Culver gets back the wrestling state title
Despite crowning just one individual champion, the Culver Bulldogs dominated the Class 1A/2A Oregon Wrestling Association State Tournament, amassing 231.5 points, far ahead of second-place Pine Eagle with 94.5 points.
It was a state tournament that only happened because of the determination of the wrestling community. Although some other sports did run statewide events, at least in the smaller school classifications, it was only wrestling that chose to hold state championships in all classifications.
With the OSAA choosing not to sponsor state playoffs in any sport this year due to COVID, the Oregon Wrestling Association sponsored the tournaments. Not only did competitors have to survive a year when they didn't know whether or not they were going to get to compete, they also had to battle brutal conditions in the Sweet Home gym as temperatures soared to over 100 in the building by the end of Saturday's tournament.
"It started back in October," Culver head coach J.D. Alley said. "These kids believed. I told them I don't know what it's going to look like, but we are going to have a state tournament. They just believed. My job is to give them some hope and some dreams to hang on to and they believed what I told them."
Since the OSAA did not sponsor the wrestling tournaments, it will most likely not acknowledge the results.
Alley noted that it would have been easy for many of the Culver wrestlers to not compete this season. The seven seniors on the team sacrificed employment opportunities, while all of the team continued to train to the full extent of what Oregon's COVID regulations would allow, for the entire year, not knowing whether or not there would be a season. Culver vowed way back in October that if there was wrestling, they would win, and take back the state title that they lost by three points to Reedsport in 2020.
It is that hard work and dedication that Alley believes made Culver state champions.
"In a lot of ways, this championship is more satisfying," Alley said. "We had a redemption year. I think that just speaks volumes to our group. I'm just pleased that we were able to hold this group together for a long time. You talk about winter sports are a long season. It's really long when you start in October and you end in July."
Anthony Hood, a 152-pound senior, was the lone Culver individual champion, defeating Trace Evans of Enterprise 10-4 in the championship match.
"To retake the team championship was just as important as an individual championship," Hood said. "Our team — we all fought for it. We're a family. We all practice hard in the room and we dominated the tournament. Everybody did their jobs and we won key matches and we are going home with the gold trophy, first place. To be an individual champion is something I've been working for a very long time. I came up short a few times and finally locked it down against a good rival."
Although Hood was the only Culver champion, he was far from the only placer. Ten Bulldogs placed in the tournament, while the remaining six Culver wrestlers each won at least one match.
Bulldogs finishing second included Aiden Guest at 106 pounds, 113, Debren Sanabria at 113, Brody Piercy at 126 pounds, Isaiah Toomey at 170 and Edwardo Penaloza at 220.
Finishing third for the Bulldogs were Thaddeus Brown at 113, Jordan Piercy at 120, and Noel Navarro at 126. Also earning a podium place for the Bulldogs was Wyatt Corwin, who finished fourth at 152 pounds.
"Very satisfied," Jordan Piercy said of the outcome of the tournament. "This feels great to come back and assert our dominance again. We are still here. I don't think a lot of people get to finish their last match with a win. I didn't win a state championship but getting third is pretty good. I think our team has done about everything we could. Everybody has given it their all. A lot of teams decided they weren't going to wrestle this year, that it wasn't going to be a regular year, and we decided to treat it like every other year and remember that we are a team and we all have one goal in mind. It was exceptionally tough at some times, but everybody kept a great attitude about it, we all just kept hoping there was a season."
Even though they failed to place, the remaining six Culver grapplers still had a major impact on the final results. Derek Torres went 3-2 at 132 pounds, falling just one match short of earning a podium place.
Christian Mattson-McKenzie, 195, and Wylie Johnson, 285, also came up one match short of a podium position, with Mattson-McKenzie going 3-2 in the tournament and Johnson going 2-2.
Reeden Arsenault went 2-2 at 138 pounds, while Nicolas Navarro and Gabe Wilson each went 1-2 at 182 pounds.
"The team did good and won a lot of good matches," Arsenault said. "We definitely earned it, all the runs and pushing the truck paid off. Guys in the back side win tournaments. It was a cool experience, my first time being here at state."
Other state champions included Newberg at 6A, Crescent Valley in 5A, Sweet Home in the 4A division and La Pine in 3A.
Alley, who also served as tournament director, was named coach of the year, while his assistants were named assistant coaches of the year.
With Culver running the tournament, they stayed to clean up the gym instead of getting to celebrate their win. But, in a show of sportsmanship, a couple of other teams, most notably fifth-place Toledo, elected to stay behind and help the Bulldogs. After all, in this season of COVID, the wrestling community was all in it together.
Alley and the rest of the Class 1A/2A tournament committee sent out a letter to tournament participants called The Road Less Taken, which addresses that possibility.
