State!Fritz, Lunsford win district championships, advance to State Wrestling Tournament
There were seven seconds left in the wrestling match.
This was Saturday at Fairfield High School and an estimated crowd of 2,000 was on hand.
And this match was for the Class 2A District-2 195-pound championship.
Fairfield senior Michael Fritz, ranked No. 3 in Iowa, was trailing Washington’s Karlton Skubal, ranked No. 5, by the score of 6-3.
The week before, Skubal had defeated Fritz for the championship at the Sectional Wrestling Meet.
Earning a spot in the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament had been a dream of Fritz’s since he was in middle school.
And heading into Saturday’s action, Fritz knew winning the District Wrestling Meet would guarantee that spot.
From the mat, Fritz looked up at the scoreboard.
“I didn’t think Skubal was expecting much from me with just seven seconds left in the match,” Fritz said. “I thought, ‘Keep pushing, keep going, he might be relaxed with a 6-3 lead.’”
Then came seven seconds of electrifying action that will forever remain part of Trojan wrestling lore.
Fritz pulled off a sudden, shocking and almost incomprehensible comeback.
“Michael hit a double-leg,” said Fairfield head coach Steve Miller. “Skubal went to his hip and Michael came up with a shoulder turk and put him to his back for a two-count.”
Fritz had earned two points for his takedown, another two with the two-point near fall, won 7-6 — and rushed off the mat as the District Wrestling Meet champion.
Fritz shared giant, leaping bear hugs with Miller and assistant coach Jay Pike.
“It was a classic match,” Miller said. “It was very special to watch Michael pull through in that moment. It’s a story about someone who has so much heart, so much drive and in seven seconds showed everyone exactly just what type of competitor he is.”
Pike, like Miller, was ecstatic.
“We always tell our wrestlers, ‘Never give up,’” Pike said. “And Michael didn’t give up. I feel honored to be a very small part of those seven seconds.”
Fritz rushed out of the gym to collect his thoughts while the crowd was still roaring.
“It was all very exciting,” Fritz said. “It’s honestly one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. To go to state is something I’ve worked for my whole high school career. The crowd was fantastic and, yes, I could hear them. It was exhilarating to do this in front of our home crowd.
“And Coach Miller and Coach Pike have been a big part of my life. Coach Pike is the fire, I think he was more nervous than I was.”
Watching those seven seconds, watching that entire match, was Fairfield junior Brendon Lunsford.
“A shadow went over my chest in those seven seconds,” Lunsford said. “I didn’t know if it was possible for Michael to have pulled this one out. But he did it and it was incredible.
“I was so out of breath watching Michael and what he did and just being so excited for him, I didn’t know if I’d have enough energy left to win my match.”
Earlier in the day, Lunsford had defeated Logan Knutson, of Williamsburg, 3-2, in the semifinals of the 285-pound weight class to advance to the championship match.
Lunsford’s opponent in the finals was Tyler Linderbaum, of Solon, ranked No. 4 in Iowa.
“And I’m not ranked at all,” said Lunsford, with an amused grin. “And I actually was relaxed with all of that. So, going into this championship, I figured if I wrestled my hardest, something good could happen.”
The championship match was scoreless after one round, and Lunsford chose down to start Round 2.
“It’s a free point,” Lunsford said. “If you want to get up, you’ll get up.”
Lunsford did win the escape point in less than 15 seconds, and kept the 1-0 lead heading into Round 3.
With 1:49 left, Linderbaum earned an escape point, went directly after Lunsford — and paid the price.
Within nine seconds, Lunsford scored two points with a takedown.
“Brendon slid right around him, came over the top, came around behind him and got the takedown,” Miller said. “That shows just how athletic Brendon is. Plus, Brendon kept himself in great position all match long.”
Lunsford led 3-2 with 40 seconds left but had no interest in playing things safe.
“Coach told me, ‘Don’t stall, go after him,’” Lunsford said.
Lunsford scored four more points, ultimately prevailing 7-4, earned the District Wrestling Meet championship and will be competing in the State Wrestling Tournament.
“It was special to get the win in the championship match,” Lunsford said. “I’ll recuperate this week and be ready for state.”
Lunsford also got bear hugs from coaches, teammates and friends.
“Brendon mentally broke the kid for the title,” Miller said. “Their kid looked up at the clock and had nothing left.”
Said Fritz, “Watching Brendon win his championship match was as exciting for me as winning my own. We’ve been practicing partners since we were in the third and fourth grades.”
And they’ll be practice partners early in the week. The State Tournament begins in Des Moines at the 17,000-seat Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday and runs through Saturday.
But Lunsford and Fritz each made something clear: This is a business trip. They’re not interested in merely hearing their names called as participants.
“We’re not done,” Miller said. “We want to get hardware, not just participate. I want to get two guys on the podium.”