By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
No wrestling is allowed right now at local high schools, but that hasn’t stopped a local powerhouse wrestling team from taking their athletes on the road.
Despite a high number of Oregon COVID-19 cases and travel advisories, the Culver Mat Club team traveled to wrestle in a tournament in Texas this past week.
“To have this and to have them have a why, it’s a blessing, a true blessing to a lot of us families, to be able to give that to our kids and to have Culver wrestling give that to them was amazing,” parent Juanita Dickson said.
J.D. Alley has been the Culver High School varsity wrestling coach for 31 years and has taken his wrestlers to tournaments all over the country.
He called the trip to Texas “the most important trip they have ever taken.”
“To me, for that group of kids and you weigh the risk versus the benefit, it was an easy decision,” Alley, who is also the president of Culver Mat Club, said.
“This was a trip that had a little bit of wrestling in it, but it really wasn’t about wrestling,” he added.
Alley says the decision to travel was mostly about the mental health of his athletes.
“Just where COVID has put us mentally, we needed a snap out of it moment,” Alley said.
The Culver Mat Club team placed 6th out of 118 teams at the Texas tournament.
Many Culver Mat Club members are also on the Culver High School team. The Bulldogs’ wrestling program has been a 2A powerhouse, winning 12 state titles in 14 years.
Last season they placed second in the 2A state tournament. This was supposed to be their redemption year.
“Some of them that you think would be chomping at the bit, weren’t,” Alley said. “That carrot and that dream has got away from them.”
Alley hoped the Texas tournament sanctioned by USA Wrestling would relight a fire under Alley’s athletes.
“It gave my kid a why to do something and finding a why has been hard, really hard,” Dickson said. “My kid had a why, a why to get out of bed, a why to do his homework, a why to have his smile on his face.”
The OSAA has approved a proposed six-week, mid-May, wrestling season ending with a culminating event.