Leaning on a ton of tradition
The always dominate Culver Bulldogs wrestling program won their 11th team title in 12 years and expectations aren't changing.
"Expectations and goals haven't changed in a long time," said head Culver wrestling coach J.D. Alley. "We are accustomed to a few things and have a few things to defend. That being said, the 2018 season was nine months ago and it is time to deal with our new crop."
"We have some key state champion returners that will help us, in Lorenzo (Vasquez) and Cylus (Hoke)," he said. "We have a lot of state placers returning, as well. A couple of key freshmen coming in and there is always room for someone to surprise us and holes to fill."
"It is a new year with the new reclassification," Alley said. "We have six or seven (3A) schools coming down and we will see what that holds for us."
The OSAA made some reclassifications at the beginning of the 2018 school year. Schools that struggle in a certain sport or multiple sports were moved down to be more competitive or can also move up in classification.
The wrestling season will only have 2A and 1A school combined this year for Culver. The Bulldogs will be in the 2A/1A - SD4 Special District 4 this year. The league will consist of Adrian (1A), Crane (1A), Echo (1A), Elgin (1A), Enterprise (2A), Grant Union (2A), Heppner (2A), Imbler (1A), Joseph (1A), Pine Eage (1A), Union (2A) and Culver (2A).
"We have a lot of points to replace," said Alley. "Between the transfers and the seniors, we lost around 100 points. We still have a base and something to work from. This isn't the first time we have graduated a good group and those freshmen and sophomores will grow up."
"We have to amp up our level of passion to make up for those missing points," he said. "We have to be more fundamentally sound and get in better shape and work a little harder in the classroom."
"People always think that wrestling is an individual sport, but it is not," he said. "At least not one that wins trophies. You don't win trophies when you turn it into an individual sport. We are going to succeed or fail as a team."
The Bulldogs will have some state returners, as well as Vasquez (120) and Hoke (195) returning as state champions. Sophomore Anthony Hood placed second last year at 113 pounds, with Body Piercy and Lane Downing both placing third at state. Senior Joe Russo and Hunter Augustynovich finished in fourth place last year for Culver.
"I want us to still be the top guys in our classification," Lorenzo Vasquez said. "We have a lot of young guys and guys my size. Everyone else is bigger than me, so I am really going to work with the smaller guys and build them up."
"I need to work on reputation, going over moves again, and again, working on the little things," he said about becoming state champion again. "I want to keep a heavier pace — control every single match I am in and be the top dog."
"A lot of team success comes from J.D. (Alley)," Vasquez said. "He works with us a lot and is very patient with us. He works with us in every single way that he can, on and off the mat, and in the classroom, and that comes from him."
Culver will look to earn their 12th state title in 13 years. The program is looking to work hard, with assistance from their tradition.
"Kenny Chesney said, 'The thing about tradition is, from time to time, you get to lean on it,'" Alley said. "Now we can't make a habit out of it and we have addressed that. We are not going to win, just because we put that black singlet on, but we do have tradition on our side and may need to lean of that to get through some tough spots."
"When people step on the mat against us, I want them to know they are wrestling a very fundamental kid, who is in shape," he said. "Has a great deal of pride and passion for this sport and to get ready for a battle. When it is over, hopefully, they are smiling because the first thing we tell them is figure out a way to enjoy the battle. Forget about the wins, losses, and points and if you can't enjoy the battle, this sport will eat you up and spit you out."