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Four Raiders in semis at NAIAs

TOPEKA, Kan. — Four Southern Oregon University wrestlers remained in the hunt for titles Friday and two others joined them in clinching All-American status after the first day of the NAIA Wrestling Championships at the Kansas Expocentre.

All four Raiders who reached the semifinals — 149-pounder Tyler Cowger, 157-pounder Dalton Urrutia, 174-pounder Brock Gutches and 197-pounder Taylor Johnson — have been All-Americans before. Only Gutches has previously won an individual championship.

The quest for Gutches to become the seventh wrestler in NAIA history to win four titles is off to a familiar start. Following an opening-round bye he pinned Missouri Valley's David Fenton in 4:27 in the second round, then pinned eighth-ranked Tyler Brown of Dicksinson State in 1:10 for his quarterfinal victory. He's now 15-0 all-time at the tournament with nine wins by fall.

Fourth-ranked SOU is tied for third place with Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) at 62 points in the team standings. Grand View (Iowa), shooting for its fourth straight title, totaled 83 to open up a 19-point lead over second-place Great Falls (Mont.), and Oklahoma City is well behind in fifth with 41 points. Grand View has sixth wrestlers in the semis, Great Falls five and Lindsey Wilson three.

"We aren't sitting where we wanted to be but we'll take six All-Americans and see where we end up tomorrow," SOU coach Mike Ritchey said. "We're excited to have four semifinals and there's a lot of wrestling left to do."

The final day of the season begins at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. The finals, which will air live on NAIANetwork.com, begin at 5 p.m.

Nine of 11 Raiders in action contributed team points with at least one win.

Devin Poppen (133), Garrett Urrutia (165) and Jacob Abrams (184) each advanced to the quarterfinal rounds of their respective brackets and lost. But Urrutia and Abrams recovered by ending the night with consolation wins, meaning they'll place between third and eighth depending on how they perform today.

Johnson and Abrams are now the 26th and 27th three-time All-Americans in SOU history. Gutches is the program's sixth four-time All-American, joining a group that includes Ritchey.

Cowger, ranked No. 4 at 149, is in position to better his fifth-place finish of a year ago after shutting out Wayland Baptist's Victor Thomas in his first match and getting 11th-ranked Dallas Brown in a quarterfinal tiebreaker, 2-1. He'll meet top-ranked Jake Ester of Missouri Valley in the semis.

Third-ranked Dalton Urrutia's day started eventful and ended the same way. In the first round he needed an overtime takedown of Bethany's Jonathan Blackwell for a 7-5 sudden victory, and in the second round he controlled Briar Cliff's Joseph Weber, 5-1. Urrutia's 7-6 decision over Baker's Nick Haugen put him in the semis, where he will face seventh-ranked Sean Elkins of Dickinson State.

Johnson, who placed third last season and fifth in 2013, quickly pinned consecutive opponents to land in the semis — Indiana Tech's Brandon Sunday (1:28) and York's Logan Paul Eickhoff (0:28). He opened with a 6-1 first-round decision against Oklahoma City's Miguel Tovar. The third-ranked 197-pounder has to go through No. 1 Hudson Buck of Dickinson State next.

Abrams reached the quarters via a 9-5 victory over Dickinson State's Jon Solano and lost a tight one to the third-ranked 184-pounder, Oklahoma City's Derek Sivertsen, 3-2. He had to defeat a teammate, Ryan McWatters, 3-1 to stay alive in the consolation bracket. McWatters had won two straight decisions in the wrestleback after falling 7-6 to Life's Dalton Bailey in the opening round.

Following a first-round bye, Garrett Urrutia opened with a 9-3 upset win against Life's sixth-ranked Oliver Brukardt but was stopped by seventh-ranked Michael Nord of Jamestown in the quarters. He topped Missouri Valley's Nico Martinez, 3-1, to become a first-time All-American.

Poppen needed one win to reach the quarters — 11-4 against Graceland's Cartland Allen — and was eliminated by Indiana Tech's Mitch Pawlak (11-1) and Menlo's Brian Ha (7-3).

Heavyweight Clayton Burtis, an All-American last season, fell just short of the honor again by going 2-2 on the day with a pin in the first round and a decision in the second round of the consolation bracket. His season came to an end by a slim 3-2 decision against Briar Cliff's Abram Reynolds.