DES MOINES, Iowa — A fifth national wrestling title is within striking distance of Southern Oregon University after the first day of the NAIA National Championships, but the Raiders will need a strong finish today to catch Grand View.
Grand View leads the field with 93 points, while second-place SOU appears to be the only team with a legitimate shot at jumping the leaders on the final day with 83. MSU-Northern is a distant third with 69.5 and Dickinson State is fourth with 53.
Four Raiders wrestlers are still alive in the championship semifinals of their respective weight classes and five more are hanging around in the consolation brackets, giving the Raiders nine All-Americans (top eight). Top-ranked 125-pounder Mitchell Lofstedt, top-ranked 174-pounder Brock Gutches, second-ranked 149-pounder Jimmy Eggemeyer and third-ranked 133-poiunder Prescott Garner each will be wrestling in the semis at the Jacobson Exhibition Center this morning.
Miguel Baltazer (133), Dalton Urritia (157), Derek Mestrovich (165), Jacob Abrams (184) and Taylor Johnson (197) also have locked up All-American status by staying alive in the consolation bracket, and today will be looking to rack up as many points as possible in order to bolster SOU's title bid.
"That's kind of the position that to some degree that we expected to be in," SOU wrestling coach Mike Ritchey said. "I'd rather be ahead by 10, but that's not the way it is right now. But we can make up some ground in the morning."
The Raiders have finished second at nationals three out of the last four years.
Lofstedt led the way with three quick pins to advance to today's semifinals. The defending champion at 125 needed a combined 3 minutes, 51 seconds to finish off his first three opponents. Lofstedt is seeking his third national title.
Garner also advanced to the final four behind three easy victories. He earned a technical fall in his first match before picking up major decision wins in the second round and the quarterfinals.
Eggemeyer won a pair of decisions to advance to the 149-pound semis, including a narrow 2-1 victory over Nick Haugen of Baker in the second round.
Gutches, who hails from Crater High School, pinned his first opponent in 45 seconds and claimed a 10-6 decision over Tanner Martin of Indiana Tech in the quarterfinals. Gutches is aiming for his second straight national title.
A pair of Raiders advanced to the quarterfinal round before falling into the consolation bracket. Mestrovich claimed a 7-3 decision in his first contest before dropping a 10-2 major decision to Grand View's Jimmie Schuessler, ranked No. 2. Mestrovich then earned a consolation victory to secure All-American status.
SOU's heavyweight, seventh-ranked Bubba Owens, won a narrow opening matchup by a tiebreaker before losing a 12-3 major decision to third-ranked Jose Lopez from Dickinson State.
Urritia and Johnson bounced back from early setbacks to win three consolation matches apiece and secure All-American status. Johnson, who is battling a leg injury and was pinned in the second round, picked up each of his three consolation wins by pin.
"In his first match he was not used to (the hurt leg)," Ritchey said of Johnson. "He was caught in a weird situation and couldn't get off his back. He's done a good job of rallying from that. I think he's comfortable wrestling on it now. If he doesn't step up, we're down by 20."
Baltazar and Abrams earned two consolation wins apiece to clinch top-eight finishes.
The meet picks up again today starting with the championship semifinals at 10 a.m. local time (8 a.m. Pacific), followed by consolation matches. The championship finals will begin at 7 p.m. (5 p.m. Pacific).
"We need some help from some other teams in the country to knock some of those (Grand View) guys out," Ritchey said, "and we'll be in the mix."
NAIA National Championships
Team scores — Grand View 93, Southern Oregon 83, MSU-Northern 69.5, Dickinson State 53, Lindsey Wilson 51.5, Great Falls 51.5, Missouri Valley 43, Campbellsville 42, Menlo 29, Midland 29, Cumberland 24.5, Morningside College 23.5, Simpson 23.5, Indiana Tech 22.5, Oklahoma City 22.5, Baker 20.5, York College 18.5, Dakota Wesleyan 16, Wayland Baptist 15.5, Hastings College 13, Missouri Baptist 11.5, University of the Cumberlands 11.5, William Penn 11.5, Bethany 9, Benedictine 8.5, Life University 8.5, Waldorf College 8.5, Calumet 7.5, Embry Riddle 6, Jamestown College 5.5, Briar Cliff 2.5, Brewton-Parker College 1, Hannibal-LaGrange 1, Bacone 0, Central Baptist 0, Northwestern 0, Truett-McConnell College 0.