The college combat sports world is in the midst of its own “March Madness”— the 2017 NCAA Division-I Wrestling Championships from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s STLToday.com, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) was ranked at fifth (18.5 points) while Penn State’s Nittany Lions led the pack with 30.5 points and are attempting to capture their sixth championship as a team in the last seven years.
Mizzou sent five Tigers to the quarterfinal round: freshman Jaydin Eierman (26-5) at 141, two-time All-American Lavion Mayes (21-2) at 149, junior Joey Lavallee (27-1) at 157, returning All-American Daniel Lewis (26-3) at 165 and three-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion J’den Cox (25-0) at 197 pounds according to STLToday’s Joe Lyons.
Mayes, Lavallee, and Cox would later advance to the semifinals. Cox also took home a bronze medal from the Rio de Janerio Olympics over the summer.
The neighboring Cougars of Southern Illinois University (SIUE) would send Freddie Rodriguez to the quarterfinals after technical fall victories over Appalachian State’s Vito Pasone (19-4) and Buffalo’s Kyle Akins (7-5.) Rodriguez would be topped by Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak by way of a 15-0 technical fall.
SIUE’s Jake Residori would take wins over Oklahoma’s Matt Reed (7-6 decision,) and Oklahoma State’s Kyle Crutchmer (6-5 decision) before falling to the University of Illinois’ Zac Brunson (6-2 decision.) Residori would dominate Edinboro’s Ty Schoffstall 4-1 in the wrestlebacks and go on to score a pinfall over Northern Illinois’ Trace Engelkes at 2:49 of their match.
Cougar Jake Tindle lost by pinfall to Old Dominion University’s Kevin Beazley at 2:47 and to Princeton’s Brett Hamer at 1:08.
Now 23-2 Lavion Mayes would get a surprising victory that, scoring a takedown in the final seconds of his semifinal match-up against Northern Iowa’s Max Thompsen The call withstood a coaches challenge and Mayes took the 4-2 win to go to the finals at 149 pounds. He will face 27-0 Zain Retherford tomorrow night.
At 157 pounds, Joey Lavallee would come from behind in the third period of his contest against Dylan Palacio of Cornell 8-5. After initially tying the score at 4-4 going into the last period only to give the lead back by a point (4-5), Lavallee would get a takedown within the last 30 seconds to go up two points (6-5) and then tacking on a couple extra for the win (8-5.)
He will battle #1 seed Jason Nolf in the finals.
J’den Cox was the last Tiger to compete in the semifinals. The bronze medal winner faced Jared Haught of Virginia Tech and moved ahead early with a what appeared to be a single-lege takedown with 0:54 to go in the first period.
Prior to the second period, VT issued a coaches challenge, alleging that Cox locked his hands when grappling (a foul.) However, Cox would keep his 2-0 lead. He would go up 3-0 in the second looking to shut out Haught. Cox would go hunting for a double-leg within the last 30 seconds, gripping an ankle as Haught goes out of the area of competition and must reset (5-0.) Haught gets a reversal but Cox, a senior takes the win 6-2.
Cox, already a two-time NCAA national champion (2014 & 2016) will finish his wrestling career by wrestling Minnesota Brett Pfarr for a possible third championship at 197 pounds. Missouri finished the semifinal round in fourth place as a team with 81.5 points.
The 2017 NCAA Division-I Wrestling Championship finals will be broadcast at 7 p.m. CST on ESPN.