Six Missouri wrestlers advanced Saturday to the finals in the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships.
The Tigers’ dominance — 16 wins in 20 total bouts, including 10 for bonus points — helped pave the way to a massive lead ahead of host Northern Iowa in the quest for a sixth consecutive conference crown.
It’s a good position for Mizzou, which has totaled 117 1/2 team points and leads the Panthers by 27 in the team race, but the job’s not done yet with finals set for Sunday.
“We put six guys in the finals, and I’ve seen a lot of activity from our guys so far,” Tigers coach Brian Smith said in a release from the team. “Guys are getting after it, scoring bonus points. Tomorrow is another day. We have to get after it again and put the tournament away.”
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Undefeated senior 197-pounder J’den Cox and sophomore 165-pounder Daniel Lewis, a Blue Springs graduate, led the way for Mizzou with two pins each.
Cox and Lewis will wrestle for conference titles Sunday at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa, along with sophomore 133-pounder John Erneste, redshirt freshman 141-pounder Jaydin Eierman, senior 149-pounder Lavion Mayes and junior 157-pounder Joey Lavallee.
Cox (22-0), who hopes to join Drake Houdashelt as the second four-time conference champion in Tigers history, will face Old Dominion’s Kevin Beazley in the 197-pound final.
Lewis (23-3), who is seeking his second straight MAC title, won both his matches with first-period pins as he has with all of his team-leading nine pins this season.
He’ll battle Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert in the final. Lewis has split a pair of earlier matches with Steiert this season.
Erneste (22-6), a Park Hill graduate, reached his first conference final with a semifinal pin and will meet Buffalo’s Bryan Landry, who upset top-seeded Josh Alber of Northern Iowa.
Eierman (23-5), Mayes (18-2) and Lavallee (24-1) each recorded a major decision among their two wins en route to title bouts.
All six also are guaranteed a berth at the NCAA Tournament, which takes place March 16-18 in St. Louis, based on pre-tournament allocations announced for the MAC championships.
Junior 125-pounder Barlow McGhee, redshirt freshman 174-pounder Dylan Wisman, senior 184-pounder Matt Lemanowicz and redshirt freshman heavyweight Austin Myers lost matches for Mizzou on Saturday, but all four remain alive for Sunday’s consolation matches and the chance to earn an automatic qualify for the NCAA Tournament.