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SOU’s Cowger takes title at Menlo

ATHERTON, Calif. — Despite slipping in this week's NAIA rankings, the Southern Oregon University men's wrestling team continued to prove that it's still one of the teams to beat in the West Group with a second-place finish Saturday at the Menlo Invite.

Five Raiders earned top-three status within their respective brackets: 149-pound champion Tyler Cowger, 157-pound runner-up Hunter Hodges, 184-pound runner-up Ryan McWatters, third-place 125-pounder Casey Coulter and third-place heavyweight Alejandro Sandoval.

The Raiders — who own a 6-1 dual record but went from 10th to 15th in the latest NAIA poll behind three teams they've defeated head-to-head — totaled 130.5 points, trailing only San Francisco State's 144.5 in the eight-team event. They were ahead of No. 10 Great Falls (104.5 points), No. 12 Menlo (89) and No. 10 Simpson (71.5).

Cowger, who now ranks sixth individually at 149 pounds, dominated his bracket, allowing just two points in four matches. He started with a 17-0 technical fall over SF State's Daniel Contreras, and finished the day with three straight decisions: 6-0 over Cal Poly's Jack Kim, Casey Dobson, 4-1 over Casey Dobson and 5-1 over Great Falls' Kyle Leir in the title match.

In the same bracket, freshman Chandler Michael won his first two to reach the semifinals — by fall in 3:44 against Joseph Alexander, and by 9-1 major decision against SF State's Dylan Furtado — before losing 8-3 to Leir. He added a win in the consolation bracket, by fall in 4:28 over Alexander, and placed fourth. Tanner Canaday also won twice in the 149 consolations.

Hodges, a redshirt sophomore, attained runner-up status at 157 by winning his first three bouts. He defeated Jake Ceja (10-1), Bakersfield's Mike Herrera (6-1) and SF State's Travis Ino (6-3) to reach the final, where he was a 14-5 loser against fifth-ranked Richard Ortiz of Simpson. Aaron Demay also won three consolation straight contests and another by injury default to place fifth in the class.

McWatters, ranked third at 184, started with an 8-3 decision over Nicholas Fiegener in the quarterfinals and a 21-9 major over Menlo's Nate Rodriguez. He was upset in the final by fourth-ranked Brady Beamon of Simpson, 7-5.

At 125, Coulter's stellar showing began with a 3-1 win against Bakersfield's Kyle Anderson. He battled Great Falls' third-ranked Luke Schlosser in the semis but lost 5-1, then bounced back with a 4-2 defeat of Simpson's Mason Sauceda in the consolation semis and a 7-1 upending of Christian Ramos for third place.

After dropping his first match, Sandoval needed just one win, a 10-2 major against teammate Zane Wardwell in the consolation, to place third. His final consolation opponent defaulted.

Matt Peterson contributed three wins at 133 pounds. C.J. McKinnis (165) and Reed Tennyson (174) won two apiece.

SOU will next be in action with a Jan. 9 dual at Southwestern Oregon Community College.