Tyler Cowger signs to wrestle at Southern Oregon

Scott Swanson

Tyler Cowger signed a letter of intent Monday, April 29, to wrestle for Southern Oregon University.

Cowger, who won the Oregon Triple Crown two weeks ago with state championships in Greco-Roman and freestyle in the 160-pound division (see accompanying story), signed the letter in a ceremony at the Sweet Home High School library with a crowd of teammates, friends and his parents, Scott and Kathy Cowger, in attendance.

Cowger, who finishes his high school career with a school-record 192 victories, said he had offers from SOU and Arizona State, but decided to opt for the Ashland school, which already has two former Huskies on its roster, sophomore Brock Crocker and freshman Scottie Stockman.

“I think I can be more successful at the NAIA level and I will be closer to home,” he said, noting that SOU finished second in the nation last year.

Thorpe said he wouldn’t be surprised to see all three ex-Huskies in the Raider lineup next year. Southern Oregon’s first competition in the general vicinity of Sweet Home will be at the Pacific Open in early November.

This year, four Raiders claimed individual titles and nine earned All-American honors as SOU fell six points shy of a team title in the 2013 NAIA National Championships. One of those individual champions was senior Jimmy Eggemeyer, who closed out his college career with the 149-pound title.

Cowger and Ritchie said he will wrestle at 149 pounds and Cowger said he thinks he has a good chance to crack the line-up early. They said the fact that Eggemeyer plans to return as an assistant coach is an added draw.

“I’m pretty confident,” he said about his chances to get on the mat next fall.

Also, he said, he plans to major in education and history with a goal of being a high school teacher and coach, which he said he sees a good track record of at SOU.

Sweet Home Coach Steve Thorpe and Ritchie, who was named NAIA Coach of the Year last season, cited the longstanding relationship between Sweet Home and SOU. Two former Huskies who wrestled for the Raiders, Kyle Temple and Tomas Rosa, are now coaching in high school, and Ritchie said he has particular interest in wrestlers who want to coach.

“A young man who wants to do that as a career, I give him a little extra attention,” he said.

Ritchie said the fact that Cowger “wrestled twice on Saturday night,” referring to the championship finals at state tournaments, and his work ethic were motivators for SOU coaches.

“We know he understands hard work under Coach Thorpe,” Ritchie said. “We know that carries over well.”

Cowger said he has worked significantly harder this year, and it has paid off in a high school state championship, followed by the Triple Crown wins.

“I didn’t stop lifting and wrestling for months, until after the Triple Crown, when I took a week off,” he said Monday. “I’m starting again today. Losing’s not fun. Now I’m moving on to college.”