ASHLAND - Southern Oregon's eight qualifiers for the 61st annual NAIA Wrestling Championships all had to earn their spots the hard way, and the 10th-ranked Raiders can't anticipate that anything will come easy once the tournament begins, either.
Competition will get underway at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa, at 10 a.m. Central Time on Friday starting with the round of 32. The first of two days will conclude with quarterfinals and consolations at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday's wrestling picks up at 10 a.m. with the semifinals. The 7 p.m. finals will be broadcast online on ESPN3.
The Raiders will be going for their 10th consecutive top-10 finish after overachieving with a fifth-place showing a year ago, when they also entered the weekend at No. 10 in the polls. Two weeks ago they were projected to finish third at the Cascade Conference Championships and captured a co-title following a 12-5 dual season.
The Raiders qualified eight individuals automatically at the CCC meet - matching the number of wrestlers they brought to the NAIA meet the last two years - but were not awarded any at-large berths. Four teams, including six-time defending champion Grand View (Iowa), will feature 11 or more individuals in the tournament.
Among the Raiders' entries, four have been here before: Devin Poppen (141 pounds), Chandler Michael (149), Hunter Hodges (157) and Tanner Fischer (197). Hodges and Fischer are returning All-Americans, while Poppen and Michael have both previously come up one win short of the top-eight honor.
The entirety of the tournament will be broadcast live by TrackWrestling. To purchase, scroll and click the "Video" tab. Use the code NAIAFF to get 25% off the tournament package.
SOU Tournament History
• The Raiders have claimed 36 individual titles, the highest number in tournament history among active NAIA programs. (Montana State-Northern is second with 36, and Simon Fraser has the record among all programs with 39.) The most recent were won by Brock Gutches and Taylor Johnson in 2015. Between 2009 and 2015, the team accumulated 13 championships.
• SOU has produced at least four All-Americans in each of the last 10 seasons.
• Since 2000, the Raiders have finished in the top-five 11 times. They've won four team titles: in 1978, 1983, 1994 and 2001. In the seven-year stretch preceding their 10th-place finish in 2016, they were second in the team standings five times.
• At last year's tournament, seven of SOU's eight wrestlers who competed won at least two matches.