Four-time Missouri state wrestling champion Daniel Lewis is making a name for himself on the University of Missouri wrestling team.
The Blue Springs High School graduate was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year last season, is a two-time MAC champion and he’s also an NCAA All-American after he took fourth in the NCAA Wrestling Championships in 2016.
The 165-pound redshirt sophomore is one of the marquee wrestlers on the Tigers and is aiming for big things when the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships get underway Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
So far this season, Lewis is 24-3, with his latest loss coming to Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert in a dual against the Panthers, which Northern Iowa won to take the MAC regular season title. In fact, Steiert caught Lewis and pinned him with a cradle in the first round, something that rarely happens to the former Wildcat.
It’s something that certainly didn’t sit well with him.
Lewis got his revenge when he defeated Steiert in the finals of the MAC Tournament with a 7-5 decision. Before that, Lewis recorded two pins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
“It felt pretty good feeling because it was a little bit of a redemption match against the UNI kid,” Lewis said. “I was pretty angry about that loss, I don’t think it should have happened. I had a chance to go out there and prove it.
“I was having a really horrible day (during the loss to Steiert). I was actually winning during that match and I got caught and pinned in a cradle. That definitely didn’t make me happy. To get that one back was a good win for me.”
Lewis’ other two losses came in the championship matches of tournaments. He fell to No. 1 NCAA seed Isaiah Martinez of Illinois 7-4 in the UNI Open and got pinned in the finals of the Southern Scuffle Tournament against Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State. But he isn’t looking back on those matches, he’s looking ahead to his opportunity at the NCAA Championships.
“Two of those losses I feel were flukes,” Lewis said. “I think three of those losses are winnable matches. Nothing is going to bring me down. I didn’t even know my record until you told me.”
He will go into the 165-pound division as the No. 6 seed and if he gets past the first round, he will have a fourth match with Steiert. For Lewis, it’s about the simple things if he wants to win his first national championship. He’s not worried who is opponents might be.
“All it’s going to take is hard wrestling,” Lewis said. “I don’t really look at the brackets. I leave that up to my coaches to game plan for me. It doesn’t matter who I wrestle or what seed they are or what my seed is, I am going to go out there and give it everything, every match and do what I do.”
The way he wrestles and his strategy isn’t going to change. He still likes to go for his signature cradle that he’s pinned many opponents with and work from the top position, which is his strength.
“I know how to do everything to the best of my ability already,” said Lewis, who leads the team with nine wins by fall. “It’s a matter of going out there and giving 100 percent. If I do that, I am going to cradle people. That still is my bread and butter. I just have to throw my leg in and grind these guys down. The game plan doesn’t change. I am just polishing things like a topcoat. I got the foundation set – all the building blocks. I just have to go out there and prove it.”
And there’s only one way to do that – win the tournament.
“Absolutely, nothing shy of that either,” he said.