Off the mat, Aaron Blaine is philosophical about his sport.
"It's never been about being good. It's about practicing and doing what I love," said Blaine, a junior from Hudson's Bay and one of the top returning wrestlers in the region.
"I'm not too competitive all the time. I want to win, but it's not really what it's all about."
He can say that during a break in practice. He probably would not say that right after a match, especially a match that does not go his way.
TOP-RANKED LOCAL WRESTLERS
Local wrestlers who ranked in the state in their weight class and school classification by WashingtonWrestlingReport.com
106 — 4, Josa Nava-Montez (Skyview); 113 — 12, Daniel Rice (Union); 120 — 6, Cody Hershel (Union); 126 — 3, Ramon Ortiz (Evergreen); 7, Junior Godinho (Union); 12, Robert Arellano (Battle Ground); 145 — 5, Adam Peterson (Battle Ground); 7, Sam Berry (Union); 152 — 4, Gabe Morales (Heritage); 11, Brandon Burns (Heritage); 160 — 6, Tekwon Wallace (Evergreen); 9, Austin Dunn (Evergreen); 170 — 2, Anthony Thomas (Evergreen); 195 — 9, Alex Berfanger (Union); 220 — 10, Tristan Bridge (Heritage); 285 — 10, Austin Wright (Evergreen).
113 — 5, Benny Dixon (Mountain View); 120 — 6, Will Treadwell (Prairie); 138 — Kenji Yamashita (Mountain View); 145 — 1, Aaron Blaine (Hudson’s Bay); 9, Jonah Hansen (Mountain View); 152 — 8, Nathan Spires (Prairie); 160 — 10, Jason Nicholson (Columbia River); 182 — 10, Jeremiah Patrick (Columbia River); 220 — 3, Dallas Goodpaster (Prairie).
113 — 5, Casey Oviatt (Ridgefield); 132 — 13, Rogelio Polanco-Jimenez (Washougal); 145 — 14, Tanner Baldwin (Washougal); 160 — 8, Clayton Farr (Ridgefield); 170 — 4, Stephen Camden (Washougal); 195 — 16, Bailey Burk (Washougal); 220 — 2, John White (Ridgefield); 285 — 15, Jacob Brown (Washougal)
113 — 9, Andrew Bosch (Woodland); 120 — 11, Ryan Forcier (Woodland); 132 — 8, Alec Brenan (Stevenson); 138 — 3, Tyler Miller (Stevenson); 4, Nathan Patterson (Woodland); 5, Dustin Veysey (La Center); 152 — 3, Jacob Schneider (Stevenson); 160 — 12, Zac Seevers (Woodland); 170 — 7, Gabe Bunker (La Center); 195 — 9, Josh McNeal (La Center); 220 — 8, Zach Wardle (Woodland).
106 — 3, Kassi Strano (Battle Ground); 7, Taryn Lommasson (Camas); 124 — 2, Haven Camden (Washougal); 130 — 6, Erin Locke (Washougal); 155 — 6, Victoria Carlson (Battle Ground); 190 — 3, Mixtly Simon (Battle Ground); 235 — 7, Katelyn Purkeypyle (Washougal)
Last season, Blaine went 40-2, good enough for a third-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament. His first loss of the season came at the Clark County Invitational, against then senior Patrick Mayolo of La Center.
No shame in that, right? Mayolo was a strong wrestler who would finish second in Class 1A state.
"There's always shame," Blaine said, in a bit of a contradiction to his previous statement that winning is not everything.
"It just gives me more motivation."
Blaine and the Eagles will feel right at home Friday and Saturday at the Pacific Coast Championships, a 32-team tournament hosted by the Evergreen Plainsmen but held at Hudson's Bay. Blaine won the 138-pound title in this event last year. Now wrestling at 145 pounds, Blaine has a bigger goal this season. He wants to become the first state champion from Hudson's Bay since Kory Kanekoa and Shawn Fossen won titles in 1990.
"I hope I can do it twice," he said, also looking forward to his senior year.
He was close his first two years, finishing fourth at state as a freshman, then reaching the quarterfinals and taking third last season.
The two finishes, though, are world's apart in Blaine's mind.
"My first year, I was really proud of taking fourth," he said. "Sophomore year, I put in so much more, and I felt like I should have been there, I should have been on top."
That is what drives him this season.
Still, until district, regionals and state, Blaine said he will not put too much pressure on himself to excel right now. December and January are a time to improve, with the hope to peak at the end of the season.
"I like all the technique stuff of wrestling and using it like a chess match," Blaine said. "Practicing that and getting better at it. You learn a lot of moves. It becomes a natural body behavior. It's like a playbook, knowing how to do your stuff."
A wrestler is always learning about one's craft.
"You always do something wrong (in a match), and if you focus, you can pick it up," he said.
He also has a lot of people helping him. Bay coach Albert Alcantar said Blaine is so well respected in the wrestling community that other coaches also give him tips. Blaine is not the kind of athlete who thinks he has it all figured out. He is always open to suggestions.
"He's willing to listen and take that advice," Alcantar said. "It's easy for other coaches to help him out because he's a likable kid."
This school year, Blaine, who enjoys math and science, has entered the Clark County Fire Cadet program. He said he is not necessarily interested in becoming a professional firefighter but he appreciates the fact that he is required to perform 90 hours of community service.
"I feel like the community has put a lot of effort into me and helping me," Blaine said. "I want to give back and help the community. There are nice coaches in Clark County who always want to help everybody. They led me in the right direction."
The sport, and the people in it, have helped Aaron Blaine become a teen with a vision.