Alley makes National Hall of Fame museum
Culver's own J.D. Alley, the head wrestling coach for the Bulldogs, is being inducted into the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The annual hall of fame banquet was scheduled for May 2 at the Embassy Suites at the Washington Square in Tigard, Oregon, but due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, it has been rescheduled for Nov. 21.
"I have been waiting 30 years to get there, so another six months won't hurt me too much," Alley said.
Alley, who just wrapped up his 30th year coaching Culver wrestlers, is one of eight Oregon honorees to be inducted into the 2020 NWHOF. The Honors Banquet recognizes those who have made significant contributions and have distinguished themselves in the sport of wrestling at the state level.
Joining Alley are Bill Bettis from Roseburg; John Breuer from Coquille; Len Kauffman, from Oregon State and Portland State universities; Art Reynolds from Hillsboro; Stephanie Mathews from Centennial High School; Jim Pond from OSU; and Scott Shannon from Elmira.
The Culver Bulldogs have won 12 state championships at the 2A/1A level in the past 14 years, and have been the 2A/1A state runners-up six times.
The NWHOF was dedicated in 1976 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The idea was to make sure the oldest sport in the world has a permanent home for its culture and memorabilia. The Paul K. Scott Museum of Wrestling History is one of the Hall of Fame's featured attractions. The museum tries to provide a unique perspective on wrestling and the history of the sport.
Now Alley and the Culver Bulldogs wrestling program are going to be enshrined in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
"To be able to say, and it is not going to be a very big piece, but there is going to be a piece of J.D. Alley, Culver wrestling, and all this legacy that you wrote up in the (Madras Pioneer) Sageland (magazine) article, it is going to go well past Oregon," said Alley. "There is going to be a piece of all that in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the shrine of USA wrestling. I am tremendously humbled and excited about it."
"The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and that is the right place for it to be. For our sport, it might as well be Canton, Ohio, where the NFL Hall of Fame is or Cooperstown," Alley said, referring to the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "For our sport, that is the biggest hall of fame wrestling place for anybody. Each state has a chapter to that. The state has a committee and process with criteria set by the national offices. That state comes up with a list of people and agrees amongst themselves. It still needs to be vetted by the national offices, but once it is vetted, and with this delay, I am not sure when it will happen, but you will be able to look that up online or if you are actually in Stillwater, there will be a short bio and a photo."
Alley has won multiple Oregon Athletic Coaches Association wrestling coach of the year awards, along with OACA coach of the year, National Federation of State High School Association State Wrestling coach of the year, National Collegiate Wrestling Association state coach of the year for the sport of wrestling, OACA 25 years of service to the sport of wrestling. Those are just some of the accolades Alley has received over his 30-year coaching career.
As an athlete at Culver High School, Alley did not lose a single match, winning three state titles as a Bulldog. The only year he didn't win a state title, he broke his leg and couldn't wrestle.
From there, he went on to break records at Southern Oregon University. Alley finished his SOU career with a 93-33-2 record and, upon graduating, was the program's career leader in victories. The heavyweight wrestler finished third at the NAIA championships in 1988 and second in his senior season in 1989.
"One long-running philosophy, and I had it forever but never really put it to paper and talk about it until 2000," said Alley. "I was asked to do the commencement address at our graduation, and in true fashion, I procrastinated and put it off. I had a lot of farming stuff to do and ended up writing it at the last minute. The theme of that speech was: choose your friends wisely because more than likely you are going to end up just like them. That has been so true and validated so many times over.
"It started out with giving that speech in 2000 and me talking about going on campus in college and really looking up to some older guys that were having some success," he said. "I was trying to wiggle my way into their peer group and rub elbows with them. I was trying to have the same diet, same workouts, and those were national champions. I wanted to be a national champ, and I am going to be like them. That was the theme of that speech, and it worked out for me as an individual."
He was inducted into the SOU Hall of Fame both as an individual and as the captain of "Rheim's Dream Team" in recent years. That 1987-88 season, SOU went 15-0 in duals beating teams like Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State.
"Three years later, I was asked to do the same thing again at graduation, and I give motivational speeches almost every day, and I still think that speech in 2000 was one of the best things I have ever put on paper," Alley said. "I really wanted to just give the same speech again, but they said, 'You can't do that. There are enough people that have already heard it, and it won't count. I just tried to do a Choose Your Friends Wisely 2.0 version, and I turned that into unintended consequences.
