Lorenzo Vasquez - aka 'Little Man' - conquers big feat at Reser's Tournament of Champions
Since Culver started competing at the Reser's Tournament of Champions 11 years ago, J.D. Alley estimates the Bulldogs have had a dozen or so finalists, though none had ever finished atop the podium.
On Saturday, Culver junior Lorenzo Vasquez became the Bulldog to "get the monkey off our back," Alley said.
Vasquez won all five of his matches across the two-day tournament, culminating in a 10-8 win by decision against Newberg's Christopher Strange in the finals.
As the baby in a family with seven other siblings, Vasquez has long been called "Little."
That nickname has carried with him into the wrestling room. Hovering between the 113- and 120-pound divisions, Vasquez certainly fits the name. That, and having to prove himself, like other Bulldog state champs, to those who don't think the accolades of a wrestler from 2A Culver carry much weight.
But when Saturday night came, Vasquez, who already has two state titles to his name, was a Little Man.
"To me, it kind of means a little bit more," Vasquez said. "No one from Culver has ever won it. I go to these camps with other 6A, 5A, 4A kids, and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm a state champ.' They'll talk you down, like, 'Oh, you're just 2A. It doesn't mean anything.' I've been told, 'You're lucky to be a state champion, because you're 2A.' Going to these tournaments like Reser's and doing pretty good, it feels good proving them wrong."
With Vasquez reaching a height that other Bulldogs had come close to, but never completed, Culver recorded a 10th-place finish out of 22 teams, all of which were between 4A and 6A besides Culver.
Less than 10 points separated Culver (114), from sixth-place Marshfield (122), so the Bulldogs could've climbed the leaderboard easily had a match or two ended with a better outcome.
But several Bulldogs scored key points that got them into that position in the first place.
At 145, Jorge Olivera placed third, Cylus Hoke (195) claimed fourth, and Victor Torres (152) and Jerron Rhen (160) were one round away from placing.
Yet those who didn't place still hung tough after getting dealt some tough first-round draws Friday. Several Bulldogs, including Olivera, who was seeded No. 1 at 145, received opening round byes. However, eight of Culver's 12 wrestlers lost their first match of the tournament. That put many in must-win territory early, but the Bulldogs were able to secure seven wins in their next eight consolation matches, all of them by fall.
"That first round was murderous for us in terms of team score," Alley said.
"The first round of consolation, we've already got one loss, one foot in the grave, you know? I think we went seven for eight in that round and seven falls ... We picked up 14 bonus points in a round that could've been the death of us."
That second round sparked Culver for the rest of the tournament.
Olivera, who wrestled in last year's Reser's finals, wasn't able to return after losing to Marshfield's William Jantzer in the semifinals, but fought back in two contentious matches to place third. He beat Lebanon's Chase Miller by a 3-1 decision in the third-place match.
In the 195 third-place match, Hoke was one takedown away from beating Newberg's Hunter James, but James won in overtime 3-1.
Torres and Rhen couldn't come out on top in the blood round, but still combined to score 13 points for the Bulldogs.
Culver has a busy week upcoming, including Wednesday's Cowdog Classic dual against Crook County in Culver. The Cowboys, by the way, finished first at Reser's with 192.5 team points. They appear to be back to their old form after somewhat of a down year last season. Culver is considered the underdog, which it usually is against Crook County. That won't keep the Bulldogs from being competitive in front of its home crowd.