An early loss at the Mat Classic tested Blaine senior Gavino Rodriguez, but he overcame the setback to win four out of six matches over the two-day tournament for a fourth place finish.
Rodriguez was the only Blaine wrestler to place in the tournament, which was February 21 and 22 at the Tacoma Dome. Fellow Borderites Tyson Kirk and Colton Pedersen both won matches and contributed to Blaine’s team score. The Borderites placed 33rd place out of 51 teams.
“We’re inexperienced wrestlers and we’re going up against seniors,” said Blaine head coach Tom Hinz. “But as far as how we felt, it was awesome.”
After winning his first match, Rodriguez narrowly lost his second in a second tiebreaker overtime period. That defeat was especially tough, since one loss puts wrestlers out of contention for the championship title.
“That’s a test. After that, do you lose your next one or do you pick yourself up and keep going?” Hinz said.
Rodriguez kept going, winning the next three matches by two-point decisions. In the match for third place, he went up against Cedarcrest’s Matthew Weinert, a 6-foot, 8-inch tall wrestler with a long reach. “His arms are like pythons,” Hinz said.
Rodriguez wrestled well, but got pinned in the final seconds of the second round.
“Gavino was really proud of what he did. He was really excited about it,” Hinz said. “The one disappointment he had was just that his high school wrestling career is over.”
Blaine’s performance is about what Hinz hoped for the Borderites. Compared to other years, Blaine’s team is relatively young and most hadn’t experienced the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome – an atmosphere that can induce performance anxiety.
“We have great athletes who are dedicated to getting better, but we’re pretty inexperienced,” Hinz said. The upside for the Borderites is that out of the five wrestlers who wrestled at state and three others who went as alternates, seven will be coming back next year.
Blaine freshman Genesis Vazquez, the only wrestler from the girls team to make it to state, won a match and lost two, getting beat by the eventual fifth place finisher, as well as the eventual state champion. Unlike the boys tournament, girls from every school classification – 1B to 4A – compete against each other at state.
“Getting through regionals and sub-regionals in a weight class that’s absolutely stacked with great wrestlers, is a fantastic achievement,” said girls wrestling head coach Damon Higgins. “The mere fact that she got to state as a freshman and won a match is amazing.”