ASHLAND — The Cascade Collegiate Conference championships are less than a month away, and one of Southern Oregon's main objectives before the dual slate closes is getting even with a top circuit rival.
At 7 p.m. this evening, the 11th-ranked Raiders will be at No. 10 Menlo (Calif.) for the teams' second matchup. On Nov. 10 at Phoenix High, the Oaks dealt SOU a 25-15 season-opening loss on Nov. 10 at Phoenix High, but they've lost eight straight to the Raiders on their home mats in Atherton, Calif.
The Oaks are 4-3 but haven't wrestled a dual since losing three of four at Desert Duals in Las Vegas on Dec. 18. The Raiders are 9-4, including 5-2 against CCC opponents, and had an eight-dual winning streak snapped last Friday with back-to-back losses against No. 14 Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) and No. 8 NCAA Division II team Simon Fraser (B.C.). They haven't lost three in a row since the 2007-08 season.
The Raiders are 27-4 all-time against the Oaks, but their current squad features seven top-20 wrestlers. Among them are No. 2 Anthony Orozco (174), No. 3 Javier Gonzalez (285) and No. 7 Joseph Jauregui (165). That trio was perfect the first time around against the Raiders as Menlo won five of the last six matches and held SOU without a bonus point.
After remaining in the Bay Area on Saturday for the California Collegiate Open at San Francisco State University, the Raiders will compete in Ashland for the first time this season on Feb. 3 — facing Warner Pacific at 1 p.m. and No. 17 Eastern Oregon at 3 p.m. at Ashland High's Mountain Avenue Gym. They'll also host Simpson (Calif.) on Feb. 7 at Ashland Middle School, and on Feb. 17 the first-ever CCC Championships will come to Ashland High. Formerly known as the NAIA West Group Qualifier, SOU last hosted the tournament six years ago but has claimed titles seven times in the previous nine seasons.
SOU junior Devin Poppen started at No. 5 in the NAIA's preseason 141-pound poll after coming up a win short of All-America status last year, but has worked his way up to No. 2 by going 23-5. The junior is also ascending on two SOU career lists: With 13 wins by fall this season, he is up to 51 career pins — just one away from matching four-time NAIA champion Brock Gutches for the No. 2 spot in program history. And with a career record of 78-36, he's moved to No. 18 on SOU wins list. He was working on a 14-match winning streak until Saturday, when teammate Andrew Ramirez defeated him in the semifinals of the Clackamas Open, but is still unbeaten in his last eight dual outings with five pins and two technical falls during the run.