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2012 Year in review: Culver's six tops local stories

Top two spots owned by Bulldogs
Looking back through the Madras Pioneer archives while putting this year in review package together, it was pretty easy to pick what the top sports story was in 2012.
   1. Culver wins sixth-straight wrestling title
   When a school wins one state championship, it's an awesome accomplishment.
   Two in a row - now that's pretty rare - but the Culver wrestling program didn't stop there.
   They didn't stop at three, four or five. The school must have ordered a new trophy case to fill, and it was the wrestling team's duty to make it happen.
   At the conclusion of the 2012 state wrestling championships, held Feb. 22-23 at Portland's Memorial Coliseum, the Culver Bulldogs claimed the Class 2A/1A team championship for the sixth-straight time, cementing itself into state glory and dynasty consideration.
   And they are pretty greedy about it, too. They don't plan on stopping anytime soon.
   The Bulldogs outscored runner-up Lowell 132-118.5 behind the strength of five state champions, including three-time title winner Jared Kasch.
   Kasch won the championship at 126 pounds, matching a trio of golds shared by former Bulldogs Miguel Baltazar and current Culver head coach J.D. Alley.
   If Kasch picks up his fourth title this season, he'll be the second Bulldog in history to accomplish the rare feat, joining Baltazar.
   Noe Gonzalez, who transferred to Walla Walla High School before this season began, won the 113-pound championship for the Bulldogs. Tucker Davis (120 pounds) won his first championship, while Jesus Retano (152) and Justin Hendrix (195) each claimed tournament gold.
   Hendrix entered the tournament unseeded and romped through his three matches in one of the meet's biggest surprises.
   This season, Culver might not have the firepower it once had, but Alley has been confident all year that his team will have enough depth to at least make the Bulldogs seventh-consecutive state championship a possibility.
   If they are able to capture it, they will continue to be the only program to win the Class 2A/1A state championship since the Oregon Schools Activities Association shuffled the classification system around to make six classes, 1A-6A.
   Early in the season, it looks like Lowell will once again have a strong squad that could hang with the Bulldogs, but then again, Culver beat them by 24 points at the Culver Invitational this year.
   Only time will tell if the Bulldogs can do it again.
   2. Culver's "comeback kids" capture volleyball gold
   They did it the entire year. Fall behind early, put together a rally, then win convincingly. It was the Culver volleyball team's thing, like people doing the "Chicken Dance" at a wedding reception.
   With a cool demeanor that never seemed to waver, the Bulldogs made one last comeback in 2012, and it was the most important one.
   Culver clawed back from a deficit to defeat the Days Creek Wolves in a five-set barn-burner that will go down as one of the greatest matches in state tournament history, and claim the Class 2A state volleyball championship.
   The title was the first one in school history at the 2A level, and coming off a fourth-place finish in 2011, which was a disappointment for them, the Bulldogs showed everyone that they were for real.
   The team played with a chip on its shoulder at times, like they were trying to gain respect from the opposition, even though they certainly already had it.
   Whenever sophomore outside hitter, and 2A state player of the year, Shealene Little rose up and swung her mighty right arm to blast a laser beam past hapless defenders, or when 6-foot-3 middle blocker Cassie Fulton denied someone with a vicious block, teams figured out quickly they were in for a long night.
   Along with earning the state's top individual award, Little was named to the first team of the Class 2A all-state team, as was teammate Gabrielle Alley.
   Culver head coach Randi Viggiano was named the coach of the year. The Bulldogs ended the year on a 19-match winning streak and a 22-5 record.
   3. Williams ends stellar senior year with title
   Madras' Travis Williams lost two matches during his junior and senior years of high school.
   Thankfully for him and the Madras wrestling program, he didn't lose his last one.
   Williams dispatched Siuslaw's Sonny Tupua in the Class 4A 220-pound state championship bout to claim Madras' fourth-ever individual champion last February at Portland's Memorial Coliseum.
   Williams finished his senior year with a 44-1 record, which followed up his 40-1 mark during hius junior year, but a state championship always makes a season's worth of hard work, sweat, blood and even some tears worth it.
   Williams joined Ryan Brunner (2010), Chad McFarland (2002) and Jesse Armstrong (2000) as the only White Buffalos to stand at the pinnacle of the state tournament podium
   After losing two matches his freshman year, Williams placed third at the state meet his sophomore year. His lone loss his junior year came in the state championship match to Astoria's Chance Banta at 215 pounds, but he made that wasn't going to happen again.
   Williams mowed through the field in 2012 with a pair of pins to start the tournament, then he beat Elmira's Andrew Piper, 5-3, in the semifinals.
   He was then matched up with Tupua, whom he beat two times prior. Williams made it three.
   4. Madras football makes playoffs, volleyball places fifth at state
   Both the football and volleyball programs produced memorable seasons, the type that can be used as a builiding block to something even better.
   While the football team's playoff hopes hung in the balance until the final regular season game, the volleyball team ripped through the postseason and advanced to the final site at Lane Community College.
   The football team beat Crook County in the play-in round to earn a spot in the 16-team playoff bracket for the first time since 2005, while the volleyball team earned its first trophy since the 1980s.
   Not a bad fall for either program, it would appear.
   5. Abby Scott gets D-I scholarship, leads Buffs to fourth
   It's not everyday a local player has the perfect storm that allows them to play college sports at the highest level, but at the rate Madras is pumping out those athletes, it sure seems like something is in the water.
   Abby Scott, a 6-foot-1 guard now for the New Mexico State Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference, helped guide the White Buffalos to fourth place at the 4A basketball tournament in March at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
   After a heart-breaking two-point loss to Philomath in the quarterfinals, the Buffs rebounded to beat Tillamook, 47-32, then Mazama, 52-49, to claim the consolation prize.
   Scott posted 24 points in the consolation final, her final game in Madras red, white and blue, but she'll be playing plenty of hoops in Las Cruces, N.M. for the Aggies for years to come.