J.D. Alley in SOU Hall of Fame as individual and now with his '88 team
Culver wrestling head coach J.D. Alley is known for his decorated coaching resume, but Alley was also a decorated wrestler at Southern Oregon University in the 1980s. For his excellence there, he has been inducted as an individual (2016) and on a team (2018) in the SOU hall of fame.
Alley finished his wrestling career at SOU with a 93-33-2 record and, upon graduating, was the program's career leader in victories. He is currently eighth on the list today. The heavyweight wrestler (275) finished in third place at the NAIA championships in 1988 and took second in the 1989 season.
As a freshman, Alley placed third at the NAIA district 2 tournament and finished in first-place his junior year. He also placed second as a senior. He graduated with a business degree in 1990.
He was the 18th wrestler to be inducted as an individual to the hall of fame. Alley led the Raiders to one second-place and two third-place finishes in the NAIA championships.
Selected as an individual in 2016, Alley joined his teammates on the 1988 squad with induction on Nov. 3 of the past year. The 1988 Southern Oregon's squad, which went 15-0 during a perfect wrestling season, was nicknamed "Reihm's Dream Team" in honor of their coach, Bob Reihm. The Raiders had victories over teams like Oregon State, Oregon and Portland State en route to their unbeaten dual season.
"There was a great mix of guys," Alley said about the team. "We always had a few small-school kids, not a lot of blue chip-type recruits. A bunch of fun guys, and that was really our 30-year reunion in the fall (Nov. 3) and we didn't miss a beat. It was a really cool event and some of the those guys I hadn't seen in 30 years."
The team took third at the NAIA championships, producing six All-Americans, including national champ Ken Wharry (134). Alley finished in third place at nationals.
"My people management skills definitely came from Coach Riehm," Alley said. "I figured out how to fight for a kid who needs to be fought for. He is a big part of my coaching career without question."
Alley initially committed to Oregon State, but while still visiting schools he found something special about Southern Oregon. On his last college visit, he had a gut feeling and decided to decommit from Oregon State to wrestle for Bob Rhiehm and Southern Oregon.
"He was a master at managing people," Alley said. "Most of his competitors and referees would say he is just a wild, crazy man. Coaching a wrestling team is trying to get all 10 weight classes to function at the same time. There is not really a team game plan; it's more of an individually plan for each kid. He was really good at that, and even though he couldn't compete with money that Oregon or Oregon State had, but he always put together a competitive team."
The Raiders started the season traveling to Alaska and wrestling Alaska Pacific twice. Southern won two tight ones, 20-18 and 22-14. Alley was always the last wrestler because he was the Raiders' heavyweight. They did not choose random weights to start with like they do today. So any close matches came down to leader and captain J.D. Alley.
After defeating Alaska Pacific twice, the Raiders had a tough task ahead of them as they faced the Oregon State Beavers at home. The team dug deep and defeated the Division 1 Beavers 24-13.
The team surged with confidence after their win over Oregon State and went on a tear. They destroyed their next five opponents in Oregon Tech (45-3), at Cal Davis (30-6), at Humboldt State (47-2), at Pacific Lutheran (47-2) and home against Chico State (25-10).
Even though the Raiders were surging with confidence, they had another tough task ahead, traveling to the very good Portland State program, looking to prove themselves against the Vikings.
The Raiders and the Vikings went to war and every single match, every single point mattered in the very close dual. It was so close in fact that it came down to the last match of the day, with the Southern team looking at Alley to close out one of their toughest matches of the season. Alley did what he nearly always did, won the final match to help the Raiders beat Portland State 18-16.
"We always went from little to big, so any of the close matches came down to the heavyweights," he said. "I didn't have to do anything crazy or get a pin, but I generally had to win to seal the deal."
The team won two more duals against Central Washington (42-4) and Pacific (25-9), before having to face another undefeated wrestling team in the University of Oregon (11-0).
The Raiders had one advantage. The Ducks were wrestling at Southern Oregon in front of the Raiders' home crowd, in their home gym — which Alley still describes as the loudest gym he has ever been in.
The dual was another war, between two teams that refused to back down or take a step back. The match came down to — you guessed it — the last match of the day, with the Raiders' undefeated season in the hands of Alley.
He went into the battle with recent broken ribs, but Alley delivered again and beat his challenger as the Raiders beat the Division 1 Ducks 22-19 and only had three duals left to capture their undefeated season.
"That University of Oregon dual was a close one," Alley said. "Once we won that dual, we started to think we were going to run the table on everyone. We really sealed the deal for our undefeated season with that win."
The Ducks only lost to one other team during their season, Arizona State, who became national champs the same year.
The Raiders travels to Oregon Tech and won 33-11, before closing their season at home against Western Oregon (39-8) and Pacific Lutheran (36-7). Southern Oregon finished their season with a 15-0 record, an absolutely incredible accomplishment, and Alley was 15-0 in dual matches.
"That 15-0 team is a NAIA team that blanked a couple of D1 schools and a couple of D2 ones," he said. "That Portland State started a run and they won the D2 title in back-to-back years and we beat them in their home gym."
"Looking back, I didn't think too much about it, until some buzz started," he said. "Unfortunately, there is only a couple programs from that era that still have wrestling programs. Southern always has and I think that has something to do with Bob Riehm, as well. He made sure there was enough fan base and security to keep it."
"It means a lot," he said. "The team and what we put together and got done means a lot. That entire Portland State team was inducted into the D2 hall of fame for their back-to-back accomplishments. Half their team was national champs and we were able to get by them."
Alley had led the 2A Culver Bulldogs to seven straight state titles and the Bulldogs wrestling program has won 12 state titles in the last 13 years — all under the reign of Coach Alley.