Lucky number seven! CHS champs again
The Culver Bulldogs wrestling program won their seventh straight state title and their 12th state title in 13 years, Feb. 22-23 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
The Bulldogs produced three state champions this year in Lorenzo Vasquez (126), Cylus Hoke (190) and Lane Downing (138). Vasquez also won the Moda Athlete of the Meet for his outstanding performance. Hunter Augustynovich (145) made it to the finals and placed second for Culver, while both Brody Piercy (103) and Anthony Hood (132) finished in third place.
Culver ended the tournament with 136 team points; the next closest to them was Glide with 71 points. Lowell (66.5), and Joseph (59), also finished near the top.
Vasquez, a senior, won his state title match, for a clean sweep in his high school career. Vasquez is now a four-time state champion at the 2A level and with his win at the Reser Tournament of Champions earlier in the year, he became a two-time Reser champ. With his unbelievable resume and decorated accomplishments, Vasquez proved to be one of the best ever to wrestle for Culver High School, if not the best.
Vasquez flew to the finals match, pinning his first two challengers in around one minute. In the finals, he faced Elijah Carson (34-7), of Reedsport. Vasquez put on a dominant performance and with a large lead, pinned Carson in the last 27 seconds of the match. After his victory, he celebrated by running right into the arms of coach Lance Hoke.
"After my very first state title, I ran into Lance's (Hoke) arms and it was something special that we were able to share," Vasquez said. "He has seen me work hard and grind for my first title; it really was special. To come here and claim a fourth state title, it was indescribable."
"My family looked at me and they were all crying," he said. "I hugged my mom and sister as they were telling me how proud they were. It brought tears to my own eyes."
"I performed pretty well," Vasquez said. "I had fire in my eyes the entire tournament, was ready for the finals and gave it everything I had. This title had a much different feeling coming in. My first match, I was feeling good, but before the finals I was a little nervous."
"It was nerve-racking to have all that pressure of becoming a four-time champ, but as soon as I got out there, all the stress was relieved and I just started wrestling," he said.
Vasquez joined Miguel Baltazar (2005-08) and Jared Kasch (2010-2013) in becoming a four-time state champion for Culver. He finished the season with a 40-2 record, only losing one match in Reno, Nevada, and the other at Crook County.
"It is an honor to be among this club," he said. "I take a lot of pride in Culver and it is something cool that only a few people are ever able to do. It is awesome to be able to represent our program and high school. It means a lot to me that people put me on the pedestal of one of the best wrestlers around."
Cylus Hoke became a back-to-back state champion after pinning his finals opponent in 3:44 seconds. Hoke won his first match my fall in 5:10 and won his semifinals match by fall in 1:38.
Hoke was challenged by William Kidwell (24-4), of Glendale, in the championship match.
After a slow, smart approach in the finals, Hoke pinned Kidwell in 3:14 and became a back-to-back state champion. He ended the season with a 39-5 overall record.
"Just don't give up," Hoke said. "This sport is hard and if it was easy everyone would do it. Keep chugging along and eventually you will get somewhere, but it is never going to be easy. This was special. Not a lot of people get to be on a team this dominant. It's a lot of fun to be able to get state titles on my own, but also as a team still. Some of those guys that are not able to win a title still get the experience of winning as a team. I think that is really cool."
Junior Lane Downing won his first match by fall in 3:00, but his semifinals match was not so easy. He faced Wyatt Patzke (41-13), of Lakeview, and was able to win a 4-2 sudden victory to reach the finals.
Downing wrestling against Caleb Day (39-8), of Central Linn, and took a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period. In the second period, Downing looked calm and relaxed and he pinned Day in the first minute of the second period.
This was the junior's first state title and he is the only returning state champion for Culver. He ended the season with a 22-6 record.
"I thought I did really good," Downing said. "I wrestled a little sloppy in my semifinals match, but I feel like I really made up for it in my finals match. It was unreal and I was really nervous.This was my first time out here with all these lights and people, but it felt good."
