Missouri is a team on a mission.
The Tigers were very business-like Saturday during the first day of the Mid-American Conference wrestling championships.
Missouri owns a commanding 45 1/2-point lead ahead of second-place Old Dominion with 122 team points and eight wrestlers in finals at the meet’s 10 weight classes.
But there was no celebration for the top-ranked Tigers.
“It’s a good day, but we shouldn’t think that we’re on top of the world right now,” sophomore 197-pounder J’den Cox said. “We’ve got more to do.”
Cox, 32-0, who is the reigning national champion at his weight, and Missouri shouldn’t have much trouble wrapping a third straight MAC title and fourth straight conference crown overall, including the 2012 Big 12 championship.
The Tigers, who won the National Duals Final by dethroning previously No. 1-ranked Iowa, are focused on a possible NCAA Division I wrestling national championship March 19-21 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
“I wanted 10 guys in the finals, so I’m not extremely happy,” Smith said. “I wanted to get them all, because now we’ve got to battle for a couple spots here.”
Seven Missouri wrestlers — Cox, senior 125-pounder Alan Waters, senior 149-pounder Drake Houdashelt, sophomore 157-pounder Joey Lavallee, senior 174-pounder Johnny Eblen, freshman 184-pounder Willie Miklus and senior heavyweight Devin Mellon — are guaranteed berths at nationals.
With a win Sunday, sophomore 133-pounder Zach Synon and senior 165-pounder Mikey England earn automatic berths as well.
Sophomore 141-pounder Lavion Mayes, who is ranked fifth in the nation, probably will be awarded an at-large berth no matter what happens Sunday, but he can earn an automatic berth with two victories to close the MAC championships.
Sunday represents the final tune-up for the Tigers before nationals, so the goal is to put together a polished and dominant performance again.
Even Waters, who had two technical falls on the way to his spot in the final, seeks improvement.
“I was really trying to work for the pin,” Waters said. “I’ve been trying to get better in my pinning situations to get those bonus points. I think it’s going to be really big at the national tournament, getting pins and getting team points. Any bonus points is going to make the difference there.”
(Seed in parenthesis)
125 championship: (1) Alan Waters, Missouri, vs. (2) Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa
133 championship: (1) Zach Synon, Missouri, vs. (2) Tyler Keselring, Central Michigan
141 consolation semifinals*: (2) Lavion Mayes, Missouri, vs. (4) Tyler Small, Kent State
149 championship: (1) Drake Houdashelt, Missouri, vs. (2) Alexander Richardson, Old Dominion
157 championship: (2) Joey Lavallee, Missouri, vs. (1) Ian Miller, Kent State
165 consolation semifinals*: (5) Mikey England, Missouri, vs. (3) Harrison Hightower, Ohio
174 championship: (1) Johnny Eblen, Missouri, vs. (2) Cody Walters, Ohio
184 championship: (1) Willie Miklus, Missouri, vs. (2) Jack Dechow, Old Dominion
197 championship: (1) J’den Cox, Missouri, vs. (2) Phil Wellington, Ohio
285 championship: (2) Devin Mellon, Missouri, vs. (1) Blaize Cabell, Northern Iowa
* will wrestle for third place with a win and fifth place with a loss