By Ian Ferguson
Battling through stacked weights and tough draws at the XXVII Mat Classic, the Borderites carried on the tradition of excellence the Blaine wrestling program is known for, with six wrestlers bringing home state medals.
Last year’s team set the bar as high as it goes by winning the 1A state title, but this year the Borderites had to compete against larger 2A schools and each other. Six Blaine wrestlers competed in three of the most competitive weights – the middle weights of 126, 132 and 138 pounds. Given the tough odds, six wrestlers earning medals is a huge achievement, said Hall of Fame head coach Craig Foster.
“I feel great about the team’s performance,” Foster said. “We had a tough situation with a lot of guys in the same weights. It made for a challenging year, but under the circumstances, I think getting six medalists at state is the best we could have done.”
Five of those state medalists will be returning to the team next year, a fact Foster couldn’t be happier about.
“I think that will be the most returning state wrestlers we’ve ever had, which is exciting,” Foster said.
Caleb Frey (145) wrestled his way to the finals, winning a couple of close matches on his way to a second-place finish. In quarterfinals Frey wrestled to an overtime 3–1 decision, and in semifinals he beat Nathan Patterson from Woodlands High School after a hotly contested 3–5 decision. Frey lost the championship match to Zach Folk from Fife, falling at 1:29. It was short of his goal of a state title, but an impressive performance nonetheless.
“He did a great job winning those close matches. Those one-point matches are pressure-packed, and you have to wrestle smart. Luckily, he’s won a lot of them this season, so he knew what to do in that situation,” Foster said. “It’s always exciting for the team to get a guy into finals.”
Although he was the only Borderite to make it to finals, Frey’s performance wasn’t the only one to turn heads towards Blaine. Sophomore Colton Economy, who was ranked eighth in the state for 2A wrestlers at 113 pounds heading into the tournament, knocked off the third-ranked wrestler in his class before falling to number-one-ranked Spencer Clegg from Clarkston. Then, bouncing back from the loss, he defeated the second-ranked wrestler to earn a third-place medal.
“His whole tournament was unbelievable,” Foster said of Economy’s battle at the state tournament. “He kind of had a fire in his belly. It says a lot for him to be able to bounce back and outwrestle guys ranked higher than him.”
Two other Blaine sophomores also outdid themselves at the Mat Classic. Riley Fritsch lost a quarterfinal match to Fred Green from Orting, who would go on to win his fourth straight championship, but Fritsch recovered from the loss and wrestled his way to a fifth-place finish with a 5–3 win over Toppenish’s Andrew Saaverda.
“He got his second state medal as a sophomore, which is pretty incredible,” Foster said.
Derreck Camba, who suffered a collarbone injury in the regular season, wrestled to a seventh-place finish at 126 pounds.
“Camba did a good job coming back from a collarbone injury. It’s really exciting to know you’re going to have those sophomores for a couple more years,” Foster said.
Like Fritsch, Anthony Frey also earned his second state medal. Anthony pinned Darion Green from Hudson Bay at 1:59 for the seventh-place medal at 132 pounds. Gage Lott earned his first state medal with an eighth-place finish at 126 pounds.
“Anthony and Gage both wrestled tough; it was good to see them earn medals,” Foster said. “As a team, we had a great tournament and I’m happy with how everyone wrestled. We won a lot of really close matches.”
In her fourth trip to the Mat Classic, Olivia Adams earned her second state medal, finishing at sixth place in a tough 135-pound bracket. Adams won her first two matches with ease before losing a 5–2 decision in the semifinals to Mariah Horton, the defending state champion from Kelso High School.
“She was disappointed because her goal was a state championship, but I’m really proud of her and the way she battled and wrestled hard for four years,” Foster said. “It’s not easy to be the only girl wrestler on a team, and she proved herself every time she went out on the mat. She now has two state medals.”
Looking ahead to next year, Foster reiterated that the team would benefit from the leadership of five returning state medalists.
“Those guys will be the core of the team. I think we’ll be strong next year,” he said.