"After the first period, I was just focused on not getting too high and watch how I was riding," he said. "I was really trying to watch what I did because he was countering well. This was unreal. I still don't feel like I won the state championship, but I did."
"This means everything," Downing said. "One of my good friends is wrestling next (Cylus Hoke) and that just makes all this so much cooler."
Hunter Augustynovich won by fall in 1:24 in his first match and was challenged by Dennis Magee, of Reedsport. Augustynovich won a very close 5-4 decision to reach the finals.
He had a finals showdown against Imbler wrestler Logan Butcher (35-7). Augustynovich had the lead the entire match and headed into the last period up 4-3.
In the last 45 seconds of the championship match he was taken down and put on his back. Butcher scored points for the take down and the near fall, taking a 7-4 lead over Augustynovich with very short time left.
Augustynovich fought to get off his back and was able score a reversal, making the score 7-6. He let Butcher up and fought desperately for a takedown. Augustynovich could not bring Butcher down and the time expired. Augustynovich lost an 8-6 decision and placed second for Culver.
Piercy lost his first match of the tournament in a 8-0 majority loss, but would come back and win his next three matches, pinning two of the three opponents, finishing in third.
Hood won his first match of the day by fall, but was beaten by Kasey Erwin (44-2), of Lowell. The sophomore won his next match in a 6-0 decision and pinned his Lowell challenger in 5:30, claiming third.
Freshman Noel Navarro and senior Joe Russo, both lost their first matches of the tournament, won their next two and lost their last matches, placing fourth at state.
Another freshman, Isaiah Toomey, also finished the tournament 2-2 and claimed fourth in his first year in high school.
Nine wrestlers placed at the state tournament and stood on the podium for Culver.
"I think we had nine kids place, so that is great," Hoke said. "We had a lot of points through the backside. We did not have as many state champs as last year, so those kids going through the back of the tournament and placing was huge; it scores a lot of points. A lot of people don't notice that, but that really was big."
Head coach J.D. Alley won 2A Coach of the Year for Culver and even though he steers the ship, he made sure everyone knew how important the people in this program really are.
Assistant coaches, volunteers, moms, they all play a vital role in the success of Culver High School wrestling, he noted.
"I am really pleased, satisfied and happy about the way the season came together and the way kids founds weight classes and places to fit," Alley said. "We really came together as a team in many ways. It was a really good season. It was tough the way things started out. We couldn't believe La Pine beat us and they just became the 3A state champions."
"The second week, we can't win our own tournament, but by the end of the season we beat La Pine in a dual and then the Classic and districts, he said. "We did not put up as many points as last year, but I think that is indicative of how competitive 2A was this year. I would have liked to have a few more in the finals, but I was really proud of how we wrestled in those blood rounds."
"It was a difficult start, had some transfers, state champions graduated, our champion Lane Downing had appendix surgery early that had some complications," Alley said. "Around Christmas time, I did not know where we were going to fit. Some of our new wrestlers were able to improve really fast and that has to do with the leadership of our seniors."
"We come out of that tournament with a new trophy, Lorenzo is named 2A outstanding wrestler, we were able to get coach of the year, so I don't know what more we could have done," he said.
"There was a lot of little things came together this season. Our kids had a lot of heart and they decided to deal with things and move on."
"I know there is so many people that work behind the scenes that make Culver wrestling what it is," Alley said. "You name it, we are so fortunate for everyone. I get to be the guy that steers the ship, but when you're holding the coach of the year trophy in front of all those people you realize there is a lot of people that helped me get there. It is not a one-man show or we wouldn't have won 12 titles."
Four seniors will graduate from Culver this year, two state champions and one fourth-place senior, but the Bulldogs will have several younger wrestlers ready for next year.
"It will be a different year, next year, for sure," he said. "We are going to return seven state returners and five of them were on the podium. We will see what we can get out of the new freshmen class, but I think we can have another three state champions. I would not bet against the Bulldogs."