By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Grand View (Iowa) remained the No. 1 team in the fourth edition of the NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll, the national office announced Wednesday. The Vikings, who have occupied the top-spot for 21-consecutive installments, racked up 184 points en route to its 26th all-time No. 1 ranking since the 2000-01 season. The only program to headline the poll more during the stretch is former-member Lindenwood (Mo.), which locked down the position 39 times.
Grand View, headlined by the top-ranked quartet of Ryak Finch (125), Brandon Wright (141), Gustavo Martinez (149) and Dallas Houchins (157), boasts the most ranked individuals with 12, none of which rank lower than seventh in their respective weight class. The Vikings are 9-0 in dual matches this season and have one more event before hosting the NAIA Central National Qualifier on Feb. 21.
Southern Oregon held on to its No. 2 ranking for the fifth-straight edition with 104 points. The Raiders have 11 grapplers in the poll, including Brock Gutches, who has held the No. 1 ranking for an unprecedented 23-consecutive editions at 174 pounds, and Charles Johnson at 197 pounds. Johnson is 14-2 on the season and took over a No. 1 spot that had previously been held by Steven Loosbrook of Benedictine (Kan.) for four-straight weeks.
Great Falls (Mont.) returns to No. 3 after a two-edition hiatus with 97.5 points. Headlining the program’s nine ranked wrestlers is Michael Ruiz, the NAIA’s new No. 1 at 133 pounds. Through the month of January, Ruiz owns a 26-4 record, including an unbeaten mark against NAIA opponents. He was last ranked No. 1 on Feb. 26, 2014.
Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) with 91 points and No. 5 Montana State-Northern with 84 points. The Blue Raiders are tied with Southern Oregon and No. 6 Concordia (Neb.) for the second most ranked grapplers with 11. Lindsey Wilson ended its dual-season with nine-straight wins with three of the last four victories coming against ranked opponents.
Individually for the Blue Raiders, Michael Pixley at 184 pounds has been a key performer. The freshman is 14-0 on the season with six wins coming against individuals that were ranked at the time of the match. Pixley, who went from being unranked to No. 1 this edition, has twice been named the NAIA National Wrestler of the Week.
Montana State-Northern owns the final two top-ranked individuals in Ethan Hinebauch (165) and Toby Cheff (285). Hinebauch has listed atop his weight class in six of the last seven polls, while Cheff is No. 1 for the first time in his career at 285. Last season, Cheff held the top-spot at 197 pounds twice – Feb. 12 and Feb. 26, 2014.
Four new teams joined the Top 20 this week – No. 13 Dickinson State (N.D.), No. 14 Cumberlands (Ky.), No. 17 Bethany (Kan.) and No. 20 Cumberland (Tenn.)
The 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Qualifiers will take place Saturday, Feb. 21 at four on-campus locations around the country. To follow along live with those events, click here. That following week, the NAIA will announce the qualifiers and brackets for the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by Blue Chip Wrestling. The 58th annual event will take place March 6-7 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the four Qualifying Groups.
For the complete look at the 2014-15 NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll calendar, click here. The final regular-season poll will be announced Feb. 26.
Notes (all information dates back to 2000-01 season): Grand View’s (Iowa) No. 1 ranking is its 26th all-time, which ranks second of all programs since 2000-01 … The Vikings have held the top spot in 21-straight polls … Grand View holds a large margin in total points over No. 2-ranked Southern Oregon (184-104 points)… Former member Lindenwood (Mo.) boasts the most all-time No. 1 rankings with 39, while Notre Dame (Ohio) is third with 14 … Nine programs have appeared in the Top 20 for at least 20-consecutive polls, led by No. 15 Campbellsville’s (Ky.) and No. 3 Great Falls’ (Mont.) current run of 76-straight polls, dating back to 2005-06 … No. 5 Montana State-Northern is the only other school with at least 50-straight appearances (67) … Grand View (2013-14), Notre Dame (2010-11) and Lindenwood (2006-07) are the only programs to spend an entire season ranked No. 1.2014-15 NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll – No. 4 (Feb. 11)
|Rank||Previous Rank||School||Total Team Points|
|1||1||Grand View (Iowa)||184|
|3||5||Great Falls (Mont.)||97.5|
|4||12||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||91|
|13||RV||Dickinson State (N.D.)||37|
Others receiving votes: Simpson (Calif.) 18; Briar Cliff (Iowa) 17.5; Wayland Baptist (Texas) 17; William Penn (Iowa) 14.5; Morningside (Iowa) 11.5; Calumet (Ind.) 10; Jamestown (N.D.) 8.5; Benedictine (Kan.) 8; Doane (Neb.) 7; Warner Pacific (Ore.) 4.5; Waldorf (Iowa) 4.5; Northwestern (Iowa) 4; Ottawa (Kan.) 3.5; Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) 3.5; St. Andrews (N.C.) 2.5; Brewton-Parker (Ga.) 2; Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 1.5; Missouri Baptist 1.5, St. Catharine (Ky.) 1, Williams Baptist (Ark.) 1.
Top-Ranked Individuals | Individual Rankings
125 – Ryak Finch, Grand View (Iowa)
133 – Michael Ruiz, Great Falls (Mont.)
141 – Brandon Wright, Grand View (Iowa)
149 – Gustavo Martinez, Grand View (Iowa)
157 – Dallas Houchins, Grand View (Iowa)
165 – Ethan Hinebauch, Montana State-Northern
174 – Brock Gutches, Southern Oregon
184 – Michael Pixley, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)
197 – Charles Johnson, Southern Oregon/Hudson Buck, Dickinson State (N.D.)
285 – Toby Cheff, Montana State-Northern