For the first time in six years, the Culver wrestling team did not stand on top of the podium at the state wrestling tournament. Reedsport was barely able to edge out the Bulldogs for the 2A state title.
Culver scored 103 team points, while Reedsport won its last match of the tournament to secure 106.5 team points to place first.
Heading into the championship matches, Culver had the lead with 97 team points, while Reedsport was right behind them with 94.5 points. The Bulldogs only had one wrestler in the final, the returning 145-pound state champion. Reedsport had three wrestlers in the finals.
Reedsport won the 106-pound and 138-pound matches by decision to take a 4.5-point lead, 101.5-97.
Downing either needed to pin his opponent or win by a technical fall to earn bonus points and give the Bulldogs a chance to win the state title.
Downing, the No. 1 seeded wrestler, was matched up against Zeb Ramsden, of Joseph, in the finals. Downing and Ramsden were fighting for position the majority of the first round, but near the end of round one, Downing threw Ramsden down and pinned him at the 1:51 mark. Downing not only became a two-time 2A state champion, but also gave Culver 103 points, taking a 103-101.5 lead over Reedsport, who needed to win its next and last match to beat the Bulldogs.
"I thought this tournament I did a lot better than last year," Downing said after his finals match, but before Reedsport's last wrestler competed. "I really went out there and put it on them. We were really sloppy as a team, but you know, some of our better, more experienced guys were able to come back at the end, and they put us up (in team points). I did my part and got us ahead, and I hope it is enough."
"It felt really good," said Downing about his second 2A state title. "I had a different feeling going out there before wrestling him. I hit that same move, and it worked. It was everything I could do. You need to play that mental game. A lot of kids on our team this year thought we were all big and bad, and then we got beat once (earlier in the year). It threw us off, and ever since then, we were thrown off all year. You have to play the mental game. You win that, and you are unstoppable. It is a good day to be a Bulldog."
Downing also won the 2A athlete of the meet, which was presented to him after the finals matches were over.
"He gave us a shot to win," head coach J.D. Alley said. "Going in there, they had three finalists, and we had one with a 3.5-point lead. We knew if Lane was able to get a bonus-point win, they would have to win three regular decision matches or two pins. They had a game plan for Lane's favorite move, which we thought could have been the downfall for us, but I told Lane after the match, I am never going to play poker against him because when it is time to go all in, he is all in. He wasn't in the best position, but he went all in with that maneuver and stuck it well, and that is all about confidence and not hesitating. We are going to miss that with Lane. He has that swagger, and that is one of the biggest things we need to find out how to fix with our team. We are a bit hesitant, but not Lane Downing.
"He has come a long way," Alley said. "He was an awfully immature kid at one time that would do nothing but eat candy and was a little chubby. He was not always fundamentally sound. He grew into that leadership role well, and I am pretty proud of him. He wants to continue wrestling after this, so we will see what the future holds."
At 170 pounds, Reedsport's Miguel Valazquez, who was not seeded in the tournament, was able to beat the No. 1 seeded 2A 170-pounder Austine Van Houten, of Oakland, in a 14-3 major decision. The victory sealed the state title for Reedsport as they outscored Culver 106.5-103.
Culver had three third-place finishers at the tournament. It sent 10 wrestlers to compete at state.
At 160 pounds, sophomore Isaiah Toomey won his first match by technical fall, but in his second match, Toomey had a big lead before being pinned at the 2:27 mark. He was defeated by Trenton Hutchinson, of Toledo, who ended up being the 2A state champion at 160 pounds.
Toomey won his next three matches to place third; he won two of them by fall and one by major decision.
"I thought I performed pretty good," Toomey said after his third-place match finished, but before the finals matches began. "I had one match that I lost, and I felt like I could have done way better, but other than that, I came back, wrestled strong and tried to get our team back in it for first place. Third place felt good because that was the kid I wrestled last year in the state semifinals and lost 6-5. To come back this year and pin him in the second round felt really good and showed that I improved a lot. Next year my goal is to get first, keep grinding and get our team together so next year we can definitely get that title."
Anthony Hood (138), a junior, also placed third for the Bulldogs. Hood won his first match by fall at the 5:58 mark. His next match was against returning 2A state champion Hunter McIrvin, of Central Linn. Hood had already beat McIrvin at the 2020 Oregon Classic.
McIrvin was able to secure a takedown in the first round to take a 2-0 lead, and he held onto it to beat Hood 2-0. McIrvin won the 2020 2A 138-pound state title.
Hood won two more decisions at the tournament to claim Bronze for Culver.
At 113 pounds junior, Brody Piercy placed third for Culver. He won his first match by an 8-2 decision, but lost to Garrett Burns, of Imbler, by fall at the 1:20 mark. Burns won the 2A state title at 113 pounds.
Piercy won his next match by a 9-1 major decision and his third-place match by disqualification to take third place at the tournament.
Debren Sanabria (106), Hunter Augustynovich (152), Eduardo Penaloza (195) and Nicalos Navarro (170), who qualified for state after finishing fourth at districts but moved to second place due to some disciplinary reasons for the wrestlers that placed above him, all went 2-2 at the state tournament. Noel Navarro (120) went 1-2 and Wylie Johnson (195) 0-2 for the Bulldogs.
"You know, it was kind of a weird tournament," Alley said. "Those semifinals, by the book, that is the way it was going to go. We needed to pull some upsets to get more than one win out of that, and we got close. We got really, really close two or three times. A couple more seconds in one of Noel's matches and we probably force overtime. Same in Debren's match. It just didn't fall our way tonight, and we fall back and lose some matches in the blood rounds that cost us some points.
"I thought Isaiah Toomey bounced back really well after a freak loss," he said. "I still think he is the best kid in that weight class (160) and the 170-pounds weight class as well. We did not get it, and hats off to Reedsport. They put a lot of work in during the off-season.
"Seems like every time you read an article someone is talking about and preaching the importance of multi-sport athletes," said Alley. "They might be good to train your body to do lots of things and stay healthy, but it is tough to be at the top of the heap if you don't put in that extra time. Our guys did some, but Reedsport and their core worked really hard to get to that place, and they had a great tournament. In that 170-pound finals match, they were in the same league, and that Oakland kid had already beaten the Reedsport kids twice."
"They ate their Wheaties and earned every single bit of that trophy," he said. "In Culver, when somebody gets us, we slap them on the butt and say 'Good job, but we're coming for you next year.'"
All of the state qualifiers except for Downing and Augustynovich, who are seniors, will be returning for Culver next season.
"Ironically, we are in the same position we were seven years ago," Alley said. "We had won six and we were getting ready for title seven,but stubbed our toe by a couple of points. The group responded pretty well and racked off six more titles. Things are pretty healthy in Culver. We will be all right."
"This was probably good for wrestling and good for 2A wrestling," he said. "We will just go with that, and we will do our part to make it a fair fight next year.
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