SOU lays claim to another regional title
HAVRE, Mont. — For the second year in a row, the second-ranked Southern Oregon University wrestling team pushed 10 individuals through to the NAIA Championships and won three titles Saturday at the Western Region Qualifying Tournament.
It took every one of those qualifiers for the Raiders to defend their Western Region title. They won it for the sixth time in seven years with a team score of 158.5, edging out third-ranked Great Falls (Mont.), which amassed 154 points.
SOU possessed four top seeds and three of them won titles: 149-pounder Tyler Cowger, 157-pounder Dalton Urrutia and 174-pounder Brock Gutches, who remained unbeaten in four years at the qualifier.
All three championship wins were against Great Falls opponents.
"It was a war," said Raider coach Mike Ritchey, who has won 13 regional titles since taking over in 1995. "We knew it was going to be tough and we had to get intense to pull it off."
Those who finished in the top four of their brackets moved onto the NAIA tournament, which will take place in Topeka, Kan., on March 6-7.
SOU's runners-up were Ryan McWatters (184) and Taylor Johnson (197). Four Raiders won third-place matches: Devin Poppen (133), Garrett Urrutia (165), Jacob Abrams (184) and Clayton Burtis (285). Reed Tennyson (174) got by with a fourth-place finish.
Cowger, ranked fourth in the NAIA at 149, improved to 26-7 with four wins, including three with bonus points. He shut out his first opponent (8-0), Kyle Leir of Great Falls, and won by the same score in the championship against Ryan Martin of Great Falls. In between he pinned Simpson's Blaine Lindahl in the quarters and got Embry-Riddle's Anton King in the semis, 6-1.
Dalton Urrutia won the second Western Region title of his career and first since 2012. Two decisions got him to the finals — over MSU-Northern's Tommy Cooper (12-5) and Simpson's Richard Ortiz (4-0) — where he overpowered Great Falls' Chad Cebulski for a 9-4 victory.
Gutches, who will attempt to become the seventh wrestler in NAIA history to win four national titles, took a simpler path. He dominated Warner Pacific's Joe Dickinson, 15-4, then pinned Northern's Cole McArthur in the semis (4:56) and Shawn Lau in the finals (2:48). His record stands at 27-2, and his career postseason record is still perfect.
McWatters edged his teammate, Abrams, in the 184 semifinals, 5-4, and lost 2-1 to Embry-Riddle's Jose Cruz in the final. Johnson received a quarterfinal bye and pinned Simpson's Henry Campos in 2:58 to reach the 197 final. There, he lost a 9-6 decision to Northern's Garrett DeMers.
CONCORDIA 96, SOU 88: At Ashland, 11th-ranked Concordia went from down 10 to Cascade Conference co-champions in a hurry at Bob Riehm Arena.
The Cavaliers got hot at the right time to score a 96-88 win over Southern Oregon in the final game of the regular season despite the Raiders shooting 58 percent from the floor. Concordia improved to 24-5 overall and 14-4 in the CCC and, thanks to third-ranked College of Idaho’s stunning loss at Northwest University, gets to share a CCC title with the Coyotes and 16th-ranked Warner Pacific.
SOU — which was bound to playing Northwest Christian in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round of the CCC Championships before the night began — got the No. 4 seed and home game thanks to Corban’s defeat of NCU. The Raiders and Beacons will match up at 7 p.m. at Riehm Arena.
Eric Thompson and Tim Weber shined on their senior night — Thompson scored 20 of his 33 in the first half, going 13-for-21 from the field, while Weber had 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds — but not for long enough.
The Raiders led 63-54 with 13:21 to play when Concordia made its move. Justyn Searle converted a 3-point play and the Cavaliers nailed 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions — three by Zach Geary and the last by Tyler Velasquez — to go up 70-68.
Jordan West went 6-for-7 for the Raiders with 17 points, four assists and four rebounds.
SOU WINS TWICE: At Portland, Southern Oregon needed 18 days this season to beat its 2014 win total, improving to 16-4 and leaving the Northwest Cup unscathed with two more wins Saturday.
The Raiders defeated 10th-ranked Simpson (Calif.) 4-1 during the morning session as Cheyenne Bricker went to 7-1 with a four-hitter and Sulie Augustine became the seventh Raider to homer this season. In the afternoon game, SOU won 5-4 in nine innings on a walk-off error by Lewis & Clark.
Augustine put the Raiders up with an RBI single in the first inning against the Redhawks, the drove a two-run homer over the fence in right-center field in the third. Gonzalez scored twice in the game.
Bricker went all seven for the win, working around 10 base runners while striking out three. She lowered her earned-run average to 2.39.
Brianne Craig tossed five innings of two-hit, one-run relief to get the decision against the Pioneers and improve to 6-0. SOU took a 4-3 lead with a three-run fourth, starting with Gonzalez's third homer of the season, a solo shot to right field, and ending with Ayala's two-run single.
In the ninth, with an international tiebreaker in play, Megan Winton sacrificed Cortney Nolan to third base for the first out. The next batter, Tyler Burke, hit a shot to left field that was misplayed, allowing Nolan to come in for the winning run.