Culver Invite one of the best

In the Bleachers with Billy
Having covered high school sports for nearly four years now, I've spent my fair share of hours camped out next to the head table at wrestling tournaments.
   I've been to state championship meets and other big meets, such as the Best of the West in Pasco, Wash., the Reser's Tournament of Champions in Hillsboro and the Inland Empire meet in Spokane, but on Saturday I got to experience the Culver Invitational.
   While not nearly as big as the aforementioned tourmaments I've been to, I had heard good things about it.
   I talked with a couple coaches that sent teams there in the past, among other people, and they had nothing but good things to say about it.
   Well, they were right, and I think they may have been understating a little bit, too.
   I'm a small-town guy myself, and what J.D. Alley and the crew of folks that worked all day Friday and Saturday to make this meet happen is nothing short of outstanding.
   This meet drips with small-town pride and big-time hospitality, because that's how it's done in a community like Culver.
   When you are able to put on an event such as this, there needs to be a reason (or several reasons) why teams want to come back year after year.
   The competition level is one reason why teams come back. There were state champion wrestlers all over the place during the meet. It was like every fifth person in the gym had a state gold medal around their neck at some point in their high school careers, and they'll probably add more hardware by the time the year is over with.
   Another reason is the atmosphere created during the final round. It's like you are taking a trip in a time machine to a 1940s prize fight.
   With the main gym lights black, one light is lowered over the wrestlers to not just give them a chance to see other, but as a methphor to let them know that, for six minutes or less, they have the spotlight. It's their time to shine under the lone bulb that illuminates the mat.
   I have been to the Bank of Eastern Oregon Invitational in Heppner, and while it's been a couple years, they have taken a page out of Culver's book and adopted the one-light championship match as well, but it's not the same.
   The logistics of hosting 20 schools with just four mats can be somewhat silly, and while there was a little bit of a hiccup late Saturday, things ran pretty smooth even though it was a bit behind schedule.
   For a tournament like that to stay on schedule would be a small miracle, so having to open up the smaller gym at CHS for matches wasn't that big of a deal, I didn't think.
   Kudos to the crew that put on the event. It's a top-notch small school wrestling event, and will always be that way if the same people are running it.