On his biographic sheet for announcements in the championship round of the Battle of the Border, Blaine sophomore Riley Fritsch added, “Slayed four dragons last week.”
Make that five, so to speak.
Fritsch grimly refused to allow any points except one in the final few seconds while scoring a 3-1 victory at 138 pounds over Class 4A Kentwood senior Walker Meyers to claim a title before a roaring crowd on Saturday, Dec. 13. Meyers came into the final with a 95-19 career record and a 4-0 season mark.
“I knew he was good,” Fritsch said of Meyers. “I feel I just wrestled my best match of the (early) season.”
The only other Whatcom County title in the prestigious 21-team, two-day classic was achieved in equally determined fashion by Blaine junior Caleb Frey at 145 pounds. Frey scored a takedown 37 seconds into overtime to beat Issaquah senior Jordan Hamilton, a state meet veteran who now has a 70-36 career mark.
Blaine, the Class 1A state champion last year but now in 2A, received runner-up finishes from Colton Economy (120) and Gage Lott (126) -- the only other county finalists -- to help give the Borderites an impressive close fourth with 205 points behind Class 4A Kentwood, which had 224 points, and Class 4A Todd Beamer, which scored 210.5. Class 3A Ferndale was a close third with 206.5.
Fritsch, now 7-0 this season and 41-10 for his career, displayed his potential with sixth at Class 1A state as a freshman. If anything, Fritsch’s taste of state has improved his determination, which has never been lacking.
Fritsch endured an even tougher test in the semifinals, when he scored what he called a “cheap tilt” -- a two-point rollover move -- to break a scoreless tie in the final five seconds with a 2-0 win over Tumwater’s Eric Schmidt.
Fritsch had a first-round bye and pinned his next two opponents the previous day.
“I’m working toward a state championship,” said Fritsch, who was an impressive third in the Battle of the Border as a freshman.
Frey earned an emotional decision after Issaquah’s Hamilton scored a one-point escape in the final seconds of regulation, sending the match into sudden-death overtime as the large crowd went nuts.
“I took second last week at the Mariner Tournament and I was frustrated by that, so tonight was redemption time for me,” said Frey, who improved his season record to 8-1 and his career mark to 76-25.
“It’s still hard to comprehend I just won the Battle of the Border Tournament,” said Frey, who began wrestling in second grade and has long dreamed of achieving just such honors, which are truly special for a Blaine wrestler.
“I was going all out (with his takedown gamble),” said Frey, talking of sudden-death overtime. “It was all or nothing.”
Economy, a sophomore who wrestled at state as a freshman, is now 4-1 for the season and 38-13 for his career with his 8-5 loss to Black Hills junior Chandler Rosalin, a state meet veteran who improved his season record to 9-0 and his career mark to 47-28.
“I was kind of disappointed,” said Economy, who had never wrestled Rosalin and felt he could have won had he had another minute of time.
Lott gave Todd Beamer’s Justin Rhodes a real challenge before Rhodes closed out a 6-4 win. Lott scored the match’s final two points with a takedown with 18 seconds remaining, but, like Economy, Lott ran out of time while dominating late.
“I got to be in the finals at Battle of the Border, higher than I’ve ever done,” said Lott, a senior who was 1-2 at state last year.
“The plan is to be on the podium,” Lott said of his state meet goals. He looked like a potential state placer over the weekend with two pins and two decisions to qualify for the title match.
Blaine coach Craig Foster was more than a little pleased.
“The kids wrestled really well,” said Foster. “Of our eight returning state meet guys, four were in the finals and four wrestled in the third/fourth place matches, so they all had strong showings in the tournament. And only two of those guys are seniors.”
Whatcom County had 13 wrestlers in the third/fourth place matches.
Third places went to Blaine’s Stuey Rasar (113) and Anthony Frey (132); Ferndale’s Eli Croy (120) and Ben Broselle (160); Bellingham’s Riley Takemura (126) and Blair Bennett (182); and Sehome’s Briley Funk (285). Takemura and Bennett helped Bellingham finish 10th with 94 points.
Fourth places went to Ferndale’s Carson Trolinder (120), Taylor Bellefuille (160) and Patrick Condon (285); Blaine’s Derreck Camba (126) and Billy Dodd (138) and Mount Baker’s J.T. Keeney (195).
In all-Ferndale matchups for third place, Croy decisioned Trolinder 8-1 at 120 pounds and Broselle defeated Bellefuille 8-2 at 160 pounds.
“We were about on-par,” said Ferndale coach Caleb Schlack. “We brought 17 wrestlers and we placed 13, with our freshmen going 3 for 3 to place in the top six. “The only bad thing was losing all of our five matches in the semifinals. Otherwise, we wrestled well.”
New Mount Baker coach Roger Goodwin saw a lot that pleased him, with eight wrestlers on his young team qualifying for second-day action. Goodwin pointed out that a freshman, Raiven McCormick, scored his first two varsity wins.
“We had more guys qualifying for second day than I expected,” said Goodwin.
Bellingham’s Bennett, a senior, went 4-1 in the tournament at 182 pounds to improve to 9-2 for the season.
“I’m shooting for top five at state,” said Bennett, who went 1-2 last season. “I’m expecting to drop to 170.”
Bennett pointed out that the finalists at 182, Anacortes Aaron Tisinger and Liberty’s Romney Noel, went to state last year. Tisinger was voted the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler by the coaches after pinning Noel in the finals.