Missouri Tigers Wrestling: Redshirts Looking to Make Impact


The fall is upon us, and Mizzou’s wrestling squad hopes to reach incredible heights once again.

The shortening of the days and cooling of the weather is a sign of fall and the return of football for most, but for a certain group of Missouri Tigers student athletes, it means that they are getting close to the easy part of their year-round journey beginning: wrestling season. All sports at the college level are year-round commitments, but as any member of Coach Brian Smith’s Missouri wrestling team will tell you, Tigerstyle wrestling is more than a sport–it is a lifestyle.

Both Daniel Lewis and Jaydin Eierman, who are returning after very successful redshirt years, told me that Tigerstyle–a sort of brand that Coach Smith created here at Mizzou–is more than just about what you do as an athlete, but about how you live your life. “It is waking up early to go to practice as well as staying late in tutoring to get your grades up. It is a whole well-rounded lifestyle,” Lewis explained.

During his redshirt year, Eierman had a 22-2 record with eight falls and six tech falls, which was second only to J’den Cox. Lewis also had an incredible redshirt year, finishing 29-6 while also finishing fourth in the NCAA’s. He also tied for the most falls on the team with ten and won the most falls in the shortest amount of time at an early tournament, the Las Vegas Classic, last season.

After the Tigers’ schedule was released early last week and with FloWrestling–along with other national rankings like WIN magazine–coming out this week, the season is finally one month away. Mizzou begins the year on November 3rd with the Black and Gold meet. Some members, including FloWrestling’s third-ranked 165-pounder Daniel Lewis, will represent Missouri on November 5th at the NWCA All-Star Classic, where he will take on second-ranked Issac Jordan of Wisconsin.

Flo’s preseason rankings are now out up to the 174-pound weight class, and out of these seven weight classes, the Tigers have six ranked wrestlers, including three in the top ten.

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At 125, Mizzou’s Barlow McGhee is currently ranked seventh behind Iowa’s redshirt senior, Thomas Gilman. Last season, McGhee was a tough wrestler, but after having Allan Waters at the top of the lineup for five consecutive years, Tiger fans have begun to expect bonus-point wins. McGhee was 24-9, but 16 of those wins came by seven points or less, good for just a regular decision. A big sign of McGhee’s improvement in the offseason will be visible early with whether he can finish opponents or at least rack up more bonus-point victories.

The aforementioned Jaydin Eierman sits in the 13th ranked spot at 133 pounds. Just sitting down with this guy, you can feel the confidence emanate from him, and that makes me a believer that this guy will really shake up the weight class that is stacked with four seniors among the top five wrestlers. Eierman will have opportunities to jump up those rankings during the duel season, most likely by taking on second-ranked Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State on December 8th. He will also get a chance at revenge on one of the two opponents who defeated him last season when he takes on Kade Brock of Oklahoma State at the Hearnes on January 27th. In reference to this young man’s confidence, after his brother and teammate, J’Den Cox, won the Olympic Bronze medal, Eierman tweeted this:

If that doesn’t show just how big his goals, are nothing will.

Matt Manley is ranked seventh at 141 pounds, but it is still up in the air whether he will be the Tigers’ starter at that weight. Now that Duke transfer Grant Leeth is healthy, there may be a wrestle-off to determine who the starter will be moving forward. Leeth was a Kearney, Missouri grad who transferred last year but was unable to wrestle because of a shoulder injury, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to win the starting spot and how much of a gas tank he will have early on after having a season off.

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There’s no controversy at 149, as Lavion Mayes is the number three ranked wrestler and will also join Lewis wrestling on November 5th at the NWCA All-Star Classic. Mayes is a returning All-American, and if he can improve on a dominating double leg that progressed last season, he could be wrestling for a national title come March.

Another wrestler coming off of a redshirt season, Joey LaVallee currently occupies the 13 spot at 157 pounds. After wrestling in only 13 matches last year–and those coming only in the MAC and NCAA tournament–it will be interesting to see how he competes in the dual matches throughout the season.

Lewis made it more than clear that anything short of a national title would be disappointing. While this may be a tall task, as Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez–also known as I-Mar–sits two spots ahead of Lewis on top of the weight class, Lewis wrestled Alex Dieringer tougher than anybody up to the NCAA Finals was able to last season, and I see no reason he won’t do the same with Martinez. As he will get opportunities to wrestle Ohio State’s Bo Jordan, the only other person Lewis lost to last season should be a title contender all season.

Mizzou has a little more controversy at 174 pounds, as sophomore Tim Miklus will likely wrestle off against redshirt freshman Dylan Wisman. Miklus is a likely favorite, but no matter who is the starter, they should be able to climb into the rankings throughout the season, as besides the top three or four spots, the weight as a whole is pretty open.

What is there to say about Mizzou’s 197-pound wrestler? The guy can basically do everything.

Much like 174, 184 pounds is a very open weight class. FloWrestling doesn’t currently have rankings for the final three weight classes, but I think it is safe to say two-time All-American Willie Miklus will make an appearance when those rankings do come up. Miklus is a fan favorite, as he feeds off crowd energy at duals. Miklus was an unknown key in beating Cornell by one point last season to continue their 30-plus duel winning streak, which was eventually ended by Oklahoma State later in the season. Miklus bumped to 197 and was tech falled but not pinned, saving Mizzou a point and allowing J’Den Cox’s major decision of Cornell’s heavyweight to give the Tigers a one-point win.

What is there to say about Mizzou’s 197-pound wrestler? The guy can basically do everything. During the media day for Beat the Streets, an international wrestling match in New York, J’Den showed off his singing and songwriting prowess by performing a song he had written. As far as wrestling is concerned, J’Den has to be the favorite to win his third national title after returning from Rio with an Olympic bronze medal. Cox and Kyle Snyder are poised to become the faces of USA wrestling over the next few years, and for good reason. Cox has an unbelievable combination of athleticism, quickness, maturity and work ethic, which shows that there is literally no end to what this young man is capable of.

Last, but certainly not least, is heavyweight. The Tigers will likely have a wrestle-off at this weight too, as redshirt freshman Austin Myers will take on sophomore James Romero. Romero failed to qualify for the NCAAs last year, and without some major improvements he will likely lose his starting spot to Myers, who was a four time Kentucky state champion.

With a more than solid lineup, Mizzou looks to be a dual force as they have been an incredible 38-2 over the last two seasons but many on the team will tell you that isn’t all they see being possible this year. As Daniel Lewis puts it, “Ultimately we plan on winning a national title, both me individually and as a team.” There is no doubt that this year might be the Tigers best chance of Coach Smith’s tenure to make that a reality and I know I, for one, can’t wait to watch and see how the season ends up.

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Contact me on Twitter or email me at njcd5d@mail.missouri.edu with any questions or comments.