BELLINGHAM - Three days removed from suffering a one-match loss to Northwest Conference wrestling power Sedro-Woolley, the Blaine boys' wrestling team got a chance to redeem itself.
They did so by proving they're the class of the Northwest Conference for the second year in a row.
The Borderites matched the Cubs with eight championship-match wrestlers, and Kyle Gonzales, Riley Fritsch, Jon Stewart and Mikey Antczak led Blaine to a hard-earned Northwest Conference Tournament title Saturday, Jan. 18, at Sehome High School.
"We scored in all 14 weights, which is hard to do," Blaine coach Craig Foster said. "Plus, we had some of the JV kids knock off some guys. It felt like a total team effort, and in a tournament like this, this is what you need."
Blaine recorded 265.5 points, scoring 43 more points than last year's title team, Sedro-Woolley placed second with 236 points, Ferndale was third with 169, Burlington-Edison took fourth with 132 and Mount Baker rounded out the top five with 121 points.
Lynden finished seventh with 78.5 points, Sehome was eighth with 75, Bellingham took ninth with 66, Nooksack Valley was 10th with 61 and Squalicum finished 11th with 49 points.
Borderites Gonzales (113), Fritsch (126), Stewart (160) and Antczak (285), Bellingham's Sergio Torres (132), Lynden's Christian Mouat (145) and Nooksack Valley's Taylor Gardner each won titles.
Beating Sedro-Woolley in a pair of championship matches added an extra bit of satisfaction to the tournament win, which was the Borderites' first of the year.
"It feels good, especially after we lost to Sedro-Woolley," Foster said. "They are a really good team, and I think the kids bounced back, stepped up and beat some kids that beat them the other night."
Gonzales scored a pin over Sedro-Woolley's Bryce Hornbeck and Stewart earned a 6-5 decision over Clayton Johnson after the Cubs' 160-pounder pinned him during their dual meet.
Arguably the most exciting Blaine title match was Fritsch's win against Ferndale's Adaeus Premo-Wilson.
Fritsch trailed 2-0 heading into the third period and fell behind 4-1 with 1:30 left following a Premo takedown. But Fritsch escaped then scored a takedown of his own to tie the match at 4 with 1:07 to go. Premo escaped Fritsch's top position with 20 seconds left before the Blaine freshman wrestled him to the mat for the go-ahead takedown as the final seconds ticked away.
"This is my first time being in the finals this year," said Fritsch, talking through his blood-stained teeth thanks to a cut on his lip. "It was pretty awesome I won like that, that close."
Trailing in the third period, imagining his first varsity tournament win was the only motivation he needed.
"I just think of that feeling when the ref raises your hand," he said. "It's a really awesome feeling."
While Blaine's wrestlers were busy clinching titles in their championship matches, Foster's head was spinning trying to pay attention to finals, which were running four matches at a time.
At one point, Fritsch, Anthony Frey and Caleb Frey were all wrestling at once.
"It's kind of hard because you like to be in all the corners, and you want to see what happens in all the matches, and you are kind of watching in the corner of your eye," Foster said.
Blaine established themselves as the best in the NWC, but there were several other fine individual performances.
For Lynden's Mouat, his title came after two straight years of NWC Tournament frustration.
The Lions' senior hadn't placed in the top five his pervious two years, and last year he went two-and-out. He opened this year's tournament with a pin against Sehome's Kyle Clemenson in the quarterfinals, and beat Sedro-Woolley's Jaryd Mitchell with a 7-1 decision in the semis before capping his title run with a 7-4 decision against Caleb in the finals.
"I watched a couple of his matches before," said Mouat of Caleb. "I know his older brother taught him a lot of what he knows, so I was expecting him to leg ride and ankle pick, that short of thing. Once he tried a couple of those on me and I stopped him, he didn't have much else to do."
Bellingham's Torres earned back-to-back pins to advance to the semifinals, beat Sehome's Steven Yazzie with a 9-7 decision and then won his title with a 7-2 decision over Burlington-Edison's Anthony Cook.
Nooksack Valley's Gardner may have had the most impressive overall tournament. He pinned all four of his opponents, including Blaine's Anthony Frey in his title match.
Blaine's Stuey Rasar, Anthony Frey, Caleb Frey and Christian Sharp placed second. Other Whatcom County wrestlers reaching championship matches were Squalicum's Luke Jordan, Mount Baker's Travis Lindsey and Ferndale's Patrick Condon and Chris Hernandez.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates
NORTHWEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
BLAINE 265.5, SEDRO-WOOLLEY 236, FERNDALE 169, BURLINGTON-EDISON 132, MOUNT BAKER 121, ANACORTES 104, LYNDEN 78.5, SEHOME 75, BELLINGHAM 66, NOOKSACK VALLEY 61, SQUALICUM 49
106: Ty Peth (Burlington-Edison) dec. Stuey Rasar (Blaine) 4-2. 113: Kyle Gonzales (Blaine) pin Bryce Hornbeck (Sedro-Woolley). 120: Adam Adkinson (Sedro-Woolley) dec. Luke Jordan (Squalicum) 4-3. 126: Riley Fritsch (Blaine) dec. Adaeus Wilson-Premo (Ferndale) 6-5. 132: Sergio Torres (Bellingham) dec. Anthony Cook (Burlington-Edison) 7-2. 138: Taylor Gardner (Nooksack Valley) pin Anthony Frey (Blaine). 145: Christian Mouat (Lynden) dec. Caleb Frey (Blaine) 7-4. 152: Jacob Farrell (Sedro-Woolley) dec. Christian Sharp (Blaine) 8-3. 160: Jon Stewart (Blaine) dec. Clayton Johnson (Sedro-Woolley) 6-5. 170: Nate Vaughn (Sedro-Woolley) pin Travis Lindsey (Mount Baker). 182: Aaron Tisinger (Anacortes) pin Quinten Roppel (Sedro-Woolley). 195: Gabe Torgerson (Sedro-Woolley) dec. Ross Atterberry (Anacortes) 2-0. 220: Jay Moore (Sedro-Woolley) pin Patrick Condon (Ferndale). 285: Mikey Antczak (Blaine) dec. Chris Hernandez (Ferndale) 1-0.
Wgt. Wrestler School
106 Ty Peth Burlington-Ed.
113 Kyle Gonzales Blaine
120 Adam Adkinson Sedro-Woolley
126 Riley Fritsch Blaine
132 Sergio Torres Bellingham
138 Taylor Gardner Nooksack Valley
145 Christian Mouat Lynden
152 Jacob Farrell Sedro-Woolley
160 Jon Stewart Blaine
170 Nate Vaughn Sedro-Woolley
182 Aaron Tisinger Anacortes
195 Gabe Torgerson Sedro-Woolley
220 Jay Moore Sedro-Woolley
285 Mikey Antczak Blaine
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.