BELLINGHAM - Blaine's Billy Dodd and Bellingham's Riley Takemura need no introduction.
The two junior wrestlers have been going at each other for the better part of three years, and the most recent installment of the rivalry occurred Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Bellingham High School.
As has come to be the case, the two 126-pound wrestlers looked every bit the product of a tough, physical match - the only thing preventing Takemura's nose from spilling blood on the mat was a white piece of cotton lodged in it.
Dodd pulled out the win on points, 7-4, helping the Borderites to a team win over Bellingham 66-6 in the matchup between two Northwest Conference foes.
"It's rough," said Takemura of the match against Dodd. "He wrestled tough, and he wrestled well."
Both Dodd and Takemura earned 2-point takedowns in the first period, entering the second tied up. Dodd was able to do what he does best, Blaine coach Craig Foster said, and stay within his game, slowly pulling away on points while rarely giving Takemura a chance to score.
"If I could take him down the first takedown, I could stay on top," Dodd said. "I couldn't pin him, so I just tried to stay on top."
Takemura, while not providing much in way of points against Dodd, was equally as tough to score against, consistently forcing Dodd to reposition himself in trying to secure the pin.
"He's really tough, so I just needed to make sure to take him down before he could take me down," Dodd said.
The Borderites, who are coming off a season in which they finished top-10 in state last year, looked every bit the dominant team they are, recording pins in six of the 10 matches.
One of the Borderites' senior standouts, Jon Stewart, showed the combination of speed and strength that got him to state last year, and will hopefully take him on a long run this year. He had no trouble with his opponent, James Langen, recording the pin with 13 seconds remaining in the first period.
Riley Fritsch, Kyle Gonzales, Tristan Hunter, Tanner Anthony and Duayne Parker all recorded pins, as well.
"It was a good team effort," Foster said. "You kind of get on a little roll there when your teammates are winning and you don't want to be the one that drops it off."
Christian Sharp, who's another returner that made an appearance at state last year, had a tough bout with Bellingham's Babak Abedsaidi. Abedsaidi was able to keep Sharp from recording any major takedowns in the first period.
"He's hard to score on," said Foster of Abedsaidi. "He's really powerful - keeps in good position. Yeah, he impressed me. He's pretty tough."
Sharp, whom Foster said isn't a "scoring machine," was methodical in keeping Abedsaidi in difficult positions to record takedowns. Sharp recorded a late escape to bring his lead to 2-0 entering the third period. From there, though, he recorded two takedowns to seal the match with a 7-1 win.
For Bellingham, coach Tom Hinz looks at his team and sees athleticism, but to get to that next level - the level he said Blaine is on - there needs to be greater dedication.
"It's good because just stepping on the scales with (Blaine), you can look at the difference in bodies and say, 'Hey, this is what you could be,'" Hinz said. "For us, the good thing is that it's a long road. We have athletic boys, which is nice. ... We'll get our athletic boys to understand the sport of wrestling, but it's going to be late in January, and not in December."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports news.
BLAINE 66, BELLINGHAM 6
106: Aaron Struthers (Blaine) def Dewald Oliver (Bellingham) 6-2. 120: Kyle Gonzales (Blaine) def. Ben Donnelly (Bel) pin. 126: Billy Dodd (Blaine) def. Riley Takemura (Bel) 7-4. 132: Riley Fritsch (Blaine) def. Sergi Torres (Bel) pin. 138: Anthony Frey (Blaine) win by forfeit. 145: Caleb Frey (Blaine) win by forfeit. 152: Christian Sharp (Blaine) def. Babak Abedsaidi (Bel) 7-1. 160: Jon Stewart (Blaine) def. James Langen (Bel) pin. 170: Tristan Hunter (Blaine) def. David Burnham (Bel) pin. 182: Tanner Anthony (Blaine) def. Rowan Howard (Bel) pin. 195: Duayne Parker (Blaine) def. Spencer Marshall-Rodenberg (Bel) pin. 220: Israel Hernandez (Blaine) def. Nick Hanks (Bel) 83. 285: Luke Moreau (Bel) win by forfeit.