Culver freshmen make early impacts
Several fresh faces on the Bulldogs break out in recent weeks.
Coming into this season, the Culver wrestling team was heavy on seniors and several other upperclassmen.
The Bulldogs' bullets — as coach J.D. Alley calls his established wrestlers who are reliable point-scorers and placers — included a group of five seniors that had two state winners and three runners-up from a year ago, plus two other individual titlists in sophomore Lorenzo Vasquez and junior Jorge Olivera.
Through four tournaments on the season, those bullets have largely landed where they should be. The more unknown part, however, was seeing how younger wrestlers with little high school experience fared early.
A couple of those wrestlers, freshmen Orlando Torres and Jordan VanAlstyne, picked a heck of a time to impact Culver's team. Both guys rose to the occasion at the Sierra Nevada Classic Dec. 28-29, scoring key points that likely made the difference in Culver finishing top 10 out of 91 teams.
With the program that Alley and the Bulldogs have put in place, it shouldn't come as a surprise that either of them are having success early in their high school careers, but it's not something that a team can always count on.
While the likes of Marco Retano, Saxton Schaffner and Vasquez — to name a few — came to the program as freshmen ready to go from the beginning, many wrestlers need some time to adjust to high school competition.
"In our program, we kind of expect that (success)," Alley said. "When it comes? That's a different story. We believe those kids have the tools. Every wrestler kind of goes through it where they wake up one day, look out the window and life looks a little different. It just takes a little something to get them going."
Perhaps it was the bright lights of the Reno strip and the grand atmosphere of the Sierra Nevada Classic that lit a fire under each of them. Torres and VanAlstyne, like many of the Bulldogs' wrestlers, had never competed in a meet of that size and stature.
When Torres lost his first match in the 120-pound division against Central Catholic's Richard Delapaz, he knew it would be an uphill battle from the consolation bracket.
"I wanted to place, but I also didn't want to go two and out," Torres said. "When I lost that first match, I was kind of scared on how I was gonna do, because there were so many people and so much pressure."
He rebounded with three straight wins that amounted to six Culver points, before coming up one match short of qualifying for day two.
VanAlstyne earned his second match win of the season in the 126 preliminary rounds, defeating Lane Penrose of Dayton by fall in 1 minute, 47 seconds. Although he dropped his next two, VanAlstyne still added four points to the Bulldogs' score.
"I was very proud of myself because only a (couple) freshmen scored points for the team," VanAlstyne said. "I felt like I was one of the more outstanding freshmen wrestlers."
Fellow freshman Lane Downing also had a breakout moment the following weekend at the JO HI tournament in Jospeh. He won five matches and finished third in 126, which included a win over VanAlstyne.
Torres and VanAlstyne said they've been encouraged by coaches and teammates so far this season, which has given them added confidence as they navigate further into their first high school seasons.
Their confidence is a welcome sign for the Bulldogs, who also have freshmen Hunter Augustynovich, Johan Jaimes and Bryan Zuniga on the roster.
It won't be long before Culver graduates these five seniors and needs more young guys to step up.
"In the big scheme of things, those will be our bullets in a year," Alley said. "We're gonna need them. This graduation will be extremely difficult on us — we have one of our deepest bunches of seniors ever. So, it gives us a little hope for tomorrow, for sure."
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