When Fritsch arrived from Tuttle, Okla. his sophomore season, the rest of his competition’s title aspirations became a more difficult hurdle.
For four seasons Fritsch studied in one of the biggest wrestling hot beds in the entire country and last season fell one match short of qualifying for the Class 4A Oklahoma State Wrestling Tournament.
“In Oklahoma, wrestling was a much bigger deal and there was a lot more competition,” Fritsch said. “In Oklahoma there were a lot more kids wrestling and it was bigger classes.”
Pirates’ Coach Bob Owen summed up his accomplishment.
“Usually a freshman, when they are in the middle to upper weights, they are wrestling juniors and seniors,” Owen said. “What Hunter did was a heck of an accomplishment.”
While wrestling in Oklahoma, Fritsch developed the aggressive style of wrestling that is making him one of the favorites to win state in his 160-pound weight class.
“I learned a lot about different wrestling styles,” Fritsch said. “The kind of wrestling there is gritty and tough-nosed. Wrestling in Montana is a lot more technical. I have to wrestle a lot smarter than harder.”
Fritsch and 13 Pirate teammates qualified for the Class A Montana State wrestling competition Friday and Saturday at Billings.
Fritsch exuded a high level of confidence as one of two Pirate wrestlers that captured first place at the Class A Western Divisionals at Dillon on Saturday.
“I would say it’s humbling knowing I’ve been in a part of the country where wrestling is so big,” Fritsch said. “I should be able to have a shot at winning state all three years if I wrestle how I know I can.”
Fritsch’s early-season momentum he developed was abruptly derailed when he suffered a high-ankle sprain at the Rocky Mountain Classic. The injury kept Fritsch inactive for several weeks.
“I really wanted to wrestle a lot,” Fritsch admitted. “I just had to keep fighting through the pain.”
Finally receiving medical clearance right before the Class-A duals, Fritsch took off right where he left off with a first place finish.
Owen said he was impressed with Fritsch’s ability to be resilient.
“Coming off that injury, he was really dominant in the three matches that he wrestled in and just beat up on all three of his opponents,” Owen said. “He will face much stiffer competition this week as he beat up on a couple of pretty good kids in that tournament.”
Fritsch’s teammate Parker Adler has dominated in a similar fashion. Adler pinned all three of his opponents to secure his ticket to state in dramatic fashion.
Adler was dominant in the Western Class A Divisionals and is now the favorite to win it all, according to Owen.
“He is the clear cut favorite to make the finals,” Owen said. “He might get another shot at his nemesis, returning state champion from Belgrade: Sawyer Deagan.”
Adler, who began his wrestling career in Ronan until he moved to Polson in 7th grade, said he learned a lot from both systems.
“I’ve been able to gain a lot of experience built up in Ronan with those coaches,” Adler said. “In 7th grade, I left for Polson and started learning wrestling under Owen. I’ve been progressing ever since I started here.”
Since last season at the Class A Duals, Adler said he felt he has progressed significantly.
“I feel like every tournament I’ve wrestled better and more solid each weekend,” Adler said. “Coach Owen has helped me a lot in the fall with some lifts and stuff before I got back to school.”
Adler said he felt he had a breakthrough in the Tri-State Tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“I have had to get better with each tournament, and get better each and every weekend,” Adler said.
As Adler enters this week’s state competition, he has one player on his mind: Belgrade’s Sawyer Deagan.
“Sawyer is a three-time state champion wrestler and twice the coaches are picking out every little thing to beat him,” Adler said. “My coaches are telling me you can’t overlook anyone in the tournament. My goal is to be in the finals with Sawyer.”