Clackamas CC wrestlers seek record fifth straight National Duals title
Quick, when was the last time the Clackamas Community College wrestling team lost in a dual match?
Those who follow the Cougars closely know that it was more than two years ago on Dec. 18, 2015, when Oregon State thumped Clackamas 45-0 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
Since then, the Cougars have won 33 consecutive duals and among the favorites heading into the two-day NWCA National Duals Championships beginning Thursday at War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Clackamas is the four-time defending tournament champions in the NJCAA division and the Cougars have drawn the top seed in this year's 16-team bracket as they take aim on a record fifth consecutive team title.
"I feel pretty good about how we look," Cougars coach Josh Rhoden said. "I think we have a really well-rounded team that is going to see competitive matches.
"We're not going to be outclassed so much that it costs us six points in a dual meet where that's the most important thing — not giving up bonus points with pins and technical falls. Outside of somebody getting caught, I just don't think we have anybody that's going to give up too many free points."
The Cougars' projected starting lineup for the tournament looks like this:
125 - DeVaughn Sapien (7-2) is ranked No. 3 in his weight class and could see No. 5 Emmanuel Brown of Iowa Western and No. 6 Boo Dryden of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, assuming the tournament plays out as expected.
133 - Elijah Ozuna (17-2) scored a 10-0 major decision over Eastern Oregon's Blake McNall, extending his winning streak to 10 matches. Ozuna took top honors at 133 at the Spokane Open in November.
141 - No. 3-ranked Ralph Tovar (18-2) is undefeated against NJCAA competition. His only losses were to Air Force's Lyle Plummer at the University of Wyoming's Cowboy Open and to Oregon State's Grant Willits in the championship finals of the Mike Clock Open at Pacific University.
149 - Jasiah Williams, ranked No. 4, has a 9-2 recored, but had a tough draw at the Dec. 17 Reno Tournament of Champions where he suffered his first two losses of the season to Wyoming's Ben Hornickle and Southern Oregon's Chandler Michael.
157 - No. 6-ranked Isaiah Diggs is 16-3 with three major decisions, two technical falls, and three pins. He lost his opening match at the Reno Tournament of Champions, but then came back and pinned Arizona's Andres Piedra in the consolation round.
165 - Dayton Racer (16-2), ranked No. 3, went 3-1 at the Reno Tournament of Champions and reached the semifinals at 157 before dropping a 7-3 decision to North Carolina State's Hayden Hilday.
174 - Top-ranked Dylan Reel (10-0) pinned Southern Oregon's Calvin McKinnis at 5:53 in the finals of the Mike Clock Open.
184 - No. 6-ranked Nick Maximov (13-6) reached the finals of the Mike Clock Open before falling to Southwestern Oregon's Tanner Harvey by technical fall. Maximov also advanced to the quarterfinals of the Spoke Open.
197 - Gage Harrah (10-4) is coming off an 8-7 sudden-victory win over Arizona State's Cade Belshay at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
285- Darryl Aiello (18-6) needed only 35 seconds to put away Eastern Oregon's Taben Mansarey, capping the Cougars' 49-0 dual win in La Grande on Dec. 9.
Clackamas is also taking 125-pounder Jordan Kannys and 133/141-pounder Jerry Mealey to as reinforcements.
"I like our guys a lot and I think they give us a great chance to win, and not only in dual meets, but I think we're a pretty good tournament team as well in terms of being able to score lots of points," Rhoden said. "I'll be interested to see how they compete. And not just like, 'Hey, yeah we all want to win.' but, 'Hey, we want to win for each other,' because we're going to be put in situations where that's going to matter."
The Cougars open the National Duals against No. 16-seed Triton College of River Grove, Illinois, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals to face either No. 8 Lincoln of Decatur, Illinois, and No. 9 Southwestern Oregon of Coos Bay.
If the top seeds survive the first two rounds without any upsets, Clackamas would end up facing No. 4 Iowa Western of Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the semifinals, and could possibly finish against No. 2 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M of Miami, Oklahoma in the final.
"More than anything, we would like to see some different teams," Rhoden said. "That's really why we go to the event. Unfortunately, Iowa Central isn't attending this year, and that's a team we really wanted to so.
"We'll still get a chance to see a couple of the Iowa schools and then we definitely want to see Northeastern Oklahoma, which has been right at the top, as we have, in the last several years."
Iowa Central also won four consecutive NJCAA National Duals titles from 2007-2010 before the Cougars snapped that string by winning the 2011 tournament.
If Clackamas were to clinch a fifth consecutive title, it also would give Rhoden 129 career wins, which would lift him into a tie with Norm Berney as the Cougars' all-time winningest coach in school history.