Bound for the Big Dance
Culver wins fourth district title as seniors set sights on final chance to win state titles
The Bulldogs did it yet again. Clad in the usual competitive form, Culver snatched up its fourth consecutive district title last weekend, as they hosted the Class 1A-2A district wrestling tournaments.
With a total of 337 points, the Bulldogs left their competition in the dust to take the district crown yet again. With the solid win, Culver had 12 wrestlers qualify for the state wresting tournament this weekend in Salem. The dozen wrestlers is am improvement from last year's eight, who made an appearance at state. Among those 12 grapplers are Culver's talented senior line up, who are hungery for that state title.
"I thought we wrestled very well, the kids stepped up and performed to their potential," said Culver head coach J.D. Alley. "We recognized our seniors before the tournament and they stepped up to the plate."
Those seniors included James Moyses, Adam Kinley, Brian Stills, Billy Kenyon and Dustin Jacobson.
A three-time state qualifier who was runner up in last year's state tournament, Stills (160 pounds) took on the No. 1 wrestler in the state, Jeff Whitman of Amity, and won by decision for his fourth straight individual district title last weekend.
"That was a tough deal to get your fourth title wrestling the top-ranked kid in the state," noted Coach Alley.
Also facing a highly-ranked wrestler was Kinley, who is a three-time state qualifier as well. Wrestling at 130 pounds, Kinley won his fourth district title when he won by decision over No. 2 Jaren Kamarer of Neah-Kah-Nie.
Posting a perfect 4-0 record for the tournament was Moyses, a three-time state runner up, who will join Kinley and Stills in the quest for a state wrestling title. Moyses (119) won his second district title by decision over Josh Brown of Amity last weekend, while senior teammate Kenyon (125) also posted a 4-0 record and took down Jarred Staben of Willamina by decision to win his first district title in the championship round.
Jacobson gave also gave a shining performance as he finished in third place to qualify for his first appearance at state when he defeated Zach Wegner of Dayton, 3-2.
For those seniors who have made multiple appearances at the state wrestling tournament, this year poses as the finale for them, as in the past, they have come just shy of fulfilling that ultimate goal-a state title.
"We're worrying more about ourselves than we are about the team score (at state)," said Stills, who will look to claim his first state title as a senior after appearing at state the last three years, along with Moyses, who has been teased with a the crown as a three-time state runner up.
"We've all earned it (a state title)," noted Moyses.
And while these seniors are all multi-sport athletes, competing in football as well, they say wrestling is the sport they love, is the sport they favor of the others.
"It's being able to win and dominate. If you lose, it's your own fault," said Kinley, a three-time state qualifier who placed third at state last year, "And there's the physicalness of the sport, not everyone can do it."
With 12 wrestlers qualifying for state, and with a wrestling program that has long been recognized as a top-ranked program in the sport, despite the school's small size, Culver is on top once again, which is something Coach Alley is continually proud of.
"There's that sense of accomplishment," noted Alley. "Surviving the competition is something, but surviving the competition and still coming out on top of the heap is quite the accomplishment."
Such accomplishment is something the Bulldogs' more experienced wrestlers now about too, especially the seniors, who, despite their previous accomplishments in the sport, are still after that one thing.
Denied the state title the last three years in a row, Moyses has one thing on his mind heading into this weekend. When asked what he's going to do differently in his fourth appearance at the state tournament in his quest for an individual title, his answer is very simple.
"I'm gonna win," said Moyses, with a smile.
Joining the five seniors, Culver's other eight wrestlers will head to state in the quest to take down defending state champion Nyssa, which took its fifth straight state title last year, while another of the Bulldog's closest rivals, Dayton, took second last year.
"We want to take care of our solid high-ranked kids. We got the younger kids in there, and our goal is to get them in there and get some of those winning matches," said Coach Alley, who noted that the Bulldogs are going to simply wrestle at their best at state. "You never know how things will wind up at state."
Other qualifiers for Culver include freshman standout Miguel Baltazar (112), who suffered the first loss of his high school career against Datyon's defending champion Jesse Marines with a 5-2 decision, while teammate Levi Roberts (145) slipped to Dayton's three-time state champ Barry Johnson for second place.
Michael Williams won his match at 103 pounds to advance to state, while teammate Jake Nelson (112) took third in the third-place matches. Trent Nelson (119) also place third to qualify for state, while Tyler Warren pinned Nathan Marquez of Amity for third place in the 130 pound weight class to round out the dozen making it to state.
While Culver hit the road last year for district tournaments, hosting the tournament this year gave the Bulldogs the home advantage, as well as a sense of pride in hosting the 12-team tournament.
"You don't get an opportunity to host a district tournament," said Coach Alley. "Culver is no stranger to put on a wrestling tournament, but this was a quality event, from top to bottom. I really feel good about the event we pulled off and it took a lot of people and they did a job well done."
Culver will head to the state wrestling tournament this week, which will be held at the fairgrounds in Salem this Thursday through Saturday.
For the district tournament, Dayton placed a distant second with 291.5, followed by Willamina with 157.5 points and Neah-Kah-Nea with 126 points.