STANWOOD — Nearly a year ago, wrestling for Archbishop Murphy, Foster Wade’s season ended with a one-point loss in the 2A state championship match at 195 pounds.
Immediately following that defeat, Wade set his sights on getting back to and winning the state championship in his senior season, but it would have been hard for him to know where his journey would take him.
Due to a small turnout, the Wildcats wrestling team was forced to dissolve this season, allowing the members of the team to wrestle for the high school they normally would attend if they hadn’t gone to Archbishop Murphy — a private school.
Wade remained a student at Archbishop Murphy, but joined the Stanwood wrestling team for his final year of high school.
The school might be different, but the goal he set upon after losing the state championship last February remains the same.
“I’ve had that goal in the front of my mind since the day after that state finals match,” Wade said. “It hasn’t slipped by my mind and I haven’t put it aside for a second. It’s still my goal and I still believe that I can attain it. It’s no far-fetched thing. I’m set on doing it.”
Wrestling for Stanwood brought challenges that Wade wasn’t accustomed to. At Archbishop Murphy, the team was so small the focus was almost entirely centered on each individual athlete. As a member of a much larger team at Stanwood, Wade had to learn to make sacrifices.
Wade will wrestle at 195 pounds in the postseason — which begins today in the Wesco 3A north sub-regional tournament at Marysville Pilchuck High School — but spent much of the regular season wrestling at 220 pounds to help the Spartans fill a gap in their lineup.
“He’s never argued once,” Stanwood head coach Ray Mather said. “He’s always done it for the team and he’s wrestled some brutes at 220. He’s giving up 25 pounds on those guys and he’s never hesitated.”
He also never lost to the big boys.
Wade comes into the district tournament with a record of 20-1. His lone loss came to Woodinville’s Ryan Christensen, who is ranked nationally and is the top-ranked 4A 182-pounder in the state. Christensen wrestled up to 195 when he faced Wade and got all he could handle, hanging on for a 3-0 win. The match was decided by a takedown late in the first period. Wade was docked an additional point later for an illegal hold.
“He was giving up some weight, but it was a pretty close match,” Wade said. “I was pretty proud of myself.”
Moving up a classification, Wade knew he would see a larger pool of talent, something that should only help him in the postseason.
“The really good kids are good and it doesn’t matter what classification they are,” said Blaine Smith, Wade’s former coach at Archbishop Murphy. “There are more of them at the 3A and 4A level, but there are 2A kids that are every bit as good as the 3A and 4A kids.”
Wade has proved throughout the season that 2A or 3A doesn’t matter; he’s one of the best in the state. A fact backed up by his No. 2 ranking among 3A 195-pounders.
Barring injury, Wade should have little problem advancing to the Mat Classic in two weeks at the Tacoma Dome.
Perhaps the biggest challenge standing in the way of state championship redemption for Wade is Meadowdale’s Ciaran Ball, who placed fourth at last year’s Mat Classic. Ball is the highest returning 3A finisher from last year’s state championships and the No. 1 ranked 195-pounder in the state.
“That’s probably going to be the biggest match of the year if we meet up at state,” Wade said.
Wade saw his state championship dreams disappear in the final seconds of his title match a year ago against Ephrata’s Tyrus Kemp. Mather said he thinks that disappoint might help Wade realize his dreams as a senior.
“I think from that experience carrying over into this year he learned a lot,” Mather said. “You can tell that when it’s close he understands that, ‘I’ve got to hold the guy down,’ or ‘I’ve got to get that point scored.’ I think he’s more aware of the situational scoring around him and what he has to do in the short time.”
If anyone can relate to being so close to a championship, it’s Mather. He lost a state championship match in high school almost exactly the same way.
Wade can only hope to emulate his new coach. Mather came back and won the state title the following season.
“It’s a painful one to wait around 365 days and try to get your chance at it again,” Mather said. “If everything works out, it’s a pretty rectifying experience.”
For all of the success Wade has had this season at Stanwood, breaking up what he, his teammates and Smith had at Archbishop Murphy wasn’t easy.
“We’re a family,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like when your kids move on to college. You’re happy for them and you know things will work out for them, but it tugs at the heartstrings a little bit. It’s kind of like breaking up your family. It’s a tough thing to do.”
Wade said he has been accepted with open arms by his new teammates and expects this season’s experience, as difficult as it might have been, to help him in the future.
“It’s different, but I think that it’s good,” he said. “I think it’s going to help me out later in life being able to deal with different people when I’m thrown in a situation.”
But for now, Wade is focused on the present and capping off his prep wrestling career as a state champion for Stanwood.
“As long as everything keeps lining up the way it should and he keeps approaching each match the same way, I don’t see anything standing in his way of being able to be in that state finals match and accomplishing the goal of being the champion,” Mather said.
The right to coach Wade at the state championships will belong to Mather, but Smith won’t be hard to find.
“If he were still wrestling for me I would be cheering him the whole way and I’m still going to be doing that, just from a little bit further away,” Smith said. “I’m very proud of Foster.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.