TACOMA - Blaine coach Craig Foster has phase-by-phase been building up to Mat Classic XXVI's championship Saturday since the postseason began.
The Borderites' first goal was to advance as many sub-regional wrestlers to regionals as possible. They did that.
Then, Foster wanted his club to produce at regionals and keep the state-title dream alive at the Mat Classic. Blaine did that, too.
And when it came time for the Borderites to position themselves Friday, Feb. 21, at the Tacoma Dome for a chance to bring a title back to their border-town home, Foster's bunch did it again.
After a long day of state wrestling, Blaine ended atop the Class 1A standings with 65 points, Forks finished second with 56 points and Freeman left day one with 52.
"I know we got tough matches tomorrow," said Foster, who was honored as the 1A Coach of the Year in between morning and evening sessions. "We do have eight medalists. I really can't predict anything. They just have to keep wrestling. Like I've said, districts stay alive, regionals stay alive, session one here, keep the dream alive and session two, we've done that. We're in the conversation."
Big performances by a handful of Borderites gave them the points they needed to be in the mix.
Anthony Frey (132), Caleb Frey (138), Jon Stewart (160), Tristan Hunter (170) and Mikey Antczak (285) each earned semifinal berths by winning two matches and are one win away from wrestling for individual state titles.
Kyle Gonzales (106), Riley Fritsch (126) and Christian Sharp (152), who lost a heart-wrenching single-point second match, all advanced to Saturday with 2-1 records.
Blaine's 14 state wrestlers went 9-5 during the opening-round matches, and even with the losses, Caleb did his best to ensure everyone stayed up.
"I keep going around after the losses and say, 'Hey, don't let it get in your head. We have to work as a team here.'" Caleb said. "You work for them, and we want to win a team championship."
For both Freys and Stewart, Friday served as redemption after failing to medal last year. Midway through the season, Caleb made a commitment to have a better state performance during a team exercise.
"A month ago, coach made us after practice lay down in a circle and he would say, 'I love the Tacoma Dome. I want you to write five things about that,'" Caleb explained. "One of the ones I made up was that I would never come home to be called a state participant but to be called a state medalist."
Caleb did just that. And he did so in dominating fashion.
After pinning Columbia Burbank's Lui Carrasco in the opening round, Caleb blanked Woodland's Dillan Beckwith in an 8-0 decision in the quarterfinal round.
"It feels great right now," he said. "I work hard, train hard. Thanks to my partners Jon and Christian for making me better at shots and defense. They make me way better."
Moments before Caleb's win, his brother, Anthony, sealed his semifinal berth with a solid 13-6 decision over Chewelah's Kyle Connall.
The match was close midway through the second period, but Anthony tacked on points in the third period for the decisive win.
"I've never gotten this far in state, so I'm pretty happy about the win," Anthony said.
Foster said one of the most impressive day one performances was Hunter's ability to win two and advance to the semis. Hunter, who Foster said was once Blaine's ninth or 10th best wrestler, earned a first-round pin before winning in a 3-1 decision.
Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley will also have wrestlers going in the medal rounds.
Baker's 170-pound Travis Lindsey earned a spot in the semifinals with back-to-back decisions.
He was forced to take a 10 minute break in the middle of his quarterfinal match while his opponent's coach challenged a points ruling.
"I just wanted it more," Lindsey said. "It is real nice to follow Tyrel Cronk last year. He proved what he could do, and I just want to prove what I can do, too."
He'll get his chance Saturday.
Also moving on is Baker's Alex Ray (182) and Nooksack Valley's Paul Newell (126)
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2826. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.