The Blaine wrestling team had what head coach Craig Foster called “a great regional tournament performance,” in Hoquiam on February 9, and 11 Borderites earned their trip to the 25th Mat Classic state wrestling championship in Tacoma this weekend. With Olivia Adams earning a bid at the girls regional tournament in Sedro-Woolley the same day, that makes 12 Blaine wrestlers headed to state – equal to the most athletes Foster can remember sending in his 23-year career as head coach.
“It was an outstanding total team performance,” Foster said. “Everyone wrestled hard, and we won some tight matches that made it a pretty exciting tournament.”
Anthony Frey at 126 lbs., Caleb Johnson at 195 lbs. and Mikey Antczak at 285 lbs. each won their championship matches. Overall, Blaine won the tournament with 217.5 points.
Asked if any matches stood out, Foster said Justin Belding’s and Anthony Frey’s impressed him.
“Belding was in the toughest weight, and he came back from a loss in the first round to win three matches in a row and get a bid to state,” Foster said. “Anthony Frey surprised everyone by pinning the fourth ranked guy in the state [Javier Contreras from Forks, who is now ranked 10th statewide in 1A at 126 lbs.]. Both the Frey boys are kind of dangerous because they’re young and unknown, but they’ll flip guys on their backs pretty quick. It’s exciting to have kids like that on the team.”
Foster said as always, he is looking forward to the Mat Classic. Foster, who has attended the Mat Classic as a coach every year since 1990, said the championship is one of the most respected and well-attended high school wrestling tournaments in the country.
“There are 24 mats going on at once, but it’s not chaos,” he said. “They’ve got it down to where it’s well organized. It’s pretty neat.”
The team will travel to a hotel in Auburn on Thursday, February 14. Matches begin the next day at 10 a.m., running in four sessions over the course of two days.
“Friday morning is usually a little dicey,” Foster said, with schools battling Tacoma traffic to get to the arena and athletes working out the jitters in their early matches.
“Friday night’s kind of like heartbreak hill,” he added, “because that’s when people start to get eliminated.”
The veteran Blaine coach said he has a lot of great memories and a lot of heartbreaks from Mat Classics of the past.
“Sometimes you watch kids grow up, coach them from when they were kids to when they’re young adults, and you see their whole wrestling career boil down to one 30-second match,” he said. “That’s a pretty amazing thing when you look at it like that.”
Over the years, Foster has seen both sides – victory and heartbreak – and while he has every reason to be optimistic about Blaine’s performance at state this year, the wisdom of experience has taught him not to expect a specific outcome.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams out there, and we’re kind of unproven. We could end up near the top, or down at 15th or 20th, so I really don’t know what to expect. We just hope we can go hard and wrestle tough.”