Cowdog Classic comes down to the wire
Culver and Crook County provided plenty of dramatic twists and turns last Wednesday in the Cowdog Classic.
An early Crook County lead became Culver's after Victor Torres scored a pin in the 152-pound division. Crook County took back the lead, but the Bulldogs hung around to the very end, in what was ultimately a 41-28 Crook County victory.
"I think that tonight's match was exactly what we needed," Crook County head coach Jake Huffman told the Central Oregonian. "We much respect Culver, and we really appreciate these guys. They are a tough team. There is a reason that a lot of big schools won't dual these guys. It's not easy to come in here and wrestle and that's why we do it every year — because it makes us better."
In last year's event, Culver's 36-31 win marked the first time in series history the Bulldogs defeated the Cowboys. This year, however, Culver was a heavy underdog again, against the best high school team in Oregon, regardless of classification.
In defeat, Culver found a meaningful way to measure itself. The 28 points Culver scored tied the most any opponent had tallied against Crook County this season.
On Dec. 30, Crook County faced Roseburg, which has won four consecutive state titles at the 6A level, and nine of the last 11 overall. The defending 6A champs could manage only 17 points in a 43-17 defeat. Culver head coach J.D. Alley was in attendance at the dual in Prineville, and was just a few mats away at the Oregon Wrestling Classic finals Jan. 13, when Tillamook upped the ante, scoring 28 points on Crook County in a 47-28 defeat.
Once the latter result was final, the Bulldogs had a lofty goal to shoot for, and they hit it dead on.
"After I watched the Roseburg dual, my goal was to score more than 17 points somehow, and say we were better than Roseburg," Alley said. "Then Tillamook put (28) on Prineville in the Classic finals.
"To come up with 28 points, I'll take it," Alley said.
The dual began at 132, with Crook County's Zachary Mauras scoring five points for his team on a 21-6 technical fall.
Lane Downing faced a Reser's Tournament of Champions runner-up in Colton Morgan at 138. A scoreless first round became 2-2 after two rounds. But in the decisive third period, Morgan scored a reversal and won in a 4-2 decision, pushing Crook County's lead to 8-0.
But the Bulldogs quickly flipped the momentum. At 152, Jorge Olivera scored five points in the second round on Tyler Fioravanti and even had him on his back for a moment, before Fioravanti was able to fight out of it. Olivera eventually claimed an 11-1 major decision.
Culver's first pin of the dual came at 152, where Torres moved into position to pin Turner Austin in the second round. Austin appeared to be on his way up and starting to escape Torres' grasp, but Torres promptly flipped him on his back, again, and this time, kept him there. The winning move, finished in 2:48, brought out a rambunctious roar from the Culver crowd at full capacity, and also gave the Bulldogs a 10-8 lead.
"That was entertaining," Alley said, adding that the order of the dual provided a lot of back-and-forth scoring between the two teams. "For the fans, you couldn't have written a better script."
Jerron Rhen followed suit at 160, pinning Wyatt Parker in 3:51.
But just as Culver started to get on a roll, Crook County came right back and took the lead for good.
Kyle Knudtson (170) and Jaxson Rhoden (182) both won by fall. The latter match was enough for the Cowboys to take the lead, 20-16.
In a rematch from the prior weekend at Reser's, Cylus Hoke (195) beat Calum Wilcox for the second time in as many weeks, this time by a 7-4 decision.
The 220 match between Cole Little and Mario Hansen proved to be pivotal. Neither wrestler scored in the first round, but Hansen was able to take a 3-0 lead in the second after scoring an escape and takedown.
Little kept fighting, and was able to score a takedown with the clock ticking under 30 seconds in the third round. He tried to put Hansen on his back with time running out, but Hansen was able to hold Little off and walk away with a 3-2 decision.
"I think Cole got robbed a little bit on the takedown," Alley said. "I thought if we wrestled really well, we could maybe win that 220 match, but I was off by a point. I'm not sure that was a takedown at the end of the second round (by Hansen)."
Little said he was simply trying to "finish the match strong" when he scored that late takedown.
"We were hoping for a little bit better result, but that's the most points anyone has scored on them this year, so I guess that's a pretty good statement," Little said.
Caleb Parrot (285) and Steven Ware (106) extended Crook County's lead to 35-19.
The 113-pound match pitted a pair of Reser's champions in Lorenzo Vasquez and Crook County's Hunter Mode, who moved up from 106 to face Vasquez.
Vasquez got the better of Mode from the start, and claimed a 10-1 major decision. The four points scored for the Bulldogs weren't enough to keep their hopes of a win alive, but the dual wasn't over quite yet.
Culver's final win of the evening was at 120, and came with a little revenge. Anthony Hood had twice lost to Crook County's Trevor Martin this season, and after facing an early deficit, it appeared that Martin could win a third time. But Hood turned up his attack in the second round, and was able to pin Martin in 3:09.
"Just a switch in my mind flipped, and I knew I had to work my offense and get some stuff going," Hood said. "When I hit that double, I blacked out the audience and everything. I just focused on getting him pinned, and getting both those shoulders down."
Pacer Quire scored Crook County's final six points of the evening, with a win by fall in 5:13.
Though the end result wasn't a win for the Bulldogs, they were plenty happy with the competitiveness they displayed against Crook County.
"We need to hold our head high, because they're the best team in 4A, and possibly the state," Torres said. "I think it was a good dual. Victory and loss, there's good and bad to come out of both."
Alley added, "I'm gonna be all smiles, I won't be chewing anybody out after this deal. Hopefully we can ride that wave on through the state tournament."
The following afternoon, Culver hosted the 2A/1A Special District 3 Pre-Districts, a week before the SD3 District tournament, Feb. 2-3 at Glendale High.
The Bulldogs scored 261.5 points to finish first in the team standings, with runner-up Central Linn tallying 188 points.
Brody Piercy (106), Vasquez (120), Cooper Becker (132), Olivera (152) and Hoke (195) won their brackets. Rhen and Torres both advanced to the final round at 160, but elected to not wrestle each other.