Southern Oregon wrestling coach Mike Ritchey had reason to like what he got out of a healthy lineup last Saturday, when the sixth-ranked Raiders totaled five pins in a 43-6 win at Pacific.
He'd like some affirmation when the Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) Eagles come to town this Thursday for a 7 p.m. matchup at Bob Riehm Arena.
The Raiders, now 4-2 in dual meets, have just two more home dates, the other being with Pacific on Feb. 15. They'll be on the road Saturday to face Air Force, an NCAA Division I opponent, at 5 p.m. inside Oregon State's Gill Coliseum.
"We have our guys going pretty well right now and our lineup's getting solidified," said Ritchey, who is attempting to lead SOU to its 44th straight winning season. "We have an opportunity this week to get some really quality matches in and keep going in the right direction."
SOU is 3-0 at home this season and has won 11 straight in Ashland since Embry-Riddle pulled off a 28-16 upset of the top-ranked Raiders on Nov. 5, 2011. The Eagles were No. 16 in the NAIA then, and at the moment are four spots out of the top-20 poll coming off a 22-21 win over Simon Fraser. The Raiders lead the series 17-3.
The Eagles will likely put two nationally-ranked wrestlers on the mat: No.5 Sean Sliva, a 125-pound senior who was responsible for a win by fall in the 2011 upset; and Luke Riley, ranked No. 16 at 165 pounds. They'll be challenged by SOU's seventh-ranked Jacob Stigall (125), who is 7-5 after his pin last Saturday, and Garrett Urrutia, who is 7-6.
Projected to wrestle for the Eagles at 157 is Illinois Valley product Matt Coultas - a redshirt-sophomore who is the brother of former Raider softball player Ricci Gibson, and brother-in-law of former SOU all-American and coach Joel Gibson — while Jose Cruz, a Grants Pass alum ranked No. 5 in the West Region, is slotted in at 174 to face top-ranked Brock Gutches.
"I'm sure they're going to be an aggressive team, so we're going to have to stay on the attack and do the things we're good at," Ritchey said.
SOU can expect more of the same from Air Force, which is 7-2 overall and the No. 31 team at the NCAA level, according to InterMat Wrestling. The Raiders are 3-0 in the series with the Falcons and defeated them 20-15 in Corvallis on Dec. 18, 2009.
Air Force will first meet Oregon State on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Along with Gutches, Taylor Johnson (197) will also be protecting his No. 1 ranking for the Raiders. Gutches is 17-3 with 11 wins by fall.
His only losses have been at the hands of NCAA Division I wrestlers — and Johnson is 3-0 with two pins and a technical fall in three dual matches.