Borderites wrestle crown from Sedro-Woolley
By Jack Kintner
The stars were aligned for Blaine wrestling last Thursday as the Borderites, the smallest 2-A school in the conference, unseated the reigning Northwest Conference champs, 3-A Sedro-Woolley, 32-28 to finish their perfect 7-0 season in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
In a dramatic finish the team victory was clinched in the last period of the last match of the evening by senior Tyson Foster (145 pound weight class), son of Blaine’s head wrestling coach Craig Foster whose juggling of the line-up put him in an all or nothing match situation in his last dual meet at home as a high school wrestler. Supported by a disciplined hardworking team, he did indeed get it all.
First, a little explanation: in dual meets the visiting coach draws the number of a weight class at random to determine which goes first. Woolley’s Jay Breckenridge drew number 152 and the matches proceeded up the weight classes from there, meaning that the 145-pounders would be last.
But coaches may also juggle their line-ups at the last minute, sending wrestlers up or down a class to face an easier opponent or to avoid a one-sided loss or pin, both of which score more heavily in team points than a simple victory.
With two matches left and Blaine just eight points ahead Foster decided to switch junior Camden Nix and Tyson Foster, sending the scrappy Nix in against last year’s third place state finisher Shane Hunt in the 140 pound class and putting Foster up against Woolley’s experienced veteran John Janicki at 145 pounds. To win, Woolley needed to win both matches, and win one by a lot or by a pin.
They did win the first of the two matches by enough to score four team points. Nix battled hard against Hunt but was outmatched, losing 14-4.
The victory put Woolley within four team points of Blaine, setting the stage for Foster to either win or possibly lose it all.
The two struggled through two suspenseful but, unusual for wrestling, scoreless periods.
Foster started the third from the down position and at the whistle the two locked in combat like tangled bull elk, neither one able to break free. But then, in a move reminiscent of Rocky II, Foster just stood up, carrying Janicki on his back and eventually breaking his vise-like grip to score a one-point escape with 30 seconds left.
As if to underscore his sudden dominance of the match he quickly followed with a two-point take-down and then controlled his opponent until the end for a stunning 3-0 victory that won the match, the meet and the conference title to a sustained and thundering roar from the sizeable crowd who had just seen one of the best athletic events in the history of the school.
The evening began with another valiant struggle by A.J. Pieczynski (152), one of Blaine’s hardest working wrestlers who’s lost some microscopically close matches this season. He tied Cub Ryan Morgan 7-7 with one second remaining to send the match into sudden death overtime but Morgan took him down first in the extra round and won, 9-7.
Blaine forfeited at 160 to Garcia, Foster electing to send Jacob Martinez up a class at 171 to face last year’s second place state tournament finisher Cody Pohren. But Pohren pinned Martinez in 1:08, putting Woolley up 15-0 in team scoring and furrowing Coach Foster’s brow.
Blaine turned the tables at that point, ripping off four straight victories with two pins, a technical pin and a decision. Closest was Alex Pennington’s (189) win over Taylor Knutson with a two point reversal in the last five seconds of their match.
Jeremy Holdaas (215) followed by literally mopping the sweat off the mat with Cub Joe Janicki, a match that was stopped by a mercy rule when the score reached 16-3.
Woolley still led at this point 15 to 8 as Woolley’s brontosaur of a heavyweight Karl Swartz, so big his legs have different zip codes, faced the happy giant killer (and birthday boy) Darrell Price, Jr. (285).With enough arm strength to juggle refrigerators, Price threw him around the mat like an unwanted sofa, finally pinning him with just over 22 seconds left in his match.
The biggest class was followed by the smallest as freshman pit bull Shaypher Hendricks (103), moving at the speed of light, came out and pinned Cub Clayton Johnson in a match interrupted several times by Johnson’s stubbornly bloody nose.
Blaine’s four wins gave them the lead in team scoring 20-15 but Woolley took it back in the next pairing when Brady Mast pinned Borderite Nick Barnes (112) in 1:26 to make the score 21-20.
Blaine’s Jacob Humphrey (119), who lost the state championship last year by two points in overtime, walked out to the middle of the mat, shook hands with Woolley frosh Boyce Johnson and then in less time than it takes to tell flattened him like a bug with a sub-20 second pin to hand the lead back to Blaine, 26-21. People who blinked completely missed it.
Next, Borderite Tony Jordan (125) beat Cody Forst in sudden death overtime with a savage two-point takedown that left little doubt about who was finally in charge.
Blaine increased its team score lead to 29-21 as the crowd, beginning to smell roses, roared their approval. The methodical and skilled D.J. Duncan (130) beat Trent Morgan 6-1 and Blaine’s lead increased to 32-21, still not a comfortable margin as the diligent Jamal Mallak (135) lost to Tyler Howell 8-3, putting Woolley within six points and setting the stage for Nix and Foster, whose dramatic showdown win brought the conference championship home.
The Borderites next travel to Sedro-Woolley on Saturday, January 31, for the northwest conference tournament, followed on successive weekends by tri-districts and regionals in Bellevue and the state tournament February 20 and 21 at the Tacoma Dome.