New additions, strong veteran group will help fuel Bulldogs run at another title
The Culver High School wrestling team wants to start a new streak.
After finishing second to Lowell at the Class 2A/1A wrestling championships last season, which snapped a six-year reign for the Bulldogs, Culver isn't interested in finishing runner-up again.
"We thought we were good enough to win the title last year, in a lot of ways," Culver coach J.D. Alley said. "Lowell had a good tournament, and we didn't. We want to get our trophy back."
In order to reclaim the state's top wrestling prize, Culver is going to rely on a mix of crafty, state tournament-tested veterans and a group of youngsters ready to shine.
A couple new faces to the program, but certainly not new to the mat, will also help.
Junior Clay McClure, who won the 138-pound state championship as a Central Linn Cobra last season, will join the squad. McClure makes the third returning state champion on the Bulldogs' roster this season, along with senior Bolt Anglen and junior Tucker Davis.
Madras transfer Brandon Hawes should also help, Alley said, but he's not quite sure what weight he'll come in at.
Anglen, who didn't wrestle his sophomore year due to a concussion he suffered during football season, won the 132-pound class last season. Davis won the championship at 126 pounds last season.
Alley said his core group of wrestlers Anglen, Davis, McClure, Kyle Bender and Mitch Adams will have to shoulder most of the load early on until the coaching staff can bring along some talented freshmen.
Saxton Schaffner, Marco Retanos and Jaidon Jones are expected to make an impact right away, and Alley is excited to have all of them.
"Jaidon is oozing with potential, but there are things he needs to work over," Alley said. "But we're really excited to have him and the rest of this young group."
Another young wrester, Mac Little, is "one of the most fun kids to coach," Alley said.
Culver has around 30 kids out for the team this year, something Alley said he was pleased with, and practices early in the year have also been going well.
"I don't have any complaints," Alley said. "Things have been pretty good, and we're just trying to find our way."
Although the Bulldogs' consecutive state championship streak was stopped at six last year, they still have a couple other impressive runs that Alley has no intention or relinquishing.
The Bulldogs have won the 2A/1A division at the Oregon Wrestling Classic, considered the unofficial dual meet state championships, for eight straight seasons. They have also rattled off 12 straight district championships, a streak that began in 2002.
No matter how you slice it, the Bulldogs are equipped to make yet another deep run into the state tournament. Lowell will be there to try to win its second title in a row, though. They return two 2013 state champs, Josh Cardwell and Tanner Harvey, along with a couple runners-up in Austin McNichols and Colin Cash. Lincoln Casarez, Lowell's state champ at 160 pounds last year, transferred to Pleasant Hill for his senior season.
With Davis, Anglen and McClure returning as state champs, Bender finished third at 138 pounds last year, and Adams was fourth at 182. Adams is expected to wrestle at 195 this season, Alley said.
The Bulldogs kick off the season Saturday at the Central Oregon Officials Open at Mountain View High School in Bend. Alley said he's looking for his guys to wrestle with some heart and be competitive.
"I want the kids to be fundamentally sound and physical," Alley said.
It will be nice to see how the wrestlers, especially the younger ones, respond when they met with an adversary outside of the practice room.
"It's tough to see where you are at until you get some matches in," Alley said. "You can drill all you want, but until you're on the mat with someone who wants to rip your head off, you don't really know where you stand."
The Bulldogs will also hold their annual Culver Invitational on Dec. 13-14.
The CowDog Classic, Culver's dual with Crook County, will be at Crook County High School on Jan. 21.
The Bulldogs will also host the district tournament this year, and that is set for Feb. 22.