EOU Camacho and Bittinger

Jesse Camacho, left, and John Bittinger lock up during an Eastern Oregon University wrestling practice in October 2019. Bittinger is one of four Mounties earning a top 20 national ranking to begin the 2020-21 season.

LA GRANDE — The Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers men’s wresting team finds itself in a top 20 national ranking.

The first edition of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll has been released, and EOU sits at the No. 17 spot in the first poll of the 2020-21 season, according to a press release from Eastern’s athletics department. In addition, four grapplers earn top-20 individual rankings.

The Mountaineers find themselves in the national rankings after being picked to finish fifth in the Cascade Collegiate Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

Last season, EOU had its best dual record under head coach Dustyn Azure as the team went 15-5 and had six grapplers qualify for nationals.

Of the six qualifiers, four are back this season: Keegan Mulhill, Marco Retano, Ryan Redford and Noel Orozco.

The four Mounties earning a top-20 spot were John Bittinger at 165 pounds, Mulhill at 174 pounds, Retano at 184 pounds and Redord at 197 pounds. Retano leads the quartet with the highest ranking at fourth in his weight class. Redord has the second highest ranking at the No. 7 spot for 197. Mulhill is at the No. 9 spot for 174, while Bittinger is 17th for 165.

Overall, the CCC had six teams in the first edition of the national poll, with three earning a spot in the top-20. Montana State-Northern is the highest ranked team at 12th, followed directly by Embry-Riddle in Arizona at 13th. EOU was the only other team to garner a top-20 spot.

Vanguard University in California, Southern Oregon University and Arizona Christian University all appeared in the receiving votes category in the rankings. The second set of national rankings will be released on Thursday, Dec. 17.

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