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Southern Oregon Nov 4 Wrestling UPdate

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Southern Oregon Nov 4 Wrestling UPdate

Postby Allen Brown » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:53 pm

SOU Sports Information

7 p.m. Wednesday - Red & Black Intrasquad - Riehm Arena
6:30 p.m. Friday - #17 Menlo at #13 SOU - Riehm Arena

ASHLAND – There isn't a transition the Southern Oregon University men's wrestling program hasn't gone through as it begins its 60th season of existence this week.

That might be why Mike Ritchey, in his 21st year as head coach, is looking at replacing seven wrestlers who were at the top of SOU's depth chart in their respective weight classes as just another challenge instead of reason to panic.

The Raiders, ranked 13th in the NAIA preseason poll and coming off their fifth national runner-up finish in seven years, will launch what they hope to make their 46th consecutive winning season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against 17th-ranked Menlo. The dual will be SOU's last at Riehm Arena before it undergoes a complete reconstruction, and will be the first men's and women's intertwined dual at SOU.

It should also give Ritchey more clarity in terms of where the Raiders stand – outside of two-time All-American Tyler Cowger (149 pounds), returning starters Casey Coulter (125) and Trevor Hancock (141), and seniors Ryan McWatters (184) and Reed Tennyson (174), who previously shared mat time behind two All-Americans.

"It'll be interesting – even our veterans are kind of young," Ritchey said. "I see some good things and some things we have to improve on. That being said, I think they're all competitors and it's just a matter of gaining some experience and confidence."

Last Season: The Raiders had a 14-2 dual record in 2014-15, a mark that included three wins at the Cliff Keen National Dual Championships before falling to Grand View (Iowa) in the title. Grand View also won its fourth straight title at the NAIA Championships, but SOU edged out Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) for second place (the Raiders came in ranked fourth) behind six All-Americans: Brock Gutches (champion, 174 lbs.), Taylor Johnson (champion, 197), Dalton Urrutia (2nd place, 157), Jacob Abrams (3rd, 184), Cowger (5th, 149) an Dalton Urrutia (7th, 165). Gutches became the seventh wrestler in NAIA history to win back-to-back-to-back-to-back individual titles, and Johnson delivered the program's 35th all-time individual title.

125-141 pounds: At 125 pounds, sophomore Casey Coulter is coming off a respectable freshman campaign in which he went 9-9, and will open ranked fifth in the West Region. He placed fifth in the West last season and was granted an at-large berth to the NAIA Championships.

Matt Peterson is likely to take over at 133 pounds as one of SOU's true-freshman starters. At Hillsboro High, he set school records for pins, reversals and escapes and was the Class 5A state runner-up last year with a 40-10 record. He'll be taking over the class for Devin Poppen, who had 19 pins as a freshman but is a redshirt candidate as he transitions to 141.

"Peterson is a scrambler," Ritchey said. "He's more of a mat wrestler than on his feet, but he keeps wrestling for seven minutes."

At 141, junior Trevor Hancock is ranked 16th in the NAIA and third in the West. He was one of several Raiders to get an opportunity in that class last year and posted a record of 7-11. Behind him, freshman Justin Acuff comes to SOU after becoming Sheridan High's first-ever three-time state champion at the 3A level. He went 34-3 at 138 pounds as a senior.

149-165 pounds: There have only been six four-time All-Americans in SOU wrestling history, but Tyler Cowger could be on his way to becoming the seventh after taking fifth place at 149 pounds each of the last two years. Now ranked second in the NAIA and first in the West, the Raiders will rely on him to be a consistent force again after he went 28-9 and won a regional title as a sophomore.

"He's established and needs to maintain his dominance within the region," Ritchey said. "Our veterans will have to step up and get bonus points, and he's one of them."

Chandler Michael, the OSAA Class 6A 145-pound champion last year, went 35-3 as a senior at Barlow High and has also impressed Ritchey early on.

At 157, Kyle Sether will move up a couple weight classes to take on the starting role. He sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame College (Ohio), but was a two-time state champ at Oregon City High and went 47-0 against in-state competition as a senior in 2012-13. Hunter Hodges, a transfer who went 11-8 at Cal State-Bakersfield last season, could also make noise in that class.

SOU's starting 165-pounder will be another true freshman, C.J. McKinnis. Ranked sixth in the West, McKinnis went 60-7 over his final two seasons at Sandy High, placing third in the state as a junior at 152 and third in the state as a senior at 160.

174-Heavyweight: Reed Tennyson finished strong last season, placing fourth at the West Regionals in the 174-pound bracket to finish with a record of 12-11, and SOU will hope to see him make the jump this year with Gutches out of the lineup. He's ranked second in the West and 12th in the nation.

Another veteran, Ryan McWatters, will take over full-time at 184 ranked second in the West and fourth in the NAIA. The senior was a runner-up at the West Regionals and came away from his first appearance at the NAIA Championships with two wins, finishing up at 21-10.

At 197, redshirt-freshman Tanner Fischer takes over for Johnson as one of Ritchey's top picks to surprise opponents. The third product of Oregon City in the lineup, Fischer's prep career was decorated with third-place and runner-up showings at the state championships.

The 285-pound class will be highlighted initially by sophomore Alejandro Sandoval and freshman Zane Wardwell. Sandoval was behind All-American Clayton Burtis as a freshman, going 7-10 in limited action. The 6-foot-6 Wardwell was a two-time heavyweight state champ at the OSAA Class 4A level for Elmira, going 35-2 as a senior.

"Those guys have separated themselves from the group at this point," Ritchey said. "Now they just have to show what they can do when it counts."
Allen Brown

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