Way Too Early Lineup Look: 2020-21 Missouri Tigers

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With only three seniors, Missouri's starting lineup may have been one of the nation's youngest this season, but it was also one of the deepest.

Consider that the Tigers captured an eighth straight Mid-American Conference title despite only having only one champion. 

Missouri was also perfect in MAC duals (8-0) for the third straight year and knocked off an Iowa State team which finished 10-5. The Tigers also held off Wisconsin for the Cougar Clash title.

Missouri ended the season with 11 NCAA qualifiers on its roster -- eight who qualified this year and three past qualifiers. They will return all but two of them.

Any coaching staff would be elated to have such depth back next season, but Tigers' coach Brian Smith added even more by landing four of the nation's top 64 Class of 2020 recruits -- No. 2 Keegan O'Toole (165 pounds), No. 14 Rocky Elam (197), No. 41 Josh Edmond (149) and No. 64 Colton Hawks (184).

2020-21 Missouri Projected Lineup

125: Cameron Valdivez

133: Allan Hart

141: Grant Leeth

149: Brock Mauller

157: Jarrett Jacques

165: Peyton Mocco

174: Jeremiah Kent

184: Canten Marriott

197: Wyatt Koelling 

285: Zach Elam

Lineup Looks: Iowa | Penn State | Cornell | Michigan | Ohio State

125: Cameron Valdivez, JR

He bounced around the lineup for more than half the season before wresting the starting role from 2019 NCAA Qualifier Dack Punke. In all, Valdivez made seven starts at 125 and four at 133.

He finished 20-12, up from 9-5 last season, and actually led the Tigers in pins with nine. Valdivez also had two major decisions and a technical fall. He placed fifth at the MAC Championships. 

133: Allan Hart, JR

Tasked with replacing All-American and three-time MAC Champion John Erneste, Hart came into this own this season with a 20-9 record, winning 10 of his final 12 matches. 

He finished second at the MAC Tournament, dropping a close decision to Kent State's Tim Rooney. Overall, 13 of Hart's 20 wins came via pin (five), major decision (five) or technical fall (three). 

Hart, who improved from 13-6 last season, was also an NCAA Qualifier and seeded 19th. He finished 17th in the final rankings. 

Hart's most notable wins came against No. 19 Jack Skudlerczyk (Northern Iowa), No. 20 Todd Small (Iowa State), No. 21 Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State) and No. 22 Derek Spann (Buffalo).

141: Grant Leeth, SR

Due to major injuries which resulted in medical redshirts and a regular redshirt season, Leeth may set the record for longest-ever collegiate wrestling career. It began in the fall of 2014 at Duke and will not end until March of 2021. 

However, Leeth, who will be 25 when next season begins, keeps bouncing back. He battled through more injuries this season, but was an NCAA Qualifier for the second time in three years (No. 17 seed) and finished 15-5 with four pins, one major decision and one technical fall.

Unranked going into the MAC Tournament, Leeth went 4-1, knocking off No. 22 Sa'Derian Perry (Old Dominion) and No. 23 Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven) on the way to third place. The performance left Leeth at No. 21 in the final rankings.

He also beat No. 25 Shakur Laney (Ohio) during the season. Leeth's career mark is 47-11.

Next season, Leeth hopes to regain the form of 2017-18 when he won the MAC title and became an All-American by finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships. 

149: Brock Mauller, SO

Sixth at the 2019 NCAA Championships, Mauller was a lock to become an All-American again and had an outside chance of becoming the MAC's first national champion since 2017.

Mauller finished 28-1 with six major decisions and two technical falls and was fifth in the final rankings. His career record stands at 61-6. 

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He edged No. 13 Brock Zacherl of Clarion (5-2) for a second straight MAC title. Mauller also beat No. 6 Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State), No. 11 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa), No. 22. Tyshawn Williams (SIUE), No. 23. Alex Hagan (Ohio)and 24. Colston DiBlasi (George Mason).

Mauller's only loss was a 6-5 decision to Wyoming's Jaron Jenson on Dec. 29. 

157: Jarrett Jacques, JR

He earned a second straight trip to the NCAA Championships and was seeded 14th. Jacques, a MAC Champion in 2019, was second this year and ended up at No. 15 in the final rankings. 

He finished 25-7 with four technical falls, two major decisions and two pins. That upped Jacques' career mark to 54-15. 

His most noteworthy wins came against No. 13 Larry Early (Old Dominion), No. 14 Justin Ruffin (SIU-Edwardsville), No. 16 Logan Parks (Central Michigan), No. 20 John Tucker (Michigan State), No. 21 Zac Carson (Ohio) and No. 25 Eric Barone (Illinois).

165: Peyton Mocco, SO

A lineup vacancy was created at 165 when Connor Flynn moved up to 174 and in stepped the freshman.

All Mocco did was go 27-12, the team's second-most victories behind Mauller, and become an NCAA Qualifier, seeded 30th. He was also third in the MAC Tournament, part of a 19-5 record in his final 25 matches.

A close bout between Mocco and UNC's Kennedy Monday:

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In all, 55 percent of Mocco's wins came via pin (six), major decision (six) or technical fall (three). He was No. 25 in the final rankings and his most significant win was against No. 23 Izzak Olejnik (Northern Illinois).

174: Jeremiah Kent, SO

The freshman charged out of the gate this season, going 14-2 with 10 bonus-point wins in his first 16 matches. That includes two wins over teammate and two-time NCAA qualifier Connor Flynn, who was No. 24 in the final rankings.

As a result, Kent won the starting role for more than a month in December and January before fading a bit down the stretch with a 5-5 mark to finish 19-7. Flynn regained his spot in the starting lineup at the end of January. 

However, a whopping 68 percent of Kent's wins came via pin (five), technical fall (five) or major decision (three) and he should solidify his starter status next season. 

184: Canten Marriott, SR

Marriott should finally return to the starting lineup next season after finding himself on the outside looking in much of the past two years.

He was 26-8 as a freshman in 2017-18, including a 1-2 mark at the NCAA Championships and third place at the MAC Tournament. 

Marriott was hoping for even more the next year only to lose his spot in the lineup to Dylan Wisman for the next two seasons. Wisman was an NCAA Qualifier both years and MAC Champion in 2019 while Marriott was limited to 25 matches during that time, going 17-8. 

He was 11-5 this season with four pins and two major decisions, bringing his career record to 43-16.

197: Wyatt Koelling, SR

He will return for a third season as a starter after going 20-7 this year and earning his first NCAA Championships berth. Koelling was seeded at No. 23. 

His most significant wins came against No. 10 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State) and No. 20 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming). Koelling had two major decisions, a pin and a technical fall during the season.

Koelling's career mark is 60-29. He hopes to fare better at the MAC Tournament next season after not placing this year and taking third in 2019.

285: Zach Elam, SO

He will return to the starting lineup after taking an Olympic redshirt this season. 

Wrestling unattached, Elam went 16-2 with 10 pins. His best win was against NCAA Qualifier Quinn Miller (Virginia). Elam also took 10th-ranked Josh Hokit (Fresno State) to the second tiebreaker before dropping a 6-4 decision. 

He was 25-11 as a freshman with six major decisions and five pins. Elam finished one win shy of All-American honors at the NCAA Championships and was third in the MAC Tournament.


Mark Spezia is a freelance writer based in Lapeer, Michigan. He has written for ESPNW, Flohockey, Flint, Michigan-based My City Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit Magazine and Troy, Michigan-based Oakland Press. He previously worked for the Flint Journal, Lapeer (Michigan) County Press and Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, Michigan.

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