Eastern Oregon University senior Noel Orozco (right), an All-American at 285 pounds, returns for the Mountaineers this season. The Cascade Collegiate Conference’s 2021-22 preseason poll has Eastern in the No. 5 spot.

LA GRANDE — The Cascade Collegiate Conference released its 2021-22 preseason men’s wrestling coaches’ poll. Eastern Oregon found itself near the middle of the rankings in the 12-team conference.

The Mountaineers checked in at No. 5 with 98 points and were just three points away from being tied for fourth with Vanguard University. EOU also is the highest-ranked full-time member of the CCC in the preseason poll.

Taking the top spot in the poll is Menlo College with 131 points and seven first-place votes. Slotted second is Embry-Riddle (Arizona) with 120 points and two first-place votes. Rounding out the top-three is Montana State-Northern with two first place votes and 114 points.

Eastern will have an experienced squad going into the 2021-22 campaign with all five National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national qualifiers returning from last season, including All-Americans Keegan Mulhill (174 pounds) and Noel Orozco (285), who are both seniors.

Also back are Luciano Fasulo (125), Kyle Knudtson (184), Marco Retano (197), and John Bittinger (165).

All six athletes will look to lead the Mountaineers this season after finishing the 2020-21 season ranked No. 18 in the NAIA.

The Mountaineers will look to make the most of what is expected to be a full regular season. They have 12 duals on deck and seven tournaments. Eastern will get things officially started Nov. 3 when they take on Western Wyoming Community College in American Falls, Idaho.

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