"The first time around, I am going to hang around these people because I want to be like these people. The second time around, I won one of my very first coach of the year awards and I tied it back to some of those same guys I hung around with in college. One of them was an NAIA national wrestling coach of the year. My friend Greg Haga at Crater High School was setting the wrestling world on fire and winning big school titles and coach of the year awards. I had another friend from college, not even a wrestler, just a roommate, and he was the 2A track coach of the year at Pilot Rock back in 2002. All this had transpired between these two graduation speeches.
"Back in 1986, I am trying to do this, so I am like individual X, and we can realize what we did in 2000," he said. "I didn't think about it a lot, but, yeah, those are the things I did. By 2003, here are all these people I hung out with, and we did not even talk about them being wrestling coaches or anything like that, and we all shared these common accolades. Weird, right? Same thing with this hall of fame ceremonies. Those are people, whether it was at my SOU hall of fame ceremony or this deal. Those are people I count as my peer group, people I associate with, and, you know, low and beyond, that theory of choosing your friends wisely, you might end up just like them was just revalidated."
"It makes me feel really good about life choices and life decisions because that first speech in 2000 I am telling those graduates, 'If you want to be a rocket scientist, hang out with rocket scientists,'" he said. "'If you want to be a thug and hoodlum, hang out with thugs and hoodlums, that is what you are going to be. You better get a good look at the guy sitting across the table from you because that is probably who you are going to be.'"
Alley took the Culver wrestling coaching job out of a sense of duty, not a burning desire or calling to coach, and now 30 years later, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"I didn't even think I was going to be a wrestling coach for 30 years. I never thought about winning a state title," Alley said. "When I graduated from Culver High School, we won a couple district championships and placed fourth at state. We never even got a sniff of that staff trophy. Lowell was dominating that scene. To come back five years later to see there are not very many people left. It was not much of a program. I started to see some things come around and come into focus, and that was something we did not plan for. We did not plan for a blue (first place trophy), did not plan for the accolades, and maybe that is the cool thing about it.
"Whenever this happens, I am going to be able to say I am in three different halls of fame, and not everybody can say that," he said. "It is hard for me to comprehend how we got here at times. It seemed like everything just fell into place and life was easy for us, but we know that is not exactly true, and there was some awfully hard times and some struggles. It doesn't matter if it is this year's tournament, the 2013 tournament, the 1999 tournament (all second-place state finishes). There will always be hurdles that we could not quite get over. I think when you wrap it all together and tell the story, it is a pretty cool story that I think just about anybody would be proud of, and I think I fit into that category."
In 1989, the program was dying and Alley was just trying to find more kids and raise the number of wrestlers to keep the program around. The Bulldogs saw one individual champion when Alley first started but didn't see another individual state champion until 2002. The first team title under Alley came in 2007.
"When we started this journey way back when, these weren't goals we were thinking about," Alley said. "We were just trying to get kids to qualify for state. Coaches were not thinking about trophies, accolades or where this would end up. As you get older, you start, and you start to have some friends and see some of this go, and people you admire. You start thinking in the back of your head, 'That would be a pretty cool thing.'
"I started to go to some of the banquets, and my resume looks good enough, I could fit right in with those guys, you know," he said. "It starts to progress, and it kind of turned into something you did not even think about to something that was in the back of your mind and then on your bucket list."
A cornerstone in Alley's coaching philosophy has been advocating and fighting for wrestlers and, in doing so, creating a bond with 30 years' worth of wrestlers, family and fans. The fight for and bond with the wrestling community created a culture in Culver, where people lean on each other for help and celebrate with each other during good times.
"I went to the first event in 2010 to stand up and clap for my assistant coach Kurt Davis, who is still helping us," Alley said. "He was inducted for his lifetime of service. I found it to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year, and I have not missed one since. It is a large event. Last year there were 550 people there, and it is just filled with people who are all passionate about the sport of wrestling. One night out of the year, we are not enemies, but all friends."
"I am a colleague of J.D.'s and the athletic director at Hood River Valley High School, but I have coached 25 years of wrestling in Oregon," said Oregon chapter board of directors President Trent Kroll. "Alongside J.D., we are co-representatives for the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association through the OSAA for the sport of wrestling. Now, I am the new director for the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. It was really exciting for me to get to announce to J.D. that he was selected for the class of 2020 for induction into the hall of fame."
"Really, it wasn't whether J.D. was going to be in the hall of fame, but it was when he was going to be inducted," he said. "It is neat that he gets to go into the hall of fame now, while still coaching Culver. For us, it is about service to the sport of wrestling in the state of Oregon. Not only is J.D. an awesome coach, but it is a service to be volunteering to be that co-representative for the sport of wrestling through the OSAA, giving back to the sport and changing the lives of so many young adults in the Culver community. He is just the best of the best, and we are really lucky to have him here in Oregon."
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