Marmion heavyweight wrestler Alex Fritz confidently climbed the awards stand Saturday as the 3A Shepard Sectional concluded.
Much of the crowd had dispersed by the time the night’s final medal presentation was over, but Fritz’s grin and fellow senior George Fisher’s over-the-top cheers were hard to miss.
“Yeah,” Fritz said. “I feel a little bit like I’ve got to finish off the day every time.”
Early February podium trips have been customary for Fritz, who has qualified for the IHSA state meet in each of his four high school seasons. He has been unable to duplicate his sectional success in Champaign, however, and the urgency to make the most of his final bid to place downstate set in quickly.
Once Fritz absorbed the last of his sectional photo-ops, he returned to ground level and focused his attention to the state tournament, which begins with preliminary matches today at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall.
“My offense is so much better than last year and the years before,” Fritz said. “I used to be really hesitant about everything, but now I’m really getting into my offense a lot better, so everything’s going well.”
The heftiest of the Cadets’ seven state qualifiers, Fritz still holds that distinction despite competing between 245 and 250 pounds, a fair amount shy of his weight class’ 285-pound limit.
He considers himself “more athletic than most heavyweights I wrestle. A lot more agile, quick.” That, he says, balances out most size disadvantages.
Fritz learned those principles of quickness early. For a time in middle school, he joined the ranks of St. Charles Youth Wrestling, a club that has produced many fellow Cadets standouts at lower weights.
Anthony Bosco (106), Johnny Jimenez (120), Jake Field (126) and Fisher (132) – like Fritz – are multi-year state qualifiers and hail from St. Charles.
“Fritz, he’s got a motor when he wants to,” Bosco said. “When he goes, he’s tough to stop. He’s slick on his feet for a heavyweight. He’s going to do big things.”
Being the big guy has been both a bane and a boon for Fritz, who admittedly shied away from football after playing with a Tri-City Chargers eighth-grade team in fifth grade.
Classmates begged him to return to the sport in high school, and he finally obliged this past fall, starting at defensive tackle for the 4-5 Cadets.
His football flirtation aside, Fritz has long aspired to wrestle after high school, and is awaiting a hopeful admission letter from his top choice, Elmhurst College, both parents’ alma maters.
Fritz enters the state tournament with a 35-13 record, and is optimistic about adding to what already is a career best for single-season victories. He went 25-9 at 220 pounds last season, was 31-15 as a sophomore heavyweight and compiled a 27-13 mark as a freshman heavyweight.
He made his deepest downstate run as a sophomore, reaching the championship semifinals before eventually falling to Kaneland’s Jimmy Boyle, 3-2, in a wrestleback semifinal that would have put Fritz in the third-place match.
As is the case this season, Fritz gave up a few pounds in his earlier stints at the largest of the 14 weight classes. He credits state-bound 195-pounder Cody Snodgrass for enhancing his quickness as a practice partner in the mat room.
Snodgrass gets the corresponding benefit, testing his technique against a bigger opponent each afternoon.
“We know when to push each other and what one another needs to do to get better,” Snodgrass said, “and we capitalize on that.”
In Saturday’s sectional final, Fritz admitted he could have used a little outside intervention against Hinsdale Central junior Brian Allen, who notched his 44th successive win to start the season with a 15-5 major decision victory.
“Allen, he’s insane. Just is really good. Hopefully, I’ll have a better match if I see him at state,” Fritz said. “He’s good, but overall, the day went well. I took second.”
And ascended the podium. Now for accomplishing that feat at Assembly Hall.
Here’s a glance at Kane County Chronicle-area qualifiers for the IHSA state wrestling tournament, to be held today through Saturday at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall in Champaign:
ST. CHARLES EAST
Ryan Rubino, Sr., 106 pounds (fourth at Maine East Sectional)
Isaiah Vela, Jr., 132 (second at Maine East Sectional)
Keone Derain, So., 145 (fourth at Maine East Sectional)
Brad Kearbey, Sr., 160 (fourth at Maine East Sectional)
ST. CHARLES NORTH
Wes Pasholk, Sr., 220 (fourth at Maine East Sectional)
Brad Martens, Sr., 120 (fourth at Shepard Sectional)
Anthony Bosco, Jr., 106 (third at Shepard Sectional)
Johnny Jimenez, Jr., 120 (first at Shepard Sectional)
Jake Field, Sr., 126 (second at Shepard Sectional)
George Fisher, Sr., 132 (first at Shepard Sectional)
Trace Carello, Marmion, Fr., 145 (second at Shepard Sectional)
Cody Snodgrass, Marmion, Sr., 195 (fourth at Shepard Sectional)
Alex Fritz, Marmion, Sr., 285 (second at Shepard Sectional)
Esai Ponce, Sr., 132 (third at Rochelle Sectional)
Dan Goress, Sr., 145 (first at Rochelle Sectional)
Zach Theis, Sr., 285 (first at Rochelle Sectional)
AURORA CENTRAL CATHOLIC
Eddie Gonzalez, Jr., 285 (fourth at Harvard Sectional)