“Now that I'm here, I've improved more than I ever thought I would, and I'm ready for this weekend (regional championships)," said Chad Blair, who at 32-2, is the number one 189-pounder in all of Class 5A.
Blair is a product of a system at Valley Center that installs a varsity state of mind at the freshman and JV level.
"As of right now, we only have one guy out of 14 that never spent any time on JV, which means we're building a program, they bought into our system, and they trust us," said Head Coach Brian Shelton. "We're building wrestlers, and not just accepting studs."
Garrett Foster is proof of that. He is the third-ranked 215-pounder in Class 5A. At this time last year, he wasn't even on the varsity team. Now, in his senior season, Foster has gotten his chance, and is 35-5 on the year.
"I expected a lot less than this, actually. I really just wanted to win 60% of my matches, but winning as many as I have right now has been amazing," said Foster.
With Class 5A regional championships being held at Valley Center this weekend, Foster and Blair are from under the radar.
"It's good because it puts the intimidation out there, but it's bad because it puts a big target on your back. And everybody wants to beat you," said Blair. "People look at the rankings but they don't mean anything. It's how you perform when you're performing. You can't go in there thinking, I'm number one. I'm going to win State. You just have to keep battling and battling and keep proving yourself," he added.
Foster, already on an unexpected rollercoaster ride of success, enters the postseason with an opportunity to still surprise as the underdog.
"I immensely want to place. I want to be placed really high up at the state tournament. I would love to win it but... the ride has been enough."
Valley Center hosts the Class 5A regionals this Saturday at 9:00 am. Other locations for the 5A include St. Thomas Aquinas, Salina South and Emporia.