SOU wrestlers take fifth at nationals
TOPEKA, Kan. — The Southern Oregon men's wrestling team won't return from the NAIA Championships with a title, but the Raiders still exceeded expectations by finishing fifth overall at the Kansas Expocentre.
Ranked 10th when the tournament started, SOU clinched four All-America finishes Friday and split its placing matches Saturday. Tyler Cowger (149 pounds) and Hunter Hodges (157) took fourth, while Andrew Orr (174) and Tanner Fischer (197) went out with wins to place seventh.
The Raiders were tied for the eighth-most wrestlers at the tournament with eight and got multiple wins from seven of them. They went 19-16 with 10 bonus-point wins. Of SOU's 60.5 points, Hodges led the way with 16.5 and Cowger and Orr contributed 12.5 apiece.
SOU has produced at least four All-Americans in 10 consecutive seasons.
Grand View (Iowa) ran away with its sixth championship in a row and set a record with 234.5 points to second-place Lindsey Wilson's 74.5.
Cowger joined Brock Gutches and Mitchell Loftstedt as the only individuals in Raider history with four top-five finishes. Seeded fourth at 149, he was in the semifinals for the second year in a row and dropped a 7-4 decision to top-seeded Scottie Bonds of Midland. Cowger rebounded with a 2-1 defeat of Morningside's fifth-seeded Steven Garcia in the consolation semis before losing the third-place match to No. 8 Daniel Leonard of Lindsey Wilson 6-5.
Cowger completed his career with a record of 114-32, including marks of 33-6 this season and 16-7 in four appearances at the NAIA Championships. He's third on SOU's all-time wins list.
The third-seeded Hodges also started the day with a loss in the 157-pound semis, 5-1 to second-seeded Brandon Weber of Montana State-Northern. Hodges only needed 16 seconds to pin ninth-seeded Skylar Weber of Briar Cliff in the consolation semis, and lost a 9-3 decision to fourth-seeded Nate Croley of Cumberland in the third-place match.
Now a two-time All-American, the redshirt sophomore finished with a record of 27-9.
Orr, a No. 9 seed, defeated Jamestown's Mike Zupan 14-6 in the 174-pound seventh-place match — his team-leading third bonus-point win of the tournament. His day started with a 4-1 loss to second-seeded Dylan Blackford of Grand View.
Fischer also won his seventh-place match handily at 197, 6-0 over Baker's David Dow. John Dennis, the No. 4 seed from Grand View, sent him there with a 9-4 decision to start the day. Fischer ended the season with a record of 29-10.
Since 2000, the Raiders have finished in the top-five 11 times.
Track and Field
RELAY TEAM SECOND: At Johnson City, Tenn., Natalie Berania, Loghan Sprauer, Kayle Blackmore and Jessa Perkinson set a new standard for Southern Oregon's women’s relay teams at the NAIA Indoor Championships.
The Raiders captured second place in the distance medley relay final in 11 minutes 53.97 seconds — 10 seconds faster than their previous best this season and 10 seconds faster than the time that made them fifth in last year’s final, which was, at the time, the best-ever finish for an SOU women’s relay team at a national meet.
The Raiders were in fifth when Perkinson took the handoff for the final, mile-long leg. By the time she entered the last lap, SOU was in second and just a few strides behind Oklahoma City, which won the title with a time of 11:51.57. Northwest (Washington) finished third in 12:00.93.
Berania ran the 1,200-meter portion, Sprauer the 400 and Blackmore the 800.
Perkinson earned All-American status in the mile, placing fourth 4:58.16. Oklahoma City’s Aminat Olowora won in 4:48.01.
Perkinson is now a seven-time NAIA All-American.
SOU SWEEPS: At Caldwell, Idaho, Southern Oregon completed a series victory over College of Idaho, taking 13-7 and 8-4 decisions.
The first win made the Raiders (14-4 overall) 2-1 in the Cascade Conference-opening series against the Yotes (3-8), and the second was a nonleague game.
Kelsey Randall went 6-for-9 with two triples, a double and four runs on the day — she had three hits in each of the last three games of the series — and Tyler Burke and Taylor Martinez both launched two-run home runs in the finale.
SOU totaled 24 hits on the day and 44 on the weekend. C of I aided the effort with 17 errors that led to 12 unearned runs over the four-game set.
Three of those errors occurred in the fourth inning of Game 1 Saturday, helping the Raiders to turn a 4-3 disadvantage into a 9-4 lead. They had five hits in the frame — Randall, Karlee Coughlin and Hannah Wessel had RBI singles — but five of the runs scored after the Yotes could have already been out of the inning.
Harlee Donovan went 2-for-4, hitting a run-scoring single in the first and a run-scoring infield single in the third, and Aaliyah Oliver went 3-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored. Burke added two hits, including a three-run double to left-center field in the sixth.
Lexie Raasch picked up the first win of her career with two innings of relief, and Coughlin allowed two hits and one run over three innings to earn the save.