Culver goes through brutal part of schedule ahead of district tournament

At what is hailed as the state’s toughest wrestling tournament, the Culver High School wrestling team had a bit of a rough go Friday and Saturday.

The Bulldogs placed 21st with 53 points at the Reser’s Tournament of Champions, an invitation-only competition at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School that features the state’s best team regardless of classification, and had just two wrestlers reach the podium.

Freshman Saxton Schaffner and junior Josh Hendrix were the two Bulldogs who placed, each in sixth place. Schaffner, who was seeded No. 6 at 126 pounds, finished the star-studded event with a 3-3 record, and picking up wins against two wrestlers who had beaten him earlier in the season.

Schaffner earned a win in the championship bracket, before he was bounced into the consolation rounds by No. 3 seed Joey Rodriguez from Hillsboro, and then picked up wins against Redmond’s Austin Rystedt and Crook County’s Brett Bannon. Culver head coach J.D. Alley said those wins were big for Schaffner, considering both guys had pinned Schaffner earlier in the season.

“For Saxton to come back and get those wins was a pretty good deal for him,” Alley said. “So much of this tournament is the draw, especially going through the back side. It’s a real meat grinder.”

Hendrix, the No. 5 seed at the heavyweight division, posted a win against Sandy sophomore Alec Paola before being sent to the consolation bracket by Hermiston’s Armando Garcia.

While in the back end of the bracket, Hendrix earned a spot in the consolation semifinals with a pair of wins. He beat Roseburg junior Zach Caddock 7-5 and No. 7 seed John Rodriguez of Hillsboro 3-2, but then met No. 2 seed Jason Williams of Crook County after the Cowboy was upset by No. 3 seed P.J. Schubert of Pendleton.

Williams pinned Hendrix, and then the Bulldog lost the fifth-place bout to Crater’s Mike Rios.

“Josh’s draw got really tough at the end, but you know, he managed to get to the podium, “ Alley said. “It’s tough for an underclassman (nonsenior) to do well there.”

At 138 pounds, Culver’s Bolt Anglen ended up taking an injury default in his final match, but Alley said he wasn’t worried about the health of one of this three returning state champs.

“He just got a little banged up near the end of the match, and there just wasn’t enough time for him to overcome it,” Alley said. “He should be able to go here soon.”

The schedule bodes well for the Bulldogs in that regard because the only event they have lined up this week is the CowDog Classic — a dual with Crook County — in Prineville on Wednesday.

“We’re jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire a little bit,” Alley said of taking on the Cowboys, who won the Reser’s TOC title with 274 points and are the heavy favorite to capture the Class 4A state title.

Culver was one of just five schools smaller than Class 5A to be part of the tournament, and it’s an honor in itself to be one of the small schools included in the showcase, but Alley said the tournament has taken its toll on the team in the past.

“This is a tournament where we have a lot of the season-ending injuries, so it’s good we didn’t have any of those this time,” Alley said. “We got wins in places, and I think overall this was a good tournament for us.”

Marco Retano picked up two wins at 113 pounds in the consolation rounds, and Levi Vincent toppled No. 8 seed Anthony Lambert of Glencoe in the championship bracket.

The next tournament for the Bulldogs will be Feb. 8, at the Bank of Eastern Oregon Invitational in Heppner. The tournament will feature one of the top Class 2A/1A teams in the state in Crane, and last season’s third-place Class 3A team Riverside, amongst other teams from Eastern Oregon.

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