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Culver Bulldogs wrestling program hosts invite Dec. 13-14, focusing on basics, fundamentals early in season

STEELE HAUGEN - Lane Downing is the lone Culver state champion returning for this upcoming season. The Bulldogs host a tournament Dec. 13-14.The Culver wrestling program is looking to have another strong year after winning its 12th straight title in 13 years. Head coach J.D. Alley and the Bulldogs are ready to build another championship level team.

"Every team starts out with some rookies, newbies, veterans, and we see how fast we can get the kids that are new to the room caught up with some of the veterans that have been here awhile," Alley said. "We try and get everyone to buy in and believe in the common end-of-the season goal. I think we have had a couple good weeks of practice. We are still trying to figure out where people are going to fit in our lineup, how they are going to contribute and what weights they will be."

The Culver Bulldogs graduated four-time state champion Lorenzo Vasquez and two-time state champion Cylus Hoke last year, but will have state champion Lane Downing and runner-up Hunter Augustynovich.

"It is going to be a different type of season," Alley said. "We lost some really influential, tremendous leaders and great wrestlers due to graduation last year. I say this every year: Wrestling coaches get hung up on graduation, and they forget sophomores really do grow up and mature. We will find out what kind of leader Lane Downing can be and what kind of maturity level was increased with Isaiah Toomey, even though he is a sophomore. We are going to lean on him like he is an upperclassman."

"We will see some of those younger freshmen from a year ago, like Gabe Wilson and Trevor Smith," Alley said. "We have some cool freshmen this year — like Derek Torres, Debren Sanabria and Kelin Abbas can do a few things. We will see if we can fill the weight classes, strap the headgear on and do our best."

Downing is the only state champion returning this year, and he is one of only three seniors.

"I am pretty excited about the team," Downing said. "We have a pretty young team and a lot of people to fill spots. We only have three seniors, but we don't have big spots to fill. I have an individual goal of doing better at tournaments like Reser, the Sierra Nevada and hopefully another state championship. The key this year will be to work with our younger guys and get them in a groove."

Alley and the team are starting with the basics, fundamentals and making weight this early in the season. He knows the importance of doing the small things.

"We're always working on fundamentals," said Alley. "It doesn't matter if you are a state champion like Lane Downing or a rookie. I really hate the first part of practice, and I think the wrestlers do too, but fundamentals are important, and we will start each day with fundamentals sessions that are the same things we teach our second graders. Fundamentals are key, and you have to be mindful of body position and things like that."

Downing, Toomey and Augustynovich were also all district champs for the Bulldogs last season. Also returning are second-place district finishers Noel Navarro and Anthony Hood.

"The first thing that is important to any championship run is to have a team that likes each other and battles for each other," Alley said. "We don't have to be the best buddies, and we might even fight with each other, but nobody else can fight our team. We want the best for all our teammates, and we want to push each other."

"There are lots of good wrestlers," he said. "There are some weight classes that are really hard for kids to find a way to contribute or find an opening to be part of that group. You have to keep battling for it, and I think we achieve a lot of that through our road trips. We try to get them to embrace the grind and enjoy the battle."

The Culver wrestling team has its first meet at the Central Oregon Open in Bend, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. The team's first home meet is during the Culver Invitational Dec. 13-14.


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