BLAINE - After his wrestlers spoke loudly and proudly on the mats, longtime Blaine coach Craig Foster came up with the understatement of the annual Battle at the Border Tournament.
After everyone else had finished wrestling on four mats at a time in the finals, hundreds of fans moved in to surround the final mat in use while others stayed in the stands. They were utterly spellbound as Sehome senior Titi Lamositele and Blaine junior Mikey Antczak turned in an 81/2-minute overtime heavyweight match for the ages.
"That was a little bit of a goosebump moment," Foster said with a smile, proud of how both wrestlers typified the spirit of wrestling as Lamositele prevailed 3-2 in four pulse-pounding overtimes.
Lamositele became Whatcom County's fifth champion and Antczak finished as the fifth runner-up in the 23-team tournament.
The Class 1A Borderites, bolstered by champions Kyle Gonzales (106) and Caleb Johnson (220), gave two Class 4A powers, Kentwood and Todd Beamer, all they could handle.
Kentwood finished with 234 points and Todd Beamer amassed 225, not far ahead of Blaine's 217.5.
"I'm proud of the kids," Foster said. "We've won this a couple of times in recent years, but we had more placers (nine) than we may ever have had."
Class 1A Mount Baker finished fourth with 168 points and seven placers, followed by Ferndale in fifth with 138 points. The Golden Eagles were bolstered primarily by best friends Erik Engels (170) and Sam Alexander (195), who were academic Class 3A state champions as juniors and claimed memorable title matches in their last chance for Battle at the Border honors.
Lamositele, who said he hopes to play rugby overseas next year, improved his record against Antczak to 3-0, but the Sehome muscleman said it could not have been more challenging.
"He made it really hard to take shots (at takedowns)," said Lamositele, noting how all the points were scored on escapes except for one all-important stall point. The referee gave that stall point to Lamositele at the end of the second 30-second overtime, tying the match at 2-2 and sending it to a third 30-second overtime as the crowd noise became deafening.
Lamositele (6-1) then scored an escape in the third 30-second extra session.
The amazing match - in which both wrestlers wowed the crowd with their sheer stubborn approach and refusal to give in - was tied 1-1 after the regulation three two-minute rounds. The one-minute overtime was scoreless, as was the first 30-second overtime.
Antczak (7-1), who pinned his first three opponents of the tournament, scored on an escape in the second 30-second overtime. But that point did not produce what the fans thought would be a victory because the referee called the Blaine standout for stalling in the final seconds, spoiling the euphoria Blaine fans exhibited for a few seconds, thinking their man had won.
Blaine senior Johnson earned a huge cheer as he scored a second-round pin (6-0), his third of the tournament, to take the 220 championship over Rochester's Zach Wardle (5-2).
Borderites junior teammate Gonzales (6-1), displaying the style he has adopted this season, made several aggressive takedowns to take a 13-3 decision over Beamer's tough Malik Messiah (7-2) at 106.
"I tried a bunch of new stuff. I was a lot more aggressive and that's what I want to be," said Johnson, whose goal is a medal-winning performance at state after he went two-and-out as a sophomore.
"I think I have a chance (to win at state)," said Gonzales, who said his legs are much stronger this season now that he turns out for cross country and track. He doesn't appear to have an ounce of fat on him, which is not surprising since he successfully cut his weight several pounds to get to his preferred 106.
Ferndale's Engels (9-0) scored a first-round pin over tough Lynden senior Ryan Meggison (4-1) at 170 in their first meeting.
Engels then more than willingly did double duty by handling the scorebook in overtime when asked by the excited statistics keeper as best buddy Alexander (7-0) prevailed in the 195-pound match against Mount Baker senior Tyrel Cronk, a top seed who pinned his first three opponents of the tournament. Alexander, the second seed, scored a takedown in sudden-death overtime to win 10-8.
"He (Cronk) has beaten me two or three times before, so this was especially exciting," said Alexander, who was inspired because both he and Engels won their first Battle at the Border titles. "It's nice to get a little recognition for all the hard work we've (Alexander and Engels) have done."
Engels and Alexander, both of whom have grade-point averages just shy of 4.0, both would love to attend Stanford as engineering students. They want to medal at 3A state, but they especially want to repeat as academic state champions.
