangely taking off an entire month I think McGhee still has a good shot of getting over the hump. Look for Barlow to finish no worse than third though and easily secure a bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Beef - Tough to argue with either of you, and that is certainly interesting on Peters, who McGhee faced VERY early in the season.  To BST’s point, perhaps if things are REALLY starting to round into shape for him, then this would be another nice step towards a top-8 seed and potential AA finish.

Alright, on to 133, where I have to admit I did breath a small sigh of relief to see the MAC has been given six spots. I know we have been a little down on Zach Synon, but he is the defending champion here, and won it last year with high stakes as the MAC only had a single bid. He’s got two losses against MAC opponents this season (one to a solid Mack Mcguire and one to a less-than Austin Eicher in OT). Certainly never known for scoring, will his grind-it-out style pay dividends or has the grind taken its toll on him?

Shaffe - With 6 bids Synon should easily slide into the NCAA tournament this year. He's had a few stumbles lately but he should be able to win his first match and make the semifinals with no issues. I think his match against Eicher was a bit of a fluke and I wouldn't expect the same result if they lock up again in Ypsilanti.

BST - I honestly have no clue what to expect from Synon. Something has to be wrong with him, and I know we've heard rumblings of tough weight cuts. I agree with Shaffe that he should easily make the Semi's and secure a spot in the NCAAs. I certainly hope hes ready to go, as he has obviously shown the ability to win the MACs last year.

The Beef - My hope here is that the extra week allowed him to recuperate some and perhaps get things calmed down with any nagging injuries or just energy level sapped by tough cuts.  We shall see.  Not holding my breath for a repeat of his title, but I will be far less surprised to see that than I would see him fall completely out of NCAA’s.

On to 141, and it really has been nice to see the rise of Matt Manley at this weight after taking last season off. Manley came through the MAC season without a blemish, though he had a couple of OT wins and did not wrestle a solid Bleise of Northern Illinois. Zach Horan is certain to give him a run should they meet, so are you predicting a win here for Manley as he looks to lock up a top-8 seed at the NCAA’s?

BST - Manley is 8-2 in his last 10 matches, with losses to #1 Heil (3-1) and #4 Jack (4-2). My expectation is MAC finals and a top-10 seed at the NCAAs for Matt. IF Manley does meet up with Horan, I think he takes the match again. Dude is just wrestling at a seriously high level right now.

Shaffe - Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Matt Manley shouldn’t have any issue qualifying to the NCAA tournament here. After running roughshot through the conference season anything less than a finals appearance would have to be considered a disappointment in my eyes. Frankly if he doesn’t take the title in Ypsilanti I’ll be surprised.

The Beef - From one guy who will come in at #1 to another, Lavion Mayes actually lost his first match of the season in his last bout.  Many people (and not just us) have talked about how tough he is when he is on his game and aggressive, could that loss perhaps refocus him for a MAC title and AA-run?

BST - I certainly hope it will. Mayes has a wide open track to a top 4 NCAA finish. I think a loss at the MACs is a big disappointment for him, especially after dropping a bit of a "lazy" decision to Mecate at the Hearnes last year

Shaffe - Despite a few close results during the conference season there really isn’t anybody that’s in Mayes’ class at this weight. If he takes the lesson learned in Lincoln and comes out and wrestles all 7 minutes in every match I don’t see anything less than a title for him here.

The Beef - Alright, this brings us to the weight class I am the most interested in, which is to say, the one with probably the most amount of question among Mizzou fans.  Barnes did not start the season in the Varsity lineup.  Barnes did not start the season at 157 pounds.  But not long after the season started, and after the Tigers went through a couple of different options in replacement of the redshirting Joey LaVallee, we found Barnes not just in the lineup, but looking solid.  Five spots from this weight class will go to the NCAA’s (at least) from the MAC and so while we all likely agree that he should be able to grab one of those, the question is: What is the realistic ceiling next weekend?

Shaffe - Barnes should be seeded a clear fifth in the bracket as he has beaten everybody else in the conference that is not ranked in the top 4 of the latest conference rankings. He only wrestled one of those four guys during the regular season, a 3-2 loss to Central Michigan’s Lucas Smith. If he manages to win that 4/5 match he’ll probably run into Kent State’s Ian Miller who is a consensus top 5 guy at this weight and a guy that Barnes isn’t likely to beat if it comes to it. I can’t see Barnes doing much better than a semifinal spot on the frontside of the bracket, but I do like his chances to finish just inside the top 5 and secure what should be a 9th bid for the Tigers at the NCAA tournament.

BST – Well said Shaffe.  Can’t add much more than that (first time for everything).

Shaffe – Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

BST – Wait, isn’t your third kid on the way?

Shaffe – OK, more than once in a while.