By Oliver Lazenby
When Blaine wrestler Caleb Bullard heard he’d be wrestling a two-time state participant in the 145-pound title match at last weekend’s Battle at the Border, he thought, “This is going to be a fun match.”
Bullard’s put in a lot of work since getting beat in the regional round of playoffs last year. He wrestled year-round in Greco-Roman and freestyle leagues and spent many 10-hour days in the gym. He channeled that training into confidence, wrestling a methodical match and pinning his opponent, Nolan Keesee from Black Hills High School, to win the title.
“I just remember the pin happening so fast,” Bullard said. “I landed and sat there for a second and then I heard the ref’s hand hit the mat.”
For Bullard and the rest of the Blaine wrestling team, last weekend’s tournament against 21 other schools at Blaine High School was the first real test of the season. The Borderites finished second overall, a promising start.
Along with Bullard, Blaine’s Jacob Westfall also won a title at the tournament, beating Ferndale’s Alex Cleary in a 5-4 decision in the 182-pound class. Porter Schmidt finished second at 195, Saul Magallon finished second at 220 and Adam Macauley finished second at 106.
After the tournament, Blaine head coach Colt Warren said he now has a good idea of what to expect from this year’s wrestling team.
“We definitely want to improve on last year’s eighth place finish at state,” Warren said. “If everyone wrestles up to their capability we should walk away with a top four finish, but it’s a lot of work to get there.”
The team will have a jump-start for that first four finish, as a handful wrestled year-round in freestyle and Greco-Roman leagues and many have experience and a good spread of different weights, which helps with scoring.
Perhaps most importantly, the team said they are a family. Wrestlers want to do well not only for themselves, but to improve team scores, Warren said.
“We don’t want our wrestlers to work their butts off just for themselves,” he said. “In order for a wrestler to really be successful, they have to have a good support system. If you’re in a race, are you going to run a faster time if you’re by yourself or if you have a teammate or competitor right next to you?”
The wrestling squad family includes three girls this year.
“It’s tough for them because they don’t have their own team and they don’t have many girls to wrestle against,” Warren said. “It can be a little disheartening at times, but they’re stepping up to the challenge every single day and doing what they need to do.”
The Borderites wrestle next at 10 a.m. on Friday, December 15 at the Hammer Head Invite in Bremerton.