Blaine wrestlers end battle with awards
Blaine wrestlers finished in the middle of the pack among the 19 schools at last weekend’s Battle at the Border, Blaine’s annual tournament that many competitors say is tougher than state tournament competition.
That’s because many wrestlers and coaches prefer tournaments to dual matches because the quality of each weight class is more or less guaranteed. Blaine’s one of the earliest, so they all come here first.
Blaine’s team is young and developing this year, although Jacob Humphrey at 119 pounds and Shane Hicks at 189 pounds both won their weight divisions with impressive, even dominant, performances.
Both wrestlers, according to head coach Craig Foster, are competing at state tournament level proficiency.
Humphrey was third at last year’s state tournament in the lightest class, 103 pounds. This year in 112 he won four of his five matches with pins.
He’s quick, and pins most of his opponents so quickly it’s like watching someone swat flies.
This year he’s moved up a class and occasionally will have to wrestle an entire match, such as in the second round where he had to go the distance with Kentwood’s Brandon Rogers, narrowly winning at the end 5-4.
What that reveals is technique and skill, said Foster. “That match was a cut above anything we’d seen him do last year,” Foster said, obviously pleased to have the sophomore Humphrey around for the next three seasons.
Shane Hicks, who along with his brothers are some of the toughest athletes to play at Blaine, moved up to Blayne Brandenburger’s old weight class this year, 189 pounds. He pinned his first two opponents and then won his third match 7-0 over Everett’s Mike Stoner.
That set up a confrontation with Beamer High School’s David Sullivan, who had cruised through a first-round bye and then pinned his next two opponents as well, the second one in just 41 seconds.
The two came together in the middle of the mat like fighting politicians but just 52 seconds later Hicks had Sullivan flat on his back for the pin and a shot at the title, a somewhat anticlimactic 16-7 drubbing of Washougal’s Kyle Schlauch.
Nico Rehon finished sixth in the 160-pound weight class and Alex Pennington got sixth at 171.
Tyson Foster, after pinning his first opponent in just 42 seconds, lost to the eventual champ Aaron Mannie in the third round.
He pinned his next opponent but then lost to Eli Jacoby, missing his chance to be on the podium even though he was competitive and then some with the best opponents in his class.
After a dual match with Ferndale that happened after press time, the Borderites head to the Mount Vernon Invitational on Saturday, December 16.
There are only two more matches in Blaine, with Meridian on January 4 and then with probably the league’s best team, the Bellingham Red Raiders on January 25.
A slam-dunk win for Blaine
The Borderites played a second thriller at home last weekend, a game that in some ways was a tense follow-up to their slick overtime win against Ferndale earlier in the week.
In that game senior guard Michael Pianki turned the time into a defensive clinic at Ferndale’s expense, plucking the tailfeathers of the same Golden Eagles who had defeated Blaine twice before in overtime games.
Junior Nate Tewalt had a career game high against Ferndale with 25 points and just one foul late in the game, plus going 16 for 16 from the free throw line. Against Elgin Park, he sank another eight straight without a miss for his second 100 percent game from the charity stripe. It left the Elgin Park coach wondering what in heck he eats for breakfast.
Blaine started slowly, something that’s becoming more of a habit than coach Dan Rucker may want to see, and finished the first quarter with an anemic seven points, down six to tall and hot-shooting Elgin, especially their senior forward with the movie star name, Dakota Russell.
Blaine started the second quarter with an 8-2 run and then tied it at 15. Elgin Park got the lead back about three minutes into the third quarter and with 1:20 to go led by five, 37-32, with a very effective zone that seemed to neutralize Blaine’s offensive punch.
But then Blaine woke up again, its defense holding Elgin Park scoreless while the boys popped in six points for a 38-37 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was all Blaine, a 22-7 shellacking. Lots of fouls were called, most of them more or less believable, but in the end Blaine ran away with it offensively while stiffening defensively to hold Elgin Park to single digits.
Joey Paciorek again emerged with a double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nate Tewalt was high scorer with 15 and Conner Oldham sank 12, including two treys.
Blaine’s other three pointer came from senior guard Sean Hurta after he’d been mashed like a bug while trying to make a lay-up against two of Elgin Park’s taller players lurking around the low post like trolls under the bridge.
Hurta confidently showed ’em that getting into the paint wasn’t always necessary and looped a high arching shot straight down through the net from beyond the three-point arc.
Blaine’s on the road for the next six games, returning home January 5 to face the Lynden Christian Lyncs.
They’re led by 6-foot-7 post Kevin Burgers, 6-foot-4 Zach De Boer and not much else as most of their talent left with graduation.
It should be fun. Not easy, but definitely fun.