"I really want to place at state this year," said Engels. "I was a state alternate last year. I was glad I got that opportunity, but it was also frustrating."
Squalicum senior Aaron Saunders (10-1) suffered his first defeat, a 15-3 loss in the 160-pound final to Black Hills' state title hopeful Spencer Gurrad (9-0), who also logged three pins and a 21-7 decision.
Mount Baker senior Zach Larson, a top seed who logged two pins and a 9-5 victory, was pinned in the 145-pound final by Rochester's Lucas Eastman, a third seed who improved to 7-0.
Everett's Jessie Lopez, the 138-pound champion, was named Most Outstanding Wrestler, with three pins and two decisions.
Squalicum's Kyle Stallo (195) placed third to lead the Storm to 10th with 108 points. Other Whatcom County thirds came from Lynden's Dominick Iaconetti (126); Mount Baker's Joey Walton (138), Sterling Honeycutt (220) and Jake Larsen (285); and Blaine's Justin Belding (145).
Foster was proud that dozens of Blaine faculty members and students combined to put on the tournament, so the memorable finish contributed to a remarkable feeling of accomplishment.
BATTLE AT THE BORDER TOURNAMENT
Team scores: Kentwood 234, 2. Todd Beamer 225, 3. Blaine 217.5, 4. Mount Baker 168, 5. Ferndale 138, 6. Black Hills 131, 7. Kalama 124, 8. Everett 117.5, 9. Issaquah 112, 10. Squalicum 108, 11. Woodland 106, 12. Rochester 94, 13. Mark Morris 85, 14. Mount Vernon 72.5, 15. Anacortes 72 and Granite Falls 72; 17. Sehome 69, 18. Lynden 65, 19. Liberty 37, 20. Sequim 33, 21. Bellingham 29, 22. Blaine Orange 8, 23. Meridian 6.
Championship matches: 106 -- Kyle Gonzales (Blaine) dec. Malik Messiah (Beamer) 13-3; 113 -- Brett Dykman (Beamer) dec. Mason Adams (Black Hills) 7-0; 120 -- Walker Meyers (Kentwood) dec. Ryan Nash (Granite Falls) 17-0; 126 -- Tyler Groff (Granite Falls) by injury default over Luis Reyna (Mount Vernon); 132 -- Ishaiah Belle (Beamer) dec. Logan Gillihan (Black Hills) 11-3; 138 -- Jessie Lopez (Everett) dec. Dalton Meyers (Kentwood); 145 -- Lucas Eastman (Rochester) pinned Zach Larson (Mount Baker); 152 -- Mitchell Owens (Beamer) dec. Jamiel Jackson (Kentwood) 10-8; 160 -- Spencer Gurrad (Black Hills) dec. Aaron Saunders (Squalicum) 15-3; 170 -- Erik Engels (Ferndale) pinned Ryan Meggison (Lynden); 182 -- Josh Boekelman (Kentwood) pinned Rick Stewart (Everett); 195 -- Sam Alexander (Ferndale) dec. Tyrel Cronk (Mount Baker) 10-8, OT; 220 -- Caleb Johnson (Blaine) pinned Zach Wardle (Woodland); 285 -- Titi Lamositele (Sehome) dec. Mikey Antczak (Blaine) 3-2, OT.
Other Whatcom County medal winners: 106 -- 5. Stuey Rasar (Blaine); 113 -- none; 120 -- none; 126 -- 3. Dominick Iaconetti (Lynden); 4. Hunter Schenk (Mount Baker); 6. Anthony Frey (Blaine); 132 -- 6. Caleb Frey (Blaine); 138 -- 3. Joey Walton (Mount Baker), 6. Luke Mooney (Squalicum); 145 -- 3. Justin Belding (Blaine), 4. Zak Alter (Squalicum), 5. Christian Sharp (Blaine); 152 -- none; 160 -- 5. Jon Stewart (Blaine); 170 -- 6. Alex Ray (Mount Baker); 182 -- 6. Charnjit Mattu (Ferndale); 195 -- 3. Kyle Stallo (Squalicum); 220 -- 3. Sterling Honeycutt (Mount Baker); 285 -- 3. Jake Larsen (Mount Baker); Patrick Schjelderup (Squalicum).