Missouri placed six wrestlers in title bouts during the first day of the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Not surprisingly, junior 197-pounder J’den Cox led the Tigers’ parade in the championship matches with his sixth and seventh pins of the season.
Cox, a 2014 NCAA champion, needed only 39 seconds to dispatch Northern Iowa’s Cody Krumweide in the quarterfinals, his fastest pin of the season.
It took a bit longer against Eastern Michigan’s Anthony Abro, but the result was the same. Cox stuck Abro in the third period and cruised into a hotly anticipated rematch for the 197 crown.
Cox, 27-1, faces Ohio’s Phillip Wellington on Sunday, seeking to avenge his only loss this season — a disqualification from Dec. 13 against Wellington.
Sophomore Barlow McGhee (125), junior Matt Manley (141), senior Le’Roy Barnes (157), freshman Daniel Lewis (165) and senior Blaise Butler (174) also wrestled into their respective finals.
McGhee, who will face Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters in the 125-pound final, claimed both his victories by major decision as did Lewis, a Blue Springs graduate. Lewis battles Eastern Michigan’s Dakota Juarez in the 165-pound final.
Perhaps the most surprising finalist was Barnes, a Belton graduate, who advanced past top-seeded Ian Miller of Kent State by injury default. He’ll take on Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert in the 157-pound final.
Manley and Butler both endured much closer matches but survived and advanced for Missouri, which leads second-place Central Michigan by 27 1/2 points in the quest for a fifth straight conference title and fourth straight MAC crown.
Manley wrestles Old Dominion’s Chris Mecate in the 141-pound final and Butler meets top-seeded Michael Ottinger of Central Michigan in the 174-pound final.
The Tigers also endured a few upsets.
Top-seeded Lavion Mayes lost in the 149-pound semifinals when Kent State’s Mike DePalma scored a reversal at the third-period buzzer.
Top-seeded Willie Milkus also was upset in the 184-pound semifinals. He must beat Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster in Sunday’s consolation semifinals to guarantee an automatic NCAA berth.
Second-seeded Zach Synon was eliminated from automatic NCAA contention after losses to Eastern Michigan’s Shayne Wireman and Ohio’s Cameron Kelly. He’ll need to receive one of five at-large berths to return to the national tourney.
Senior heavyweight Cody Johnston was eliminated from NCAA tourney contention with a 10-6 quarterfinal loss against No. 1 seed Blaize Cabell of Northern Iowa. The MAC was only allocated one automatic berth at that weight class.
2016 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships
() indicates number of NCAA automatic berths at weight class
Quarterfinals — Barlow McGhee, Missouri, m.d. Alijah Jeffrey, Northern Illinois, 10-2. Semifinals — McGhee m.d. Kyle Akins, Buffalo, 12-4.
Quarterfinals — Shayne Wireman, Eastern Michigan, dec. Zach Synon, Missouri, 3-1. Consolation quarterfinals — Cameron Kelly, Ohio, dec. Synon 7-4.
Quarterfinals — Matt Manley, Missouri, dec. Brandon Lapi, Buffalo, 3-2. Semifinals — Manley dec. Zachary Horan, Central Michigan, 6-4 SV-1.
Quarterfinals — Lavion Mayes, Missouri, m.d. Adam Perrin, Northern Iowa, 15-5. Semifinals — Mike DePalma, Kent State, dec. Mayes 6-5.
Quarterfinals — Le’Roy Barnes, Missouri, p. Spartak Chino, Ohio, 3:40. Semifinals — Barnes inj. def. Ian Miller, Kent State, 2:01.
Quarterfinals — Daniel Lewis, Missouri, m.d. Colin Heffernan, Central Michigan, 10-0. Semifinals — Lewis m.d. Tyler Buckkwalter, Kent State, 12-0.
Quarterfinals — Blaise Butler, Missouri, dec. Muhamed McBryde, Buffalo, 8-4. Semifinals — Butler dec. Cody Walters, Ohio, 2-1.
Quarterfinals — Willie Miklus, Missouri, m.d. Joe Ariola, Buffalo, 9-0. Semifinals — Jordan Ellingwood, Central Michigan, dec. Miklus 3-1.
Quarterfinals — J’den Cox, Missouri, p. Cody Krumweide, Northern Iowa, 0:39. Semifinals — Cox p. Anthony Abro, Eastern Michigan, 6:37.
First round — Cody Johnston, Missouri, t.f. Jesse Webb, Ohio, 2:48. Quarterfinals — Blaize Cabell, Northern Iowa, dec. Johnston 10-6. Consolation quarterfinals — Johnston dec. Austin Coburn, Old Dominion, 5-3.