ll but mighty again fit the Culver wrestling squad.
The Bulldogs finished 12th among 72 teams at the Las Vegas (Nev.) Holiday Classic contested Friday and Saturday.
"Schools of more than 3,000 students were in this tournament," said Culver coach J.D. Alley on Saturday night from Las Vegas. "We were easily the smallest school, but it's always our goal to win a trophy (awarded to the top 10). We were just out of it."
Austin Alley personified that theme in placing second at 189 pounds in a controversial 10-7 loss. The junior Alley is actually 180 but won five matches to reach the finals.
The nephew of the coach opened with a pair of first-period pins. He added a 17-7 win, a 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals and a 6-3 victory in the semifinals. Alley won a 4-3 match in the semifinals.
In the finals, the junior faced fellow Northwesterner Caleb Padgett of White River (Wash). Padgett reached the finals with three pins and a technical fall in the semifinals.
"That guy had all kinds of national pedigree," the Culver coach said. "He'd been to lots of national events, but Austin had an answer for everything he did in a really intense match."
Alley led for almost the entire match. Time was stopped in the final 30 seconds. When it resumed, Padgett was seeking a winning takedown.
However, the clock wasn't started, leaving the question of how much time expired uncertain. Padgett scored a takedown and was also awarded a two-point near fall.
"It was a weird deal," the coach said. "Austin was hanging on at the end and he thought time was almost out when Padgett made a move. It was kind of sad."
"Austin wrestled better than we dreamed he could," the coach said.
Jake Nelson (112) and Austin Barany (140) were also medalists.
Nelson won his first four matches to reach the semifinals. The first two were pins to go along with a 16-1 technical fall. Then Nelson scored a 3-1 overtime decision against Nick Lopez of LaQuinta, Calif.
A 10-2 loss to eventual champion Longmire Britain of Cimarron, Nev., followed in the semifinal. Two close losses followed -- 2-0 in the consolation finals to the eventual third-place finisher (from team champion Buchanan, Calif.) and a 7-6 decision in a rematch to Lopez in the match to decide fourth/fifth places.
"Jake had a good first day," the coach Alley said.
Barany lost his first match (9-5), but then won six in a row to qualify for the medal rounds. The wins started with a pair of 2-1 decisions.
"For a freshman to win six in a row in a tournament like this is solid wrestling," Alley said.
Surprisingly, Miguel Baltazar (130) wasn't among the Bulldog medalists. The three-time state champion rolled into the quarterfinals. Baltazar opened with a technical fall and pin among his first three wins.
One-point losses in the quarterfinal and consolation opener dropped Baltazar out of the tourney.
"I've never been to a tournament in which Miguel didn't place until this one," Alley said. "That affected the whole team. Miguel took it hard and so did the whole team."
A couple of pounds also kept Culver's team score down. Jared Schehen was slated to wrestle at 125, but instead was an extra entry at 130 (meaning he could not score team points). Schehen won two matches in the championship bracket and two more in consolation.
"Jared was wrestling well, but he couldn't score any team points for us," Alley said.
Culver scored 122 points, just seven out of the top 10.
In addition to those mentioned, Bulldog wrestlers scoring points were: Patrick Foster (135), Gerald Speas (145), Spud Smith (152), Casey Usher (160), Paul Krueger (171), Matt Zachary (215) and Nick Barany (285).
Also wrestling for Culver, but not eligible to score team points were: Jack Merrill (112), Jake McDonald (189) and Kolton Wofford (215).
Ironically for the Culver coaches, they were in a sense 3.5 points behind a former Bulldog.
Brian Stills, who won the 2A/1A title at 160 in 2005, was the lead assistant coach for El Madena, Calif. He is also the son of veteran Culver assistant Lorne Stills.