Lunsford, Fritz excel at state
He’ll be ranked next year, that’s for sure.
Fairfield junior Brendon Lunsford took sixth place in the State Wrestling Meet at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, which concluded on Saturday.
Competing in the 285-pound weight class, Lunsford was unranked throughout the 2016-17 season.
“What Brendon accomplished was just awesome,” said Trojan head coach Steve Miller. “He beat three ranked wrestlers at state. According to the rankings, Brendon was never supposed to even make it to state. But that’s not the way Brendon looked at things — nor is it the way we, as coaches, looked at things.
“And Brendon wasn’t satisfied just being at state. He did an outstanding job. He showed his toughness and fight. He wrestled extremely smart and kept himself in great position.”
Lunsford won three matches at state. He defeated Josh Wegener (Algona) 5-2, Colin Anderson (Ballard) 7-2 and Elijah Van’t Hof (Sioux Center) 4-3.
“I was proud of Brendon,” said Trojan senior Michael Fritz. “He did a fantastic job. He did not let the large environment intimidate him.”
Fritz was at state to compete in the 195-pound class.
“Then Michael gets injured in the first 90 seconds of his first match at state on Thursday night,” Miller said. “It broke our hearts that here is a kid that has worked his whole life to get to state and then suffers a very severe injury right at the start of things.”
Said Fritz, “The thought was that I had a sprain in my shoulder. As it turned out, I tore a ligament in the front of my shoulder.”
Which makes wrestling a match, let alone winning a match at the state tournament, completely impossible.
Unless your name is Michael Fritz.
“I wanted to go out with a win,” Fritz said. “That was important to me.”
So after being forced to medically forfeit his first match, later, still on Thursday night, Fritz took the mat to face Diego Samaniego, of Bishop Heelan Catholic.
And then Fritz whipped him. In his last-ever match, Fritz won by major decision 15-6.
“Unbelievable,” Miller said. “It was unbelievable. “Michael was wrestling with just one arm and he won that match with sheer determination and guts.
“It was just so important for Michael to win a match up at state. It’s tough enough to win a match at state, any match. But to win it with one arm? To win a match with such a severe injury? That was one amazing feat.”
On Friday a decision needed to be made.
“I did want to keep wrestling,” Fritz said. “I really wished I could have continued.”
Said Miller, “Michael could have beaten the next kid he had to face with just one arm, too — that’s how tough a competitor Michael is. But you also must look at what is in the best health of our athlete.”
And thus Fritz’s dominating win over Samaniego will stand as his last career match.
“It was exciting to win that last match at state once I had hurt my shoulder,” Fritz said.
Miller said there was “no question” that a healthy Fritz would have taken third place or better.
“Michael beat the guy that took third place at state 9-3 earlier in the season,” Miller said. “For sure, Michael was in the top three of the state.”
Lunsford wasn’t able to witness Fritz’s win at state because he was wrestling at the same time.
“I am just happy that Michael was able to get that win,” Lunsford said. “I wish we could have both been at the podiums together.”
And now that he’s been on the podium at the State Meet, Lunsford is setting the bar higher.
First, it’d be nice to see his name in the 2017-18 rankings.
“Well,” he said with a chuckle, “I sure hope so.”
And he’d like to be back in Des Moines next February.
“I felt this was a good experience for me,” Lunsford said. “It was overwhelming at first but then I got used to it. Next year, I want to be in the finals.”