"When we are done here, we will have place-winner and we will have champions," the letter states in part. "Today, we will award medals and team trophies. But, the OSAA most likely will not recognize what happens here in their record books. They wanted nothing to do with this event. It took the dedication of coaches, administrators, parents, and most importantly, student-athletes that refused to quit to make this happen. In the end, everyone here will be acknowledged as a winner.
Some will claim that there should be an asterisk next to all 2021 results. They will say that there should be some kind of disclaimer next to each champion's name and next to the teams that leave here with a trophy. They are correct, there should be an asterisk ... but not for the reasons that some may believe. There should be an asterisk next to the year 2021 because this may have been the most difficult year to accomplish these feats. No other group has faced, and overcome, the obstacles and adversity that we have faced this past year. Just to be here, let alone "win" anything is an accomplishment. We are here despite the people that said we couldn't or shouldn't do this. We are here because that is what we have learned through wrestling and what we are teaching to the young people that are involved here today. We could have quit. We could have taken the easy path. We chose not to."
Oregon Wrestling Association Class 1A/2A State Championships
Team scores – 1. Culver, 231.5. 2. Pine Eagle, 94.5. 3. Central Linn, 89. 3. Coquille, 76. 5. Toledo, 63. 6. Lakeview, 60.5. 7. Reedsport, 53. 8. Vernonia, 47. 9. Myrtle Point, 43. 9. Illinois Valley, 43. 11. Kennedy, 39. 12. Glide, 28. 13. Colton, 37. 13. Rogue River, 37. 15. Elgin, 35. 16. Camas Valley, 34. 17. Oakland, 33. 18. Imbler, 30. 19. Gervais, 28. 20. Heppner, 27. 21. Crane, 26.5. 22. Grant Union, 26. 23. Siletz Valley, 21. 24. Bonanza, 20. 25. Enterprise, 20. 27. Neah-Kah-Nie, 17. 28. Union, 16. 29. Glendale, 14. 29. Sheridan, 14. 31. Nestucca, 13.5. 32. North Douglas/Elkton, 13. 33. Joseph/Wallowa, 7. 34. Echo/Stanfield, 5. 35. Knappa, 3. Tie for 36, Adrian, Butte Falls, Chiloqin, Gold Beach, Lost River, Monroe, North Lake, Oakridge, Riddle, Santiam, Waldport, Yoncall, Jefferson, all 0.
106 – 1. Michael Miller, Illinois Valley. 2. Aiden Guest, Culver. 3. Frankie Giron, Gervais. 5. Hannah Erz, Central Linn.
113 – 1. Brandon DePue, Vernonia. 2. Debren Sanabria, Culver. 3. Thadius Brown, Culver. 4. Kevin Sanchez-Diaz, Neah-Kah-Nie.
120 – 1. Garrett Burns, Imbler. 2. Blake Owens, Central Linn. 3. Jordan Piercy, Culver. 4. Logan Gerding, Toledo.
126 – 1. Chase Butner, Pine Eagle. 2. Brody Piercy, Culver. 3. Noel Navarro, Culver. 5. Lane Hill, Camas Valley.
132 – 1. Aaron Solomon, Reedsport. 2. Dennak Towne, Glide. 3. Coy Butner, Pine Eagle. 4. Chase Rodgers, North Douglas/Elkton.
138 – 1. Wyatt Jones, Vernonia. 2. Cutter Tanaka, Pine Eagle. 3. Tanner Mestas, Bonanza. 4. Justus Thurman, Lowell.
145 – 1. Christian Solomon, Reedsport. 2. Wyatt Patzke, Lakeview. 3. Carter Blackburn, Union. 4. Brayson Granger, Lakeview.
152 – 1. Anthony Hood, Culver. 2. Trace Evans, Enterprise. 3. Ryan Martinho, Illinois Valley. 4. Wyatt Corwin, Culver.
160 – 1. Kaleb Oliver, Oakland. 2. Joseph Lathrop, Elgin. 3. Justin Hodge, Grant Union. 4. Cole Goracke, Central Linn.
170 – 1. Tanner Clark, Siletz Valley. 2. Isaiah Toomey, Culver. 3. Jacob Beauchamp, Central Linn. 4. Bruce Morehead, Elgin.
182 – 1. Morgan Ludwig, Lakeview. 2. Jace Coe, Heppner. 3. Brayden Clayburn, Coquille. 4. Ryan Huss, Central Linn.
195 – 1. Seth Butler, Pine Eagle. 2. Nolan Earls, Colton. 3. Riley Jones, Coquille. 4. DeAndre Broxterman, Sheridan.
220 – 1. Jerett Doman, Crane. 2. Eduardo Penaloza, Culver. 3. Caleb Brickey, Myrtle Point. 4. Camryn Biegel, Kennedy.
285 – 1. Kenneth Johnson, Toledo. 2. Daniel Herinckx, Rogue River. 3. Tommy Vigue, Coquille. 4. Rylan Cox, Grant Union.
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