DEMING - When the two most historically strong wrestling programs in Whatcom County meet, tough, grind-it-out matches are expected.
Blaine and Mount Baker didn't disappoint.
Eight of the 12 matches were won by decision, as the Borderites held off Mount Baker's late comeback to beat the Mountaineers 40-22 in a Northwest Conference dual meet Wednesday, Jan. 16, at Mount Baker High School.
"I thought it was kind of cool there were a lot of close, hard-fought matches," Blaine coach Craig Foster said. "In a lot of dual meets, you'll see pin, pin, pin, pin or forfeits. There were some real contested matches, and that's always fun. Their guys are tough. They fought hard, but I was proud of my kids because I thought they stepped up and won a lot of the close matches, which is what you got to do."
Last year Blaine and Mount Baker compiled perfect dual meet records but didn't face each other. Though both Foster and Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper consider Baker-Blaine a big-time rivalry, Foster quickly dismissed the idea his wrestlers were extra excited for a chance to beat Mount Baker.
"Half the kids on our team probably don't remember we didn't wrestle them last year," Foster said jokingly. "We love Mount Baker. I love their coach. We just like to compete against each other. It's kind of special when you wrestle them, because they are our biggest wrestling rival. That part is special, and they have beat us quite a few times in recent years, so it's nice to get a win."
Foster thanked lower weight class wrestlers Trevin Brady and Gage Lott for helping Blaine earn the victory.
Following a Mount Baker forfeit and a pin by Blaine's 113-pound Billy Dodd, Brady added to the Borderites' lead with a 9-2 decision against Mount Baker's Calvin Ledet.
Lott, who wrestled at 120, put Blaine in front 18-0 with a 6-5 last-second decision against Mount Baker's Hunter Schenk. Lott took an early 5-2 lead in the third period after getting credited with a three-point near fall. After Schenk cut Lott's lead to 5-3 thanks to an illegal hold, the Baker senior scored a two-point reversal with 15 seconds left. With 0.01 seconds on the Mount Baker scoreboard, Lott was awarded one point and the subsequent win after Schenk was called for a technical violation.
"Trevin Brady got a pretty big win for us at 120, and Gage Lott at 126 got a win against a really tough opponent," Foster said. "(Schenk) has had a really good season and has won a couple tournaments. That was probably considered a pretty big upset."
Trailing 21-0, Mount Baker's 138-pound Joey Walton finally got the Mountaineers on the board with a four-point major decision, 14-4, against Blaine's Caleb Frey.
Staring at a 31-4 deficit after wins by Blaine's 145-pound Christian Sharp, 152-pound Justin Belding and 160-pound Jon Stewart, Mount Baker began its comeback.
Following a Blaine forfeit at 170, Mount Baker 182-pounder Max Martinson breathed life into the Mountaineers with one flip of Blaine's Dwayne Ortega.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Martinson scored a pin with 1:07 left in the third period. He was trailing 6-1 at the time.
"Max is in his first year getting some varsity wrestling in, so anytime you get a big win like that, the crowd appreciates that, and it got us going a little bit," Lepper said.
Mount Baker 195-pounder Tyrel Cronk carried over the momentum from Martinson's pin, earning a pin of his own against the Borderites' Israel Hernandez 1:17 into the first period. The pin cut Blaine's lead to 31-22 with two matches remaining.
But Blaine standout Caleb Johnson earned a narrow 2-1 decision against Mount Baker's Sterling Honeycutt in what was one of the best matches of the night. Johnson and Honeycutt, who both figure to be in line for a state medal, were 1-1 versus each other this year heading into Wednesday's match.
"That was big," said Foster of Johnson's win. "They were still in the match at that point. A couple more pins, and they would have beat us."
Blaine heavyweight Mikey Antczak polished off the Borderites win with a pin against Mount Baker's Matt Scoles, who was filling in for Jake Larsen, who was ill and unable to wrestle.
"Obviously Blaine is pretty good," Lepper said. "I thought we had a chance in a couple matches to make the difference, but we just didn't do it. I thought for the most part, Blaine was able to be one step ahead of us."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
BLAINE 40, MOUNT BAKER 22
106: Stuey Rasar (Blaine) forfeit. 113: Billy Dodd (Blaine) pin Erik Heath (Mount Baker) 0:33. 120: Trevin Brady (Blaine) dec. Calvin Ledet (Mount Baker) 9-2. 126: Gage Lott (Blaine) dec. Hunter Schenk (Mount Baker) 6-5. 132: Anthony Frey (Blaine) dec. Jeremiah Cronk (Mount Baker) 7-1. 138: Joey Walton (Mount Baker) dec. Caleb Frey (Blaine) 14-4. 145: Christian Sharp (Blaine) dec. Zach Larson (Mount Baker) 7-1. 152: Justin Belding (Blaine) dec, Alex Tyska (Mount Baker) 11-0. 160: Jon Stewart (Blaine) dec. Travis Lindsey (Mount Baker) 9-2. 170: Alex Ray (Mount Baker) forfeit. 182: Max Martinson (Mount Baker) pin Dwayne Ortega (Blaine) 4:53. 195: Tyrel Cronk (Mount Baker) pin Israel Hernandez (Blaine) 1:17. 220: Caleb Johnson (Blaine) dec. Sterling Honeycutt (Mount Baker) 2-1. 285: Mikey Antczak (Blaine) pin Matthew Scoles (Mount Baker) 1:45.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.