Mascoutah graduate and University of Missouri senior Lavion Mayes is a win away from a national championship.
Wrestling before a large crowd, including several family members, coaches and friends from the metro-east, Mayes continued his march through the 149-pound bracket at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Tournament on Friday as he advanced to the championship match with a 4-2 semifinal win over Max Thomsen of the University of Northern Iowa at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Seeded third in the 149-pound bracket and now a three-time All-American, Mayes will take on top-seeded, undefeated Zain Retherford, of Penn State, on Saturday. Mayes will take a record of 23-2 into the final, while Retherford, the defending champion in the 149-pound weight class is 25-0.
Retherford, the 2016 Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Year and voted the most dominant wrestler of the 2016 NCAA national finals, will take a 60-match winning streak into his final against Mayes.
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Mayes placed third in the 149-pound weight class a year ago.
Mayes, who won the 145-pound state title during his senior year at Mascoutah, scored a late takedown in his win over Thomsen. The two longtime rivals battled through a scoreless opening six minutes before Mayes prevailed.
“I was closer than he (Thomsen) was, and at that moment I said if I want to wrestle another minute, I can just not shoot. If I want to be done now, I can shoot, so I chose to shoot. He blocked it off pretty well, and I was able to hit a drag that I’ve kinda been working on all week,” Mayes said in the post-match press conference. “Almost got it on him earlier in the match, but it didn’t work out so well. But I stuck with the process and did what I’ve been training to do.”
In the final, Mayes will face a wrestler in Retherford who, in his first four matches, has won three by technical fall and then pinned fifth-seed Brandon Sorenson, of Iowa, in 2:37 on Friday in his semifinal victory.
Mayes knows the task at hand, and he’s ready for the challenge.
“This may sound bad, but I can be a man and wrestle,” Mayes said. “I’m happy to be here. I’ve been wrestling the past 11 years of my life. This is somewhere where I never thought I would have been because I didn’t know college wrestling existed when I first started. So it’s kinda cool to be what a lot of people consider the pinnacle of wrestling.”
SIUE wrestler earns All-American status
Wrestling in the 174-pound weight class, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville junior Jake Residori guaranteed himself All-American status Friday.
He became the first SIUE wrestler to earn All-American honors in SIUE’s Division I era.
Unseeded Residori’s defeated fourth-seeded Zach Epperley, of Virginia Tech, 8-3, earning a spot in the top eight nationally. In his first two matches, Residori bested both of the Big 12 Conference finalists and was the only wrestler to win a pigtail match at the Championships and gain All-American honors.
After the win over Epperley, Residori dropped a 12-2 decision to Michigan’s Myles Amine. Residori will compete Saturday for seventh place against Kyle Crutchmer, of Oklahoma State, whom he previously defeated 6-5 in the first round of the tournament.
Some information for this story was taken from the SIUE website.