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SOU football team No. 1 in final coaches' poll

NAIA top-25 voters conveyed a clear message all season long that the Southern Oregon University football team would have to prove itself to get the rankings the Raiders felt they deserved.

So they did. And on Monday, three days after securing the program's first national championship in a 55-31 rout of Marian (Ind.), the Raiders ended the season with their first-ever No. 1 ranking.

SOU, which finished 13-2 overall, received all 12 first-place votes in the postseason top-25 that was released by the NAIA office. Marian was second, Morningside (Iowa) third and Saint Xavier (Ill.) fourth.

Frontier Conference champion Carroll – which SOU defeated 45-42 in the quarterfinals and split two games with in the regular season – settled in at No. 5, while Eastern Oregon was 15th. EOU defeated SOU 30-27 in the regular-season finale at Raider Stadium after dropping a 35-31 decision to the Raiders on Sept. 13 in La Grande. They missed out on their first postseason appearance by one spot in the rankings.

The Raiders were No. 8 going into the postseason, making them the lowest seed to win it all since NAIA Division I and II merged for football in 1997. They also had the lowest preseason ranking of any team to take the title at No. 22.

SOU made an immediate 13-spot jump into the top 10 in the first poll of the regular season, which came out after the Raiders opened with wins over Menlo, then-No. 2 Carroll and Eastern Oregon. But the Raiders never did jump Carroll in the poll despite winning their first six games. Their first loss was at then-No. 3 Carroll, 42-40, and it dropped the Raiders from No. 4 to No. 7.

They would eventually climb back to No. 4, only to be dropped four spots after the loss to then-No. 16 Eastern Oregon.

The Raiders ended up with wins against the Nos. 2, 4, 5 (twice), 9 and 15 teams in the final poll.

SOU spent a week at No. 2 during the 2002 season, which was its previous best showing in the rankings. The Raiders' previous best rankings in the postseason poll was No. 5 at the end of the 2001 and 2012 seasons, both of which came to a close with quarterfinal losses.

College Wrestling

At Reno, Nev., Brock Gutches claimed third place and Taylor Johnson took fourth to highlight the Southern Oregon University wrestling team's successful showing Sunday at the Reno Tournament of Champions.

The second-ranked Raiders placed eighth as a team, their second-ever finish in the top-10 at the TOC. They were 15th last year.

Gutches rode two pins and a decision into the 174-pound semifinals, where he was defeated 13-3 by Andrew McCulley of Wyoming, which won the team title. Gutches pinned Colorado Mesa's Randy Boerner in the consolation semifinals and won a 7-4 decision over Oklahoma State's Jordan Rogers in the third-place showdown.

Colorado Mesa would ultimately finish just behind SOU in the team standings.

Johnson, a 197-pounder, reached the quarterfinals with wins by decision against Boise State's Colton Grossaint and Oklahoma's Andrew Dixon. He fell 13-7 to Oregon State's Cody Crawford in the quarters before pulling off three consecutive consolation wins — pinning Oklahoma State's Austin Schafer, taking a 5-2 decision against Montana State-Northern's Garrett DeMers (whom he also defeated on Thursday) and winning 4-2 against CSU Bakersfield's Matt Williams. Bakersfield's Reuben Franklin defeated him for third place, 11-6.

Tyler Cowger also reached the quarterfinals at 149. Three straight decisions, the last against Jonce Blaylock of Oklahoma State, got him there. Oregon State's Jordan Hendrickson got Cowger in the quarterfinals, 10-6, and Wyoming's Jake Elliott knocked him out 5-2 in the consolation bracket.

Devin Poppen contributed three wins at 133 pounds with two consolation pins and a decision. Dalton Urrutia won three times at 157 by fall, major decision and decision, and Clayton Burtis went 3-2 with a pin in the heavyweight division.