Jan. 23, 2006
In his first four years on The Farm, he wrestled a combined 15 matches. This season, he's already won 31 matches.
This season, he is the Cardinal's starter at 165 pounds, no longer the lightweight he was when he arrived in California five years ago. This season, Ray Blake is one of Stanford Wrestling's three captains, and he is taking it upon himself to make sure that the team lives up to his expectations.
"Being captain is a lot different - it's similar to what it was like in high school, where you need the work ethic and you lead by example," noted Blake. "But here, I have top be more vocal, and I feel responsible to do well because it impacts the rest of the team."
And so far, he has led by exampled. Blake has 30 wins this season - more than anyone else on the team. He placed in the top-seven at five of the six tournaments he competed at during the fall, including the title at the Central Missouri Open. Blake has upset two of the top-20 wrestlers in his weight class and has not lost any match this season by more than six points. During the winter break, he stretched together an eight-match win streak from Midlands through the Lone Star Duals.
Last week against Illinois, he lost a tough match to the ninth-ranked wrestler in the country.
"On Monday, we watched the film and we found a lot of technical things that we did wrong and that we can work on," said Blake about the loss to fourth-ranked Illinois. "But the biggest thing is belief. We didn't really believe that we were capable of beating them because they were Illinois. We have to get back to believing that we're the best team on the mat no matter who we're going against."
One setback is not going to stop Blake on his quest to become one of the nation's elite. Two years ago, Stanford crowned it first NCAA Champion when Matt Gentry claimed the title at 157 pounds. Now the only question is - who will become Stanford's second NCAA Champion. Blake knows it can be him, that there is a long season ahead of him and that every experience is one he can learn from. Gentry was the one who told Blake what he had learned during his 42-0 championship season.
"Matt gave me good advice when he told me that it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Last year, I trained too much during the summer and I peaked in November. This year, I'm taking it one day at a time. It's about not looking forward or looking back. I'm focusing on doing everything I need to do each day in order to prepare for March. Of course I was upset, especially on Sunday after Illinois, but when I woke up on Monday, I put it behind me. It's a long season and there's a lot left to do."