Raiders second heading into final day of nationals

Four Southern Oregon wrestlers grappled their way to the championship round of their respective weight classes Friday, but the third-ranked Raiders slipped further behind top-ranked Grand View, which appears to be running away with the team title at the NAIA National Championships at Des Moines, Iowa.

Southern Oregon's Mitchell Lofstedt (125 pounds), Jimmy Eggemeyer (149), Brock Gutches (174) and Austin Vanderford (184) each won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches Friday, with Lofstedt breaking his own school pin record en route to his third finals appearance in as many attempts.

Grand View increased its 6.5-point lead over SOU through Day 1 to 23 points, 141.5 to 118.5. Campbellsville is third with 100.5 and Lindsey Wilson (84) and Oklahoma City (75) round out the top five.

Southern Oregon and Grand View each advanced four wrestlers to championship bouts, but Grand View has five more wrestlers still alive in consolation brackets while SOU has just two competing for wrestleback points. That disparity makes the possibility of an SOU comeback remote.

Still, the Raiders, who entered the meet hoping to bring home the program's fifth national title, are closing in on their third runner-up finish in the last four years.

"It's been a good (week)," said SOU head coach Mike Ritchey. "We had our hopes of getting a title, but we knew it would be tough coming into their playground. We're proud of our guys. Everybody's wrestling smart; aggressiveness wins and that's what we're doing."

The top-ranked Lofstedt steamrolled into the 125-pound finals on the strength of his 24th and 25th pins of the year. He started the day by pinning Bryden Lazaro of Dickinson State in 2 minutes, 1 second, in the quarterfinals, then broke his school record by doing the same to Deteoreious Prayther of Missouri Baptist in 2:39.

Lofstedt can clinch his second national title today when he faces fourth-ranked Kory Kistner of Morningside in the championship bout.

Eggemeyer's road to the 149-pound final was a little bumpier. Ranked No. 4, Eggemeyer began the day with a decisive 9-3 victory over sixth-ranked Brad Steele of Dickinson State, then edged third-ranked Shay Shive of Missouri Valley, 6-5. Eggemeyer will face eighth-ranked Eric Burgey of William Penn in the final.

Gutches, ranked third, continued one of the most dominant performances in the tournament by pinning eighth-ranked Tanner Martin of Indiana Tech in 1:23 in the quarterfinals and beating fourth-ranked Derek Peperas of Oklahoma City 9-3 in the semis.

Only eight other wrestlers in the whole tournament have as many pins (three) as Gutches, and of those only four have managed that feat in less combined time (9:18) — Lofstedt is one, pinning three opponents in a combined 6:31.

Vanderford, ranked third, crushed 11th-ranked Robert Shadrach of Baker, 13-1, then edged sixth-ranked Weston Keleher of Missouri Baptist, 5-4.

"The guys wrestled well in the semis and we'll take the four we've got," Ritchey said. "They're competing well, we've got six All-Americans and we've got a chance to break the second highest team total that we've had."

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