When the brackets were released for the 2017 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships many believed the usual suspects would come out on top and the only reason anyone would mention the University of Missouri was because the tournament was being held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
After the first day of competition, those beliefs began to change.
Mizzou qualified eight wrestlers and went 11-5 on the opening day. By the time the wrestling was done on Thursday, the Tigers found themselves firmly planted in the top five as a team.
The black and gold followed up their impressive day one with an 11-3 day two, capped by a 7-0 session on Friday night that landed two wrestlers in the consolation semifinals and a program record, three in the championship finals. The strong showing affirmed the Tigers spot in the top five and for a time, had them tied for second with wrestling stalwarts Ohio State and Oklahoma State.
Day three was the culmination of the Tiger's impressive tournament run as Senior J'Den Cox claimed the title of most decorated wrestler in University of Missouri wrestling history.
Cox, the top seed in the 197 pound bracket, took on second seed Brett Pfarr of Minnesota in his final collegiate match. Cox dominated the match as he took down Pfarr three times en route to an impressive 8-2 win. With the win Cox became the first wrestler in tiger history to win three national titles and finishes his Mizzou wrestling career as the second four-time All-American in program history.
"I'm honored to have accomplished another great feat, not only for myself but for my school, my teammates and for my family, and I'm very proud of the way I represented every single one of them throughout my years wrestling in college," Cox said.
During his pursuit of title number three, Cox outscored opponents 28-6, not counting his first round pin.
Lavion Mayes also made the tournament finals. It was the 149 pounder's first trip to the finals. He fell to top seed Zain Retherford of Penn State University as the match ended in an 18-2 technical-fall. Mayes, a redshirt-senior, finishes his wrestling career at Mizzou as a three-time All-American.
Mayes and Cox were joined in the finals by 157 pounder Joey Lavallee. The trip was Lavallee's first to the finals. He fell to Jason Nolf of Penn State in a major decision 14-6. Lavalle, a redshirt-junior, became an All-American with the result.
Mizzou's three finalists not only were the most in program history but were second most of any team at the championships behind the five finalists of Penn State.
Also making the podium for the Tigers:
At 141 pounds, Jaydin Eierman, who competed at Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia, MO, defeated Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers 4-2 to take fifth place. With the result, Eierman became an All-American for the first time in his collegiate career.
At 165 pounds, Daniel Lewis, who competed at Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, MO, lost 9-6 to Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State to finish in sixth place. With the result, Lewis became a two-time All-American, the 20th in Mizzou wrestling history.
Mizzou finished the tournament with five All-Americans, tying a program record.
Missouri finished the tournament in fifth place as a team with 86.5 points. Penn State captured the team tournament title with 146.5 points and five NCAA champions.
Eleven wrestlers with ties to Missouri qualified for the tournament. The University of Missouri qualified eight wrestlers, and three other schools qualified wrestlers who competed at high schools in the state.
Mizzou wrestlers who qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships:
Wrestlers from other schools who competed at Missouri high schools and qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships:
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