Saving the win for when it counted the most, the Blaine boys wrestling team overcame a strong Sedro-Woolley team to take home the Northwest Conference (NWC) tournament championship for the second year in a row.
Prior to the NWC tournament, the Borderites had lost 36–30 to the Sedro-Woolley Cubs at home January 15 in a closely battled meet. At the NWC tournament at Sehome January 18, the Borderites made up for the loss in style with four champions, eight wrestlers in the finals and wrestlers in all 14 weights contributing points.
“It was a total team effort,” said head coach Craig Foster. “It feels good to see everyone wrestling their best and win the conference.”
The four Blaine champions were Kyle Gonzales at 112 pounds, Riley Fritsch at 126, Jon Stewart at 160 and Mike Antczak at
285. Wrestlers Stuey Rasar at 103 pounds, Anthony Frey at 138, Caleb Frey at 145 and Christian Sharp at 152 all placed second.
Blaine totaled 265.5 points to place first out of 11 teams. Sedro-Woolley came in second with 236 points and Ferndale placed third with 169 points.
Some Blaine wrestlers who had lost matches to Sedro-Woolley wrestlers earlier in the week earned redemption over the same opponents at the conference tournament. Jon Stewart was pinned by Sedro-Woolley’s Clayton Johnson in the dual meet, but when the two paired off again in the final match of the 160-pound division of the conference tournament, it was Stewart who emerged victorious. Stewart wrestled to a 6–5 decision over Johnson.
“That was a really good match. When you get pinned by someone you’re evenly matched against, you start to wonder a little bit, and I think Jon wanted to prove he could still beat this guy,” Foster said.
With wrestlers in each weight class scoring points, Blaine’s wrestling team has the depth and balance to go far into the post season, Foster said.
“It may or may not be the best team I’ve ever coached, but it’s probably the most balanced team. It’s important to have depth – anytime you can get eight guys in the finals, your chances are pretty good – but it remains to be seen how we stack up at the state level. It depends on how many wrestlers step up in the big matches. It’s great to have balance, but you need more than that to win a state title,” Foster said.
If the team continues to wrestle like it did in the NWC tournament, its chances are pretty good. Blaine is ranked second in 1A statewide behind Forks, according to statistics derived from current individual rankings by the Washington Wrestling Report. However, a successful postseason will depend on everyone wrestling at their best.
“I told the guys how they wrestled in the conference tournament – with everyone contributing points – is how it needs to be at state. Everyone needs to put forth their best effort, and even if they lose a match they need to continue to wrestle hard to earn points in the consolation round,” Foster said.
For now, the team’s sights are set on the road to state. Sub-regionals will be at Sedro-
Woolley February 8, and the regional tournament will be at home February 15.
“We’re excited to be hosting regionals,” Foster said. “It’s nice to wrestle at home in a big meet. Kids tend to wrestle better on their home mats with their family and friends there.”
Regarding the state tournament, Foster said his team has the depth to make an impact, but needs to just focus on wrestling well.
“It’s fun to be in the conversation when it comes to state,” Foster said. “We’re just going to continue to wrestle as well as we can.”