When all the dust had settled in the Tacoma Dome, Blaine had finished eighth out of 53 1A teams at the 25th Mat Classic February 15-16, with a team score of 56 points and three wrestlers making it to Saturday’s medal rounds.
Rival Mount Baker placed 14th with 50 points, and Granger won the 1A division with 153 points.
Wrestlers battled to survive through Friday’s competition, with a constant stream of matches on 24 mats. Two losses equaled
elimination, and the top eight placers for each weight earned state medals on Saturday.
With a relatively young team that was unproven in statewide competition, Foster said he was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“We had nine guys win matches and get points for the team,” Foster said. “That’s a good team effort, and it’s especially good when you consider it’s an accomplishment to even get to state.”
Senior Caleb Johnson finished his high school wrestling career with a third place medal at 195 lbs. He pinned his opponents in four of five matches over the two-day tournament, but lost an 8-7 decision to Granger’s Abidan Duarte in the semifinal round. Duarte went on to win the state title.
While the loss precluded Johnson from the championship match, he still managed to shake it off and pin his opponent in his next two matches, keeping his team in the top 10.
“That shows a lot of character,” Foster said. “I’ve had athletes in the past fold after a loss at state. I was really proud of how he came back and wrestled for his team.”
Senior Justin Belding, who has wrestled with Johnson and Foster since middle school, made it through Friday’s rounds, but lost two matches Saturday for an eighth place finish. Foster said the 145-lb. division Belding wrestled in was the toughest at the tournament.
Junior Mike Antczak earned fourth place at 285 lbs., losing two matches over two days of competition in Tacoma to state
champion Cody Zyph and third place finisher Luis Garcia.
“Mike gets another year with three years of state competition under his belt, so we’re looking forward to getting him back here,” Foster said.
Olivia Adams, the sole Blaine wrestler at the girls state tournament, earned four points for Blaine wrestling at 130 lbs. She won her first match against Sydney Virgen from Pasco, then fell to state champion Mariah Horton from Kelso and seventh place finisher Raven Rogers from Ilwaco.
In past years, wrestling as a 2A team at the state tournament, Blaine has finished their season as high as third place out of 54 teams in 2009, and as low as 45th place out of 48 teams in 2002. Since 1998, Blaine has averaged 20th place out of an average 50-team pool at state (data from 1997 excluded).
Foster said his overall impression of Blaine’s performance at state was pretty good.
“When the smoke cleared there were some tough losses,” he said, “but two seniors and one junior medaled. Eighth at state is
solid for such a young team.”
“We had a great season in our area,” he added. “A lot of times parents get high expectations because we’re wrestling so well at home, but at state we’re going up against teams that have been tested at the state level year after year. So while I have high hopes going into state, hopes and expectations are two different things.”
Foster said Blaine did about as well as he expected.
“I’m happy with the way we wrestled,” he said.
With nine of 11 state wrestlers returning next year, the future looks bright for Blaine wrestling, Foster said.
“It’s really encouraging to see so many young wrestlers getting to state,” he said. “We should have a strong team next year.”