The Blaine Borderites didn’t leave the Tacoma Dome with a second straight team title. They didn’t exit with an individual state champion, either.
But several special performances, a thrilling run to a state final, a sophomore maximizing his potential and six state medalists made Blaine’s Mat Classic XXVII a state tournament Hall of Fame coach Craig Foster could be proud of.
“I feel great about it,” said Foster of his team’s performance. “There is not many years I’ve had more than six medalists. ... To be doubled up in so many (weight classes) and to be right in the thick of the population of wrestling, I thought it was as well as we can do.”
Borderites 145-pounder Caleb Frey, who reached the state final before suffering a first-period defeat, gave Blaine its top placer Saturday, Feb. 21. Sophomore Colton Economy (113) showed his resolve and arguably wrestled the best of his career while earning a third-place medal, and fellow sophomore Riley Fritsch (138) took home a fifth-place medal.
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Rounding out Blaine’s medalists where Anthony Frey (132), who took seventh, Derreck Camba (126), who also took seventh and Gage Lott (126), who placed eighth.
The Borderites defended their Class 1A title by placing ninth in Class 2A with 70 team points, but beyond the team score, what stood out Saturday was how Blaine battled all day long.
“There wasn’t a lot of mental hangups,” Foster said. “They just wrestle, and they don’t always win, but they always compete, and so that is the thing you’re proudest of as a coach.”
Economy offered a textbook example of Blaine’s mental toughness.
The 113-pounder, who went 1-2 last year, entered the day with a state-title dream in place, but that was quickly erased after being pinned in the semifinals.
Instead of folding, Economy battled.
He earned a hard-fought 3-2 decision over Selah’s Mathew Harris for the right to wrestle for third or fourth place, and he captured the third-place medal by getting a 6-2 decision over Olympia’s Tre Toledo, a wrestler Economy lost to during last week’s regional tournament.
“I feel like I wrestled every match the best that I could,” Economy said. “Spencer Clegg in the semis was a tough kid, so I wasn’t too upset with losing, and I just came this far so I wanted to go out with a bang, and I got third, so it was pretty cool.”
Foster billed Economy’s performance “unbelievable,” saying he wrestled the way coaches have been telling him to throughout the season.
Caleb’s end result wasn’t optimal, getting pinned 1:29 into his championship bout, but he also exemplified the toughness Foster said his team displayed.
Frey grinded out matches, winning his quarterfinal in overtime before earning another closely contested semifinal win, a 5-3 decision over Woodland’s Nathan Patterson.
“He wrestled some great matches,” Foster said of Caleb. “He wrestled some tight matches along the way. It’s about winning those close ones, and he did that.”
Fritsch, who had potential state championship aspirations, was forced to battle back after losing a Friday quarterfinal to Orting four-time state champion Fred Green.
The Blaine sophomore brushed the loss aside to finish 2-1 Saturday, earning a fifth-place medal.
Fritsch pinned Selah’s James Garcia in a consolation match, lost in a 4-3 decision in the consolation semis and then beat Toppenish’s Andrew Saaverda 5-3 to capture fifth place.
“Obviously wanted to go to the semis. That’s what everybody’s goal is, but after I lost, that’s what defines you as a wrestler, how you pick yourself back up after you get down,” Fritsch said. “I came back today after that and put it behind me.”
Camba and Lott wrestled each other in the 126-pound seventh- or eighth-place match. Both lost their first matches Saturday, and Camba edged his teammate with a 6-4 decision.
Camba’s strong finish and placing was another example of a young Borderite wrestler improving on last year’s performance. Camba’s tournament last season was short lived, as he went two and out.
He finished his weekend this time with a 3-2 record.
“It’s something I thought about since I first stepped onto the mat, not only making it to the dome, but making it to the second day,” Camba said. “I mean that’s everyone’s dream besides being a state champion.
Lott, who finished his tournament 2-3, took home an eighth-place medal, finishing a strong career with Blaine. Lott improved on last year’s finish, when he went 1-2 at state.
“Even though it might not be the medal he wanted, to get on the podium and to get a reward for four years of wrestling is awesome for him,” said Foster of Lott. “I’m really proud of him.”
Anthony Frey had a somewhat disappointing Mat Classic based on his expectations, but he still finished with a seventh-place medal.
The Blaine junior was one of two Whatcom County Class 2A wrestlers who earned regional tournament wins last weekend. But Anthony suffered a first-round loss Friday before battling back to earn a spot in Saturday’s medal rounds.
Anthony took a consolation 4-1 loss to Olympic’s Jayden Fernandez to start Saturday’s wrestling, but he rebounded by pinning Hudson’s Bay’s Darion Green in 1:59 to earn his seventh-place finish.
Blaine’s Billy Dodd, Eric Davis and Preston Bellville were eliminated before Saturday’s medal rounds, but Caleb detailed both Davis’ and Bellville’s improvement throughout the year.
“I’m proud of all of them, even the guys who didn’t place,” Caleb said. “Eric and Preston, they are the most improved wrestlers I have ever seen in my career of wrestling.”