Buoyed by six individual titles, Missouri crushed the competition Sunday in winning its fifth consecutive Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships in record fashion.
Sophomore John Erneste, redshirt freshman Jaydin Eierman, senior Lavion Mayes, junior Joey Lavallee, sophomore Daniel Lewis and senior J’den Cox all claimed solo gold inside the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Two other Tigers — junior Barlow McGhee and redshirt freshman Austin Myers — also placed high enough to earn automatic berths at the NCAA Tournament on March 16-18 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Collectively, Mizzou totaled 154 1/2 points, a MAC championships record, and beat tourney host Northern Iowa by a whopping 48 points (106 1/2 ). Central Michigan finished third with 103 1/2 points.
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The Tigers won the Big 12 title in 2012 and have swept all five titles since joining the MAC for a school-record run of six straight consecutive conference championships.
Cox (23-0) — the tourney’s top seed as the nation’s No. 1-ranked wrestler, a two-time NCAA champion and the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling at 86 kilograms — won his fourth straight conference title by taking an 8-2 decision against Old Dominion’s Kevin Beazley at 197 pounds.
With the victory, Cox joined Drake Houdashelt as the only wrestlers in Mizzou history to win four individual conference championships.
Top-seeded Lewis (24-3), a Blue Springs graduate, repeated as MAC champion by claiming a 7-5 decision over Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert in the rivalry’s rubber-match bout for the championship at 165 pounds.
Erneste (23-6), a Park Hill graduate and the tourney’s second seed, knocked off Buffalo’s Bryan Lantry 6-2 in the sudden-victory period to capture the 133-pound crown.
Eierman (24-5), who was the top seed, cruised to the 141-pound title with a 10-1 major decision against second-seeded Noah Forrider of Ohio.
At 149, Mayes (19-2) wrestled to his seed — No. 1 — by squeaking out a 6-5 win against Northern Iowa’s Max Thomsen in the championship bout.
Lavallee (25-1) matched that feat with a 4-3 win in extra time against Central Michigan’s Colin Heffernan for first place at 157 pounds.
McGhee (19-11) snagged the final automatic NCAA Tournament berth with a fifth-place finish at 125 pounds.
He lost his consolation semifinal in a tiebreaker, but rebounded for a 4-1 win against Eastern Michigan’s Noah Gonser when it mattered most.
Myers’ only path to an automatic berth was two wins Sunday, which he secured with a 9-1 major decision against Central Michigan’s Newton Smerchek and a 3-1 win against top-seeded Zack Parker of Ohio in the heavyweight third-place match.
The top three finishers earned an NCAA berth.
Only two Tigers wrestlers failed to qualify for nationals.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Wisman (14-11) lost both consolation matches at 174 pounds Sunday and finished sixth.
Finally, senior 184-pounder Matt Lemanowicz (10-14), a Lee’s Summit West graduate, opened his day with a win by fall in the consolation semifinals, but he dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 decision against Central Michigan’s Jordan Ellingwood in the third-place match.
The MAC only had three automatic NCAA berths at both 174 and 184, so Lemanowicz missed out on nationals by the narrowest of margins.