Ferndale’s Chris Hernandez placed the finishing touch on the Golden Eagles’ big day.
Five Ferndale wrestlers had already finished their championship matches by the time Hernandez began his title bout with Sehome’s Briley Funk, and with the remaining wrestlers’ and fans’ eyes fixated on the only match left at Sehome High School, Hernandez gave the Golden Eagles their third individual champion with a nail-biting, one-point win.
“It was a really good team effort,” Ferndale coach Caleb Schlack said. “Everybody played their part, even the JV guys that were non-scorers. They were beating on some guys that were probably going to score points for the other teams.”
Since Schlack took over the Golden Eagles program in 2008, the Northwest Conference’s lone Class 3A school has never won the league tournament, but Schlack’s wrestlers were eager to buck the trend Saturday, Jan. 17.
Ferndale’s six finalists — Noah Saenz (138 pounds) Braiden Klimp (152), Ben Broselle (160), Sam Cleary (182), Patrick Condon (195) and Hernandez (285) — were more than any other NWC school. Broselle, Condon and Hernandez won individual titles, matching Blaine for the most tournament champs.
Ferndale, which placed third last year, knocked off the two-time defending NWC champions, Blaine, with 236.5 points. Sedro-Woolley took second with 195 points, Blaine was third with 142.5, Sehome placed fifth with 105, Lynden was sixth with 93, Bellingham finished seventh with 88, Squalicum was ninth with 81, Nooksack Valley took 10th with 69, Mount Baker was 11th with 24 and Meridian scored 13 points.
During the past two weeks Ferndale beat Sedro-Woolley and Blaine in duals, and again Saturday the Golden Eagles backed up their standing as the conference’s best wrestling team, topping both league powers.
“We really set the notch high going in this year,” said Condon, who beat Lynden’s Brody Weinheimer 12-4 to secure the 195-pound title. “We have a really young team, but I think they came just to whip butt. We came out here and just fought for every point.”
That was much evident, especially during Condon’s run to a tournament title.
The Ferndale senior, who was a state participant last winter, wrestled at 220 last season but has dropped 20 pounds to compete in the 195-pound division. Wrestling against new competition, Condon earned a pin against Sehome’s Zach Zimmerman in the quarterfinals before earning a 6-4 decision over Mount Baker’s JT Keeney in the semis.
“I just never wrestled these guys before, so I was kind of coming in with a new attitude, new perspective on who I’m wrestling,” Condon said.
Besides Condon and Hernandez, Broselle scored an 11-2 decision over Sedro-Woolley’s Jared Mitchell in his title match.
Other Whatcom County champions included Bellingham’s Riley Takemura (126), who beat Squalicum’s Spencer Wallace with a 6-3 decision, Nooksack Valley’s Taylor Gardner (152), who beat Klimp 6-3, and a trio of middleweight Borderites wrestlers.
At one point, with championship matches wrestled on four mats at a time, all three Blaine champions were going at once. And one after the other, Anthony Frey (132), Riley Fritsch (138) and Caleb Frey (145) claimed their first-place medals.
Anthony defeated teammate Billy Dodd 6-0, Fritsch handed Saenz a 7-1 defeat and Caleb blanked Squalicum’s Zachary Wallace 9-0.
“I kind of expected it from the start,” said Fritsch of his ability to flawlessly navigate his 138-pound bracket. “I really wanted to win this one, because this is my second one. I won it last year, too.”
Fritsch, who wrestled at 126 a year ago, wasn’t the only back-to-back champ. Gardner won the 138-pound class last season.
“It was a tough bracket,” Gardner said. “I knew it was going to be tough going into it. It’s a good boost of confidence. I’m really looking forward to postseason.”
Sehome’s top placer was Funk, who won an epic semifinal match to reach the finals. Lynden’s Weinheimer and 113-pounder Primitivo Cruz gave the Lions two finalists. Mount Baker’s JT Keeney (195), who placed fourth, was the Mountaineers’ top placer and Meridian 106-pounder Jake Cheney finished fourth.
Northwest Conference Tournament
Ferndale 236.5, Sedro-Woolley 195, Blaine 142.5, Anacortes 127.5, Burlington-Edison 124, Sehome 105, Lynden 93, Bellingham 88, Squalicum 81, Nooksack Valley 69, Mount Baker 24, Meridian 13
106: Eli Zachary (Anacortes) dec. Jordan Berrey (Sedro-Woolley) 10-1; 113: Ty Peth (Burlington-Edison) pin Primitivo Cruz (Lynden); 120: Adam Adkinson (Sedro-Woolley) dec. Hugo Diaz (Burlington-Edison) 8-2; 126: Riley Takemura (Bellingham) dec. Spencer Wallace (Squalicum) 6-3; 132: Anthony Frey (Blaine) dec. Billy Dodd (Blaine) 6-0; 138: Riley Fritsch (Blaine) dec. Noah Saenz (Ferndale) 7-1; 145: Caleb Frey (Blaine) dec. Zachary Wallace (Squalicum) 9-0; 152: Taylor Gardner (Nooksack Valley) dec. Braiden Klimp (Ferndale) 6-3; 160: Ben Broselle (Ferndale) dec. Jared Mitchell (Sedro-Woolley) 11-2; 170: Jacob Farrell (Sedro-Woolley) dec. Ross Atterberry (Anacortes) 9-1; 182: Arron Tisinger (Anacortes) pin Sam Cleary (Ferndale); 195: Patrick Condon (Ferndale) dec. Brody Weinheimer (Lynden) 12-4; 220: Gabe Torgerson (Sedro-Woolley) pin James Swanson (Anacortes); 285: Chris Hernandez (Ferndale) dec. Briley Funk (Sehome) 4-3.