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Bulldog wrestlers battle bigger schools

Culver beats 4A power, wins elite medals
The roll the Culver wrestling squad started at the Oregon Classic continued all the way across the Cascades.
   The Bulldogs defeated Sweet Home in a battle of defending state champions Thursday. Culver is the 2A/1A champ while the host Huskies won the 4A title last season.
   A day later, the Bulldogs finished fifth among 13 teams in the big-school Crater Classic (at Central Point). Five Culver wrestlers medaled, led by Miguel Baltazar winning the 125-pound title.
   Battling big schools continues this weekend with a trek to the Reser's Tournament of Champions in Hillsboro. The Bulldogs are among 23 teams on the initial appearance list, including four defending state champions.
   Last year's 6A champ Roseburg joins Hermiston (5A), Burns (3A) and Culver in the elite list. A trio of state runner ups (West Linn in 6A, Crook County in 5A and Tillamook in 4A) are also expected.
   "We're always appreciative to be able to compete in events like Reser's or Crater," Culver coach J.D. Alley said. "We're always looking for quality teams to compete against."
   Crater Classic: Baltazar clinched an 18-11 decision with a big move in the final 30 seconds. He executed a takedown and three-point near fall against Justin Eldred (No. 2 at 130 in 6A according to Oregon Wrestling Forum).
   Eldred scored a season-high 11 points with three takedowns against Baltazar, the three-time 2A/1A champ.
   "In tournaments like that, you're going to face quality opponents," Alley said. "That's what we're looking for."
   Baltazar had two tchnical falls in his three preliminary matches.
   Jake Nelson at 119 and Austin Alley at 189 finished second after winning three preliminary matches.
   Nelson battled a fellow state champion in his finals. Nelson, the 2A/1A winner at 103 last year, faced a two-time 6A champion in Mitchell Lofstedt of Roseburg (112 last year and 103 in 2006). The 6A champ won by a technical fall.
   At 189, Alley scored a one-point win in the semifinals. He then fell 10-4 in the finals to Nick Shoesmith who is seeking his third trip to the 6A meet. Shoesmith scored a pair of early takedowns to gain the lead.
   "The other guy was better on his feet," the Culver coach said. "You want to win every match, but when you look at where Austin was a year ago, you realize how far Austin has come. He's a vastly improved wrestler."
   Spud Smith 152 finished third and Jared Schehen at 130 was fourth. Both had close semifinal loses.
   Smith lost an overtime decision in his semifinal rebounded to score a 10-6 decision to earn third.
   Schehen fell 1-0 in his semifinal, the only point a stalling call. Schehen was then pinned in the third-place match.
   "That stalling call was a surprise to us," Alley said. "Jared is an aggressive wrestler and he was called twice for stalling (his foe awarded the point)."
   Several other Bulldogs advanced to the consolation quarterfinals to help Culver finish fifth in the team standings with 135 points. A season ago, the Bulldogs were sixth.
   Culver 46, Sweet Home 25: The Bulldogs won eight of the 11 contested matches in a battle of defending state champions. Culver won the 2A/1A title and ranked No. 1 at that class again while the Huskies are ranked third in 4A this season.
   "When you go into another team's gym, you never know what's going to happen," Alley said. "It was two defending state champions going at each other."
   Culver took control by winning matches in bunches of three (in the duel starting at 119).
   Nelson began the streak with a 14-10 decision against a ranked 4A foe (Kris Newport, fifth at 125). Baltazar followed at 130 with a technical fall against another ranked Huskie (Jack Perry, second in 4A at 125). Schehen added a major decision at 135.
   Culver won three more matches, starting at 145 as Austin Barany scored a major decision, 9-0. Smith won by injury default, against Nick Pitts (ranked fourth at 152). Casey Usher then pinned Brad Pitts (13th at 160).
   At 189, Alley started the third streak with a first-period pin. Matt Zachary accepted a forfeit (215) and Nick Barany scored a second-period pin.
   Jack Merrill closed out the match with a first-period pin against another ranked Huskie (Taylor Tagle, third at 112).