After a year of waiting, Jeremiah Kent got his chance in front of the crowd at the Hearnes Center.
The redshirt freshman from Columbia showed promise with four pins during a 16-5 redshirt campaign last year and got out to a quick official start to his Missouri career with a technical fall against Central Missouri and a first-period pin in his first two career dual meets. Kent turned Missouri Valley’s William Seibert on his back 62 seconds into the match for a quick pin. His dominant victories helped set the tone for Missouri’s pair of wins over Central Missouri and Missouri Valley on Thursday night.
“I felt support because you know, anywhere I look up during the match if I’m on bottom, if I’m on my feet or on top there are just people who were there who I know are supporting me, so that’s really nice.” Kent said. “I mean, all these kids are running around and shaking my hand giving me high fives and that’s what I’m all about.”
The Hickman graduate and 2018 Class 4 Missouri State Champion came to the Tigers as a top-100 recruit, but has been stuck behind Connor Flynn in the lineup for the past two years. On Thursday, Kent showed a glimpse of the Tiger’s future.
“Jeremiah, you know, he has a lot of talent,” Missouri head coach Brian Smith said. “He’s getting better and keeps progressing. I was glad I got to get him some matches.”
After a Cevian Severado 14-5 major decision kicked off the night, a Cameron Valdiviez pin 3:51 into the second bout of the dual ended the match against Central Missouri almost as soon as it began. Missouri got a 39-3 win that was the Tigers first of the season before they quickly picked up another victory with a dominant 45-point shutout against Missouri Valley.
Valdiviez was nearly pinned in the first period, but he got out of trouble and then put UCM’s John Feeney on his back with a reversal in the second period for Missouri’s first pin of the season in a dual meet.
“With Cam it’s fun to watch, but it’s different,” Smith said. “You know, he’s all over the place, but he’s gonna give you everything. There’s no doubt about it.”
Valdiviez and Dack Punke, who earned a decision up a weight class at 133 pounds versus Missouri Valley, are still competing with the rest of the squad at 125 pounds for a starting spot. The next step in that battle is this weekend’s Lindenwood Open.
“We’ll wrestle all four of our 125 pounders this weekend at the open, so it’ll give me some time to see who’s going to get after it and who wants to be the guy,” Smith said.
Kent and Valdiviez were two of five Missouri wrestlers to get two wins on the night. Valdiviez’s pin in the first match was at 133 pounds and the redshirt sophomore earned a a 3-0 decision at 125 pounds versus Missouri Valley. Jack Flynn, Phyllip Deloach and Alex Butler also got victories in both matches.
Deloach came back to Hearnes as a redshirt senior for his third career dual meet after a torn labrum derailed his redshirt junior year. He used the same tilt move in both matches, earning a major decision against UCM and a technical fall against Missouri Valley.
“In my career I’ve overcome surgeries, injuries, all kinds of things, but being able to get out there and get those bonus points for the team is an awesome feeling. Just coming home to our home crowd and ending those wins was an awesome feeling,” Deloach said.
Missouri outscored its opponents by a combined 84-3 with the only blemish a sudden death win by Central Missouri’s Emmett Kuntz over Missouri redshirt senior Sam Ritchie. Ritchie got his first taste of dual action after only wrestling in tournaments during his first four years.
“I know Sam gave us all he had,” Smith said. “They’re excited for him. He’s been a great teammate. He worked hard in the room and got an opportunity to get out there. He wanted to make the most of it and I think he did. He just lost a tough match.”
Missouri rested most of its stars with Grant Leeth, Jarrett Jacques and Flynn getting days off, but No. 2 Brock Mauller made an appearance versus Missouri Valley. Mauller made easy work of Missouri Valley’s Richard Pocock, registering a 21-6 technical fall that came via a 3-minute riding time advantage.
Mauller and the rest of the team go back on the road for the Lindenwood Open on Saturday in St. Charles.