Watching sophomore film of himself, Blaine junior wrestler Caleb Frey saw a far different wrestler compared to the one performing on the mats this season.
Frey’s skills have been ever-evolving since he first started wrestling in second grade. His rise has been steady, but even after leaving the Tacoma Dome in 2014 with a fourth-place medal, the Blaine 145-pounder took another step forward this past winter.
Frey was the only Whatcom County boys’ wrestler to reach a state final. He finished with a 34-7 record and 20 pins, won the Battle the the Border, Panther Classic, Northwest Conference Tournament, Class 2A Sub-Regional and 2A Regional and took second at the prestigious Pac-Coast Tournament.
For generating arguably the most impressive season of any county wrestler, Frey has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Boys’ Wrestler of the Year. Blaine coach Craig Foster, who helped advance nine wrestlers to Mat Classic, where the Borderites finished ninth in the 2A ranks with 70 points, has been selected Coach of the Year.
Frey’s strong year boiled down to two major factors, Foster said.
“He is really a competitor and just competes,” the Borderites coach said in a phone interview. “He doesn’t go into any matches thinking he won’t win, and that is kind of rare. ... He just really cares about his team and his coaches. He is always trying to do the right thing. He really cares about the wrestling program, and that leads to success.”
Frey’s maturation, to him, was a product of increased mental focus. Not all teams or parents film matches, but Foster said the Freys do, and the junior has taken advantage of his learning opportunities, adding an extra layer to improving at the sport, as Foster put it.
“I would throw things together and didn’t really think before,” Frey admitted, “but this year I started focusing in on the little things, and once you get the little things down, that will take you farther than making things up.”
Frey also honed in on one of Blaine’s mottoes: If he can’t score, he can’t win.
Frey went through a tournament stretch of only giving up a few points on his way to claiming titles, and that trend arose once more during the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
After pinning his first-round opponent, Frey earned a 3-1 decision over Franklin Pierce’s Max Henry-Nelson before getting a 5-3 semifinal win against Woodland’s Nathan Patterson. Unfortunately for the Blaine standout, his bid to win a state title was halted 1 minute, 29 seconds into his 145-pound championship match after getting pinned by Fife’s Zach Volk, but during his four matches he proved why he’s such a force and undoubtedly will be again next season.
“I think it was a good tournament for him,” Foster said. “His opponent in the finals was real tough, and sometimes that happens. ... (Frey) wrestled well, and that doesn’t always mean winning by 10 points. Sometimes it’s being smart and getting the win.”
The championship loss stung, but for a wrestler whose goal at the beginning of the year was to reach a state final, Frey eventually came to appreciate his accomplishment.
“I was kind of down,” Frey admitted. “I got second, and that is good, but it hurt still. Now that I’ve had time to look back on it, it doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s just something to learn from and something to work on.”
Beyond Frey’s work on the mat, he’s integral to Blaine’s positive wrestling room atmosphere. Foster praised Frey’s first-one-in, last-one-out mentality, and as a captain he led the team by example.
And Frey recognized he wouldn’t have been able to put together the year he did without his team.
“I think it’s just hard work and that beats talent every time,” Frey said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it wasn’t for my coaches, my partner, my brother, Riley (Fritsch), Gage (Lott), the team. I mean if it wasn’t for them, they are the ones that make me better.”