TOPEKA, Kan. — Tyler Cowger joined his coach, Mike Ritchey, in becoming one of seven four-time NAIA All-American in Southern Oregon wrestling history Friday at the NAIA Championships. More importantly, the quest for his first title went on without interruption at the Kansas Expocentre.
Seeded fourth at 149 pounds, Cowger advanced to today's semifinals along with 157-pound teammate Hunter Hodges. They clinched All-America status, and SOU's Andrew Orr (174) and Tanner Fischer (197) did the same by staying alive in the consolation rounds.
Ranked 10th, the Raiders finished the day with 48.5 points and sit in third place in the team standings. Seven of their eight competitors registered at least two wins, and Devin Poppen (141) and Chandler Michael (157) were both a win away from reaching the placing rounds.
Today's action starts at 8 a.m. Pacific Time, and the finals are scheduled for 5 p.m. Top-ranked Grand View (Iowa) is a shoo-in to claim its sixth championship in a row with 126.5 points to second-place Lindsey Wilson's 50.5 and has nine wrestlers in semifinals.
Cowger improved to 32-4 overall and got by with three straight decisions. He took Indiana Tech's Robert Humphrey in the first round, 4-2, and shut out Missouri Valley's Kenny Boyd in the second, 6-0. In the quarterfinals he held on to defeat the No. 12 seed, Cumberlands' Hunter Bell, 5-4. Meanwhile, Baker's Victor Hughes — who defeated Cowger in last year's title bout – was knocked out in the second round. Cowger will take on top-seeded Scottie Bonds of Midland in the semis.
Hodges, who placed eighth a year ago, was seeded third at 157 and received a first-round bye. In the second he topped Midland's Paul Longshore, 5-2, and in the quarterfinals he pinned sixth-seeded Tobias Barnes of Missouri Valley in 2:31. It was his 26th victory of the season and set up a semifinal tilt against second-seeded Brandon Weber of Montana State-Northern, who pinned Michael in the quarters and defeated Hodges 6-3 in the West Group finals. The Nos. 1 and 4 seeds are still alive on the other side of the bracket.
After losing his first 174-pound match, Orr finished with back-to-back pins — SOU's most unlikely upset included. Seeded ninth, he got a bye in the first round and lost to eighth-seeded Antonio Rodriguez of Indiana Tech in the second, 4-3. He skipped the first consolation round thanks to a medical forfeit, then pinned Keion McVay of Williams Baptist in 5:48 and third-seeded Andras Lukacs-Farkas of Northwestern in 1:41.
Orr can place anywhere from third to eighth, and the same goes for Fischer, who last year was a win short of placing.
Fischer, seeded 10th at 197, received two byes — one in the first round and the other after he was pinned by Concordia's Ken Burkhardt Jr. one second before the third-period buzzer in the second round. He stayed alive with two pins — in 4:26 against Lyon's Troy Mercer, and in 6:06 against 12th-seeded Eric Fan of Eastern Oregon.
Michael, seeded 10th, started his day by eking out a 3-2 win against Matt Mattingly of Hannibal-LaGrange, the notched SOU's first big upset of the first day — a 14-6 major decision over seventh-seeded Tyler Lashbrook of Morningside. Weber needed 3:49 to pin him in the quarters. He had a lead against fifth-seeded Martin Phillips before Phillips pinned him 31 seconds into the second period.
Poppen was the fourth Raider to reach the quarterfinals. Following a first-round bye, the fourth-seeded redshirt-sophomore handled Waldorf's Taylor Lehman, 9-2. Jamestown's Dillon Kifer won by fall in 3:17 to send Poppen to the consolation bracket, where he was upset 9-8 by the No. 12 seed, Benedictine's Kevin Kelly.
Aaron DeMay (165) contributed a major decision and 4.5 team points to the Raiders' cause. Hodges scored a team-high 11 points.
TEAM SCORES (top-10 of 46) — Grand View (Iowa) 126.5, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 50.5, Southern Oregon 48.5, Campbellsville (Ky.) 46.5, Indiana Tech 45.5, Cumberlands (Ky.) 41.5, Williams Baptist (Ark.) 37, Cumberland (Tenn.) 35, Midland (Neb.) 35, Life (Ga.) 32.
At Caldwell, Idaho, Southern Oregon shut down College of Idaho for 13 innings in the teams' Cascade Conference openers Friday but couldn't get the final out it needed to complete the sweep.
Gabby Sandoval joined an exclusive club in the opener, becoming the second Raider ever to debut in CCC play with a shutout, tossing a two-hitter in a 5-0 win. In Game 2, freshman Karlee Coughlin took a two-hit shutout and 2-0 lead into the seventh inning but C of I's Katelyn Geyer spoiled the effort by hitting a two-out, two-run double, and in the eighth Delaney Atkins drove Sandoval's full-count pitch to deep left for a double that scored Angelina Romero from first for a 3-2 Yotes win.
SOU went to 12-4 overall and C of I to 3-6. The teams will play for the series at 11 a.m. Mountain Time today, and they'll follow that with a nonleague tilt if weather permits.
Without injured three-time conference all-star Destiny Turner in the C of I lineup, Sandoval went mostly unchallenged in her eighth win and second shutout of the season. She struck out six, walked four and only allowed two Yotes to reach second base.
Though they left eight on base, the Raiders had 14 hits off Colette Robert. Harlee Donovan went 3-for-4, including a two-run homer – her second of the season – that made it 4-0 in the seventh. Kayleen Smith, Taylor Martinez, Abigail Lund, Aaliyah Oliver and Coughlin had two singles apiece. SOU scored its first two runs unearned in the second and sixth, and Oliver's bases-loaded walk accounted for the final run in the seventh.
The Raiders scored both of their Game 2 runs in the first as their first four batters reached base. Kelsey Randall singled, Smith was hit by a pitch, Donovan singled and a throwing error on the play allowed Randall to score, and Nicole Cardoza reached on an error but was credited with an RBI.
The Yotes committed six errors in the game, including three in the opening frame.
Track and Field
Johnson City, Tenn., Southern Oregon redshirt-junior Matt East ran a season-best 22.04 seconds in the 200-meter prelims Friday, placing 15th of 23 on Day 2 of the NAIA Indoor Championships.
Because he was not among the top eight, though, East will not appear in Saturday's 200 final. Seeded eighth, he was third of five in his heat, which was won by Lindsey Wilson's Kevin Hallmon with the No. 2 overall qualifying time of 21.51.
Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) also had the top qualifier — DeQuan Robinson, 21.44. The final qualifier clocked in at 21.67.
The Raiders will still be represented in two finals today — Jessa Perkinson in the women's mile at 9:25 a.m. Pacific Time, and the women's distance medley relay at 1:20 p.m.