It took University of Missouri senior and Mascoutah High School graduate Lavion Mayes 30 seconds to accomplish a feat few college wrestlers have during the past three years when he took a 2-0 lead against Penn State University junior Zain Retherford on Saturday at the Scottrade Center.
But it didn’t last.
The reigning national champion in the 149-pound weight class, Retherford rallied to take the lead late in the first period and never looked back as he defended his national crown with an 18-2 win by technical fall in the 149-pound championship match.
Wrestling before a large partisan Missouri turnout, Mayes brought the crowd of over 18,000 to its feet when he took down Retherford with an aggressive attack. Retherford, who ran his winning streak to 63 straight matches, had advanced to the final with three wins by technical fall and pin this week in St. Louis.
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But Mayes, battling an injury to his midsection that kept him off the mat for a week heading into the national finals, couldn’t maintain the attack.
Retherford took leads of 3-2 after one period and 6-2 before putting Mayes on his back three times in the final period, to win going away.
“He (Retherford) was good. But he’s not at a way higher level then I am. I competed with him,” Mayes said. “I was able to take him down in the first period and there were four or five times in the first and second period when I almost had an escape. But he would just push me out of bounds. That happened four or five times.
“I didn’t know if I should choose the down position or not there in the last period when he had the three near falls. I’m happy I got here (to the title match).”
Despite the loss, Mayes ends his career as one of the best in Tigers wrestling history.
Seventh in the 141-pound weight pound weight class as a sophomore in 2015 and third a year ago in the 149-pound division, Mayes is just the fifth 3-time All-American in school history.
Making Mascoutah proud
A 2012 graduate of Mascoutah where he wrestled for head wrestling coach Chris Lindsay, Mayes was a two-time state tournament placewinner, winning the Class 2A 145-pound state championship as a senior. Lindsay was one of several metro-east wrestling fans who made the trip to St. Louis this week to watch Mayes finish his college career in style.
But Lindsay wasn’t in the crowd Saturday.
“I’m one of those people who has trouble sitting still watching a wrestling match. I was over here on Thursday, and it was really difficult for me to sit and watch Lavion,” Lindsay said. “I know there were a lot of people from Mascoutah who wanted to be here and watch and support Lavion.
“I’ll stay home and watch everything on TV with a bunch of friends. That way I can up and pace the floor which I’m sure I’ll do during the match.”
Lindsay said the response Mayes has gotten around Mascoutah has been amazing.
“Around school on Friday, everybody wanted to know how Lavion was doing and he won,” Lindsay said. “It’s an amazing story. There were people who thought he wasn’t good enough to wrestle at the D1 level, but Lavion was determined and just worked so hard to achieve the success that he has.
“I have a wrestling camp that we do here every year and Lavion has come back the last two years to help out. It’s a tremendous feeling to see someone have success and then give so much back to the sport as Lavion has done.”
SIUE wrestler places eighth
SIUE junior Jake Residori put the finishing touch on a history making weekend as he placed eighth in the 174-pound weight class.
The first Cougars All-American in SIUE’s NCAA Division I era, Residori lost to Kyle Crutchmer 9-4 in the seventh place match early Saturday afternoon at the Scottrade Center. Unseeded, Residori defeated Crutchmer 6-5 in a first round match Thursday.