ASHLAND — Second-ranked Southern Oregon returns to the mat to host No. 12 Menlo at 7 tonight at Bob Riehm Arena in a dual between the top two NAIA wrestling programs on the West Coast.
Southern Oregon is 1-0 in duals this season after earning a 23-17 win over No. 8 Great Falls on Nov. 16. Menlo enters with a 1-2 dual record, with losses to California Baptist and Stanford and a 34-12 win over Simpson.
"They're always tough on their feet," SOU head coach Mike Ritchey said of Menlo. "It's a great test for us. They're pretty slick wrestlers and we're looking forward to getting after them."
Following the home dual, the Raiders will head to Redding, Calif., Thursday to take on a Simpson program beginning its first season of competition.
But Ritchey is focusing on the Oaks in tonight's matchup.
"It should be an interesting dual — I think it's a pretty even matchup," Ritchey said. "I know they're tougher than their ranking."
Southern Oregon owns a 16-3 all-time dual record against Menlo in a series that stretches to the 2001-02 season. The Oaks picked up wins in the 2002-03 and '07-08 seasons, with the Raiders sweeping the rest of the matchups, including the past seven.
The Raiders will send most of their nine ranked wrestlers into action tonight, with top-ranked Mitchell Lofstedt leading the way at 125 pounds.
Southern Oregon's other two top-ranked wrestlers — Jimmy Eggemeyer at 149 and for Crater standout Brock Gutches at 174 — will either not compete or wrestle in a different bracket from their rankings.
Perhaps the most compelling battle on paper is at 133, where SOU's fifth-ranked Prescott Garner will take on No. 2 Angel Garcia.
The Oaks will have five ranked wrestlers competing, with Garcia and 10th-ranked Eric Lopez (165) leading the way.
SWEAT HONORED — Southern Oregon junior Melissa Sweat has been named Cascade Collegiate Conference player of the week for the second consecutive week.
Sweat has been a dominant player through the first month for the Raiders, averaging 19.5 points per game while shooting better than 70 percent (58 of 82).
She continued her excellent start to the season last week, connecting on 18 of 22 shot attempts, including 5 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line, while adding 11 rebounds and four assists in two games. It's her third such honor in four weeks this season.
The Raiders split a pair of games at last weekend's Flagship Inn Classic, defeating Lewis-Clark State 88-59 before falling to Puget Sound 93-81.
RAIDERS RECOGNIZED — Strong performances in all three games last week garnered 23rd-ranked Southern Oregon Cascade Collegiate Conference recognition as the team of the week.
The Raiders earned a double-digit rivalry win over defending national champion and second-ranked Oregon Tech, knocking off the Owls 76-60 on Tuesday in Ashland for SOU's first win against OIT since 2009.
Southern Oregon followed that up with a 110-80 victory over New Hope Christian at the Flagship Inn Classic on Friday. The win marked SOU's first triple-digit performance since 2002, and the 110 points were the Raiders' most in a game since SOU defeated Warner Pacific 114-65 during the 1994-95 season.
The Raiders' lone setback of the week was an 87-84 loss to undefeated Lewis-Clark State, an undefeated NAIA Division I team, on Saturday. Southern Oregon is 6-3 and opens conference play with games at Northwest Christian and Corban this weekend.