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  • SOU fourth, Gutches reaches national semis

  • TOPEKA, Kan. — Brock Gutches is within two wins of becoming the 26th three-time titlist in NAIA wrestling history, and five other Raiders have locked up All-American status after the first of two days at the NAIA Championships.
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  • TOPEKA, Kan. — Brock Gutches is within two wins of becoming the 26th three-time titlist in NAIA wrestling history, and five other Raiders have locked up All-American status after the first of two days at the NAIA Championships.
    Southern Oregon University's 174-pound junior had his way again Friday inside the Kansas Expocentre, defeating Oklahoma City's Jared Lass by fall in his first match and Indiana Tech's LJ Grayson by technical fall in the quarterfinal round.
    Gutches will see second-ranked Jimmie Schuessler of Grand View (Iowa), last year's champion at 165 pounds, in the semifinals. The championship round is scheduled to begin today at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
    An otherwise rocky quarterfinal round wrecked the Raiders' hopes for a team title, but nine of their 10 representatives registered victories to score 47.5 team points, lodging them in a fourth-place tie with Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). Top-ranked Grand View (113 points), poised to win its third straight championship, is well ahead of second-place Great Falls (51) and third-place Montana State-Northern (50) — meaning SOU's fifth runner-up finish in six years is well within reach.
    "We just had some tough draws and I think we probably lost to some finalists," SOU coach Mike Ritchey said. "In our quarterfinal matches we had to really step up and if we win those some of those guys would have went who knows how far. But the guys bounced back and showed some character, so it's one of those years where you take what you can get and build on it."
    Four Raiders reached the quarters before falling: 125-pounder Jacob Stigall, 149-pounder Tyler Cowger, 184-pounder Jacob Abrams and 197-pounder Taylor Johnson. All four rebounded with consolation wins and will be in the consolation quarterfinals of their respective brackets.
    Heavyweight Clayton Burtis isn't done either. He bounced from a loss in his first match with consecutive consolation wins against Midland's Lonnie Brown (8-3), Waldorf's Angel Gomez (6-4) and Morningside's Tyler Kacmarynski (sudden victory).
    Johnson, who was No. 2 in the final rankings, started his day with 15-2 drubbing of York's Logan Paul Eickoff and a 3-2 decision over Life's Jacob Dempsey. He was pinned 1 minute, 41 seconds into his quarterfinal match against Dickinson State's Jesse Hellinger, then took his consolation by 9-0 major decision against Bethany's Taylor Baird and can still improve on his fifth-place finish of 2013.
    Abrams will also be a repeat All-American but had to knock out teammate Tucker Van Matre in his consolation by 5-3 decision to move on. He was victorious by decision in the first round against Baker's John Hambleton and by technical fall against Waldorf's Brock Binversie, and lost a quarterfinal, 5-3, to Life's Trey Hicks, another returning All-American.
    Stigall, a freshman, won twice to reach the quarterfinals — he beat Waldorf's Bo Bettison (10-6) and Baker's Alan Callahan (10-2) — while Cowger, another freshman, got there by sudden victory over Missouri Valley's Jake Ekster. Both were directed out of the championship bracket via pins.
    Stigall trailed by one late when he was turned over by Austin Mogg of Concordia for a pin at the 5:39 mark.
    "He was going for a takedown to win the match," Ritchey said. "He had to take a shot. He was in deep and (Mogg) just kind of battled out and caught him. Nothing wrong with that."
    Stigall came back with a major decision of Missouri Valley's Ryan Stearns, and Cowger ended the day by topping Menlo's Jason Ladd, 2-0.
    Van Matre, 141-pounder Johnathon Gay and 165-pounder Garrett Urrutia pitched in with one consolation win apiece.
    Gutches is now 11-0 in his career at the NAIA Championships with six pins. He finished off Lass in 2:42 and wrapped up his technical fall against Grayson in 5:27 with the score 18-1.
    Gutches figures to have his hands full with Schuessler, who's 30-4. The winner of that match will face either third-ranked Brady Beamon of Simpson or fourth-ranked Jared Miller of Montana State-Northern.
    "(Schuessler's) legit," Ritchey said. "We gotta dominate him on our feet. He's pretty tough on his top position so we're going to get aggressive and I think (Gutches) is superior on his feet and we're going to take advantage of that."
    All five of the other defending national champions at the tournament also remain in the hunt to repeat. Grand View has nine wrestlers remaining in the championship brackets, while Great Falls, MSU-Northern and Lindsey Wilson have two apiece.
    The top three teams are awarded trophies.
    "We're in trophy contention," said Ritchey. "These matches [on Saturday] are worth 3.5 points, plus bonus points. So if (Gutches) wins that would be worth seven plus bonus. So there are some points to be had out there."
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