“Winning never gets old”: No. 5 Missouri continues its perfect season in 2021 MAC Championships

The Tigers left the MAC Championships with more than hardware.

Missouri arrived at the MAC Wrestling Championships in Trenton, New Jersey with its eyes on a 9th-consecutive MAC title.

Redshirt junior Matt Schmitt, junior Brock Mauller, freshman Keegan O’Toole and freshman Rocky Elam all took home individual MAC Championship titles in their respective weight classes.

Sophomore Noah Surtin, junior Jarrett Jacques, redshirt sophomore Peyton Mocco and redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Kent finished in second place in their respective weight classes. Redshirt junior Allan Hart and redshirt sophomore Zach Elam both took home third place.

Missouri led its competition at the MAC Wrestling Championships with 161.5 points after the first day. Eight of Missouri’s 10 wrestlers qualified for the finals in their weight classes, with the other two heading to third-place matches in their respective weight classes.

In an unexpected turn of events, to start the weekend off, the 125-pound Surtin replaced 125-pound redshirt junior Connor Brown in their weight championship after Brown suffered from an injury in the Tigers’ last practice before the championship.

Surtin backed up Brown this season but proved himself capable of competing under pressure after he started the day with an explosive 13-0 major-decision win against Bloomsburg’s redshirt freshman Bronson Garber. He continued to move seamlessly through the championship against his next two opponents, propelling him into the finals the following day. Despite having little match time this season, when the time came, he was ready.

Missouri took a trio of undefeated wrestlers with them to the Championships. The 149-pound Mauller dominated all weekend winning with high scores and falls. He left the championships still undefeated and with his third MAC title. The 157-pound O’Toole also left the championships undefeated after several wins due to falls. 174-pound redshirt Peyton Mocco went into the championships undefeated, but lost the finals to Kent State senior Andrew McNally 7-8.

The Tigers exploded out of the gates with the eight competing wrestlers winning their round one matches. The 197-pound Elam won his match against Buffalo’s redshirt freshman Sam Mitchell 15-2. His brother, 285-pound redshirt sophomore Zach Elam, pinned Ohio’s redshirt freshman Jordan Earnest 31 seconds into period one.

Those fast starts allowed Missouri to pull ahead of its competition. Players shook first-match jitters off and confidently wrestled their way to the finals.

Missouri’s other wrestlers reached both the finals and third-place matches.

The 133-pound Schmitt won against Clarion’s 125-pound freshman Hunter Verge after a technical fall at 3:35 in the first period. 184-pound redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Kent –– who struggled with finding a consistent strategy last season –– guaranteed his spot in the finals after he won both of his matches of the day.

The 141-pound Hart and 157-pound junior Jacques also showed their capabilities after winning their respective matches. Hart moved on to the third-place match while Jacques went onto the finals.

It was a busy weekend for the Tigers. Not only did four wrestlers take home individual championship wins, but coach Brian Smith also won MAC co-coach of the year after Missouri set a new MAC team score record with 188.5 points to take home the title.

“Winning never gets old,” Smith said.

The Tigers are sending all 10 wrestlers from this weekend to the NCAA Championships which are being held in St. Louis between March 18 and March 20. There, they have the opportunity to secure the titles they lost out to after COVID-19 ended the 2019-20 season.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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