Culver searching for seven
Senior Jared Kasch going for fourth state title
The number seven is well-known by the superstitious for bringing luck to someone. At casinos, it's a big winner on the slot machines. It has graced the jerseys of New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle, hoops legend "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway.
For the Culver wrestling team, however, the number seven has a much more meaningful representation - the Bulldogs are eyeing their seventh-straight Class 2A state championship this season.
Since the turn of the century, only two teams have won the combined 2A/1A wrestling title. Nyssa ran off six straight from 2000-2006; three of those years Culver finished second.
Since the classification shuffle before the 2007 season, one that moved Nyssa to Class 3A, Culver has reigned supreme and collected six top trophies of its own.
After being tied with challenger Lowell at the end of the first day of the state championships last year in Portland, the Bulldogs scored five individual state titles to propel them to the peak of the podium for a sixth consecutive year.
In order to do capture the title, it's going to take a total team effort, head coach J.D. Alley said.
"I think the potential is there for this team to win," Alley said. "We won't have the horsepower we have had in the past, but if we stay healthy I think we have a little more depth."
The headliners for the Bulldogs this season are their two returning state champions, senior Jared Kasch and sophomore Tucker Davis.
Kasch won the championship at 126 pounds last season, his third title of his career, which makes this season special for not just him, but the entire program as he's seeking his fourth state title.
"To win four championships in anything is hard to do," Alley said. "Jared has put the work in, but there are more things that have to go right other than just wrestling in order to do this. That's why it's so hard."
Kasch won the state title at 103 pounds his freshman year and at 112 pounds his sophomore year.
If he's able to accomplish the feat, he'll be the latest in an exclusive brethren of wrestlers and the 25th all-time in Oregon to win a title every year in high school.
He would also be the second Culver wrestler to do it, joining Miguel Baltazar who won four titles from 2005-2008.
With his three state championships, he's only the third wrestler in Culver history to achieve that. The other guys? Baltazar and their coach. Alley won the heavyweight title from 1983-1985.
Davis claimed the 120-pound title with two pins in the tournament, then a 4-1 win over top-seeded Nestucca senior Valery Silva in the championship match.
"With those two, there are really good things," Alley said of his returning champs.
The question this season is who will Culver run out behind its two champs, and Alley said he has been pleased with what he's seen early on, even though practices have been "slow going," as he put it.
"We're going to be a little rusty early on," he said. "We've got most of our weight certification taken care of, but this is definitely going to be a different sort of year for us."
Seniors Mitch Adams and Juan Diaz, along with junior Jon Krueger, are the only other returning wrestlers with state tournament experience from last year's team.
With Noe Gonzalez, last year's 113-pound champion as a junior, moving to Walla Walla, Wash., that leaves another hole Alley wouldn't have had to fill, but the team is going to control what they can, and that's themselves.
The schedule the Bulldogs have lined up is chock-full of competitive tournaments.
After the team opens the year at the Central Oregon Officials Open at Mountain View High School on Saturday, they'll host the Culver Invitational, something Alley said the team takes great pride in.
"We try to make it competitive for the kids and entertaining for the fans," Alley said. "There's usually a lot of talent there."
The Bulldogs will travel to tournaments in Roseburg, Pendleton, Central Point, Joseph, Heppner and the Reser's Tournament of Champions in Hillsboro, Oregon's premier invite-only meet.
The Bulldogs will also compete in the unofficial Oregon dual meet championships, the Oregon Classic, held at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond.
"We wouldn't get invited to these big tournaments if we werent doing something right," Alley said. "This is something we've worked for."
Two years ago, the Bulldogs surprised everyone at the Reser's TOC by finishing in fourth place, ahead of Class 6A and 5A schools.
"That's something we hope to get back to," Alley said.
This year's district tournament will be held Feb. 16 at North Lake High School in Silver Lake and the state finals are set for Feb. 22-23 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
The Bulldogs will also host the district preview meet on Feb. 9, a week before the district championships.