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Big-school trek done, Culver wrestlers aim for state title

After weeks of taking on bigger schools, the Culver wrestlers will be going against teams their own size.
   The top-ranked Bulldogs are part of the predistrict tourney for 2A/1A Special District 3. All nine teams will meet at Irrigon on Saturday. The pre-district tourney features three of the top five 2A/1A teams (according to Oregon Wrestling Forum).
   Lakeview, now ranked third, and No. 5 Chiloquin are part of the nine-team contingent.
   "By this time of the year, we hope we've taught the guys everything they can use," Culver coach J.D. Alley said. "We also hope everybody is ready to go. Last year, we had five guys out of the pre-district."
   The trail to state starts the next week at Bonanza. Just the top two wrestlers in each weight advance to the 2A/1A state meet in Portland on Feb. 14-16.
   Culver prepared for the upcoming meets by scheduling a duel against 5A power Crook County on Tuesday, Jan. 29 (contested after press time).
   "We had the open dates and found teams with open dates as well," Alley said. "We're always willing to wrestle teams such as Crook County."
   That meet came after being part of the elite Reser's Tournament of Champions during the weekend.
   Reser's TOC: Miguel Baltazar and Jake Nelson again competed in the Reser's finals with both finishing second.
   In the 125-pound final, Mitchell Lofstedt of Roseburg edged Baltazar 7-5 in a controversial finish. Baltazar trailed in the final seconds when he apparently took Loftstedt down at the edge of the circle with seven seconds left.
   No takedown was allowed as the official blew his whistle before the wrestlers were actually out of bounds.
   "They tied up near the boundary and went flying out of bounds," Alley said. "The official blew his whistle before the takedown. It was an ugly deal."
   Baltazar led 4-3 going into the final period against the Roseburg wrestler who beat Nelson the previous week in the 119 final. Baltazar led on takedowns in both the first and second periods.
   The third period started with both wrestlers up. Loftstedt, ranked No. 2 among 6A at 119, scored a takedown and two-point near fall. The Culver senior scored an escape with eight seconds to set up the controversial finish.
   Baltazar had a forfeit and two wins into the finals. He scored an 11-2 win in the quarterfinals and had a 14-2 victory against Brendan Palmer of Burns in the semifinals.
   At 112, Nelson had a rematch against Tommy Siciliano of Newberg. The 6A champion won 9-2, going up 4-0 in the first and 7-0 in the second. Nelson scored a takedown early in the third, but Siciliano countered with a reversal.
   Nelson reached the finals with three wins. He won his open 9-2 and scored a technical fall in the quarterfinals. In his semifinal, Nelson then scored six points in the final 28 seconds against Jaylee Britt of Hermiston to win. With a 9-all tie, Nelson scored an escape. He followed with a takedown and was awarded a three-point near fall at the buzzer for a 15-9 win.
   Austin Alley at 189 and Austin Barany at 140 also earned medals. Alley finished fourth, again wrestling Nick Shoesmith of Grants Pass in the medal match. The two met in the Crater Classic finals with Shoesmith winning both times (11-4 at Reser and 10-4 at Crater).
   Barany rallied from an opening-round loss to eventual champion R.J. Pena of Sprague. Barany went on to win four matches, including a 6-2 victory against Clint Peebles of Newberg.
   In the team standings, Culver finished eighth with 88.5 points. Newberg won, finishing more than 50 points ahead of Hermiston with Crook County fifth.