Seth Fritts showed up in Oklahoma City last season with a boatload of confidence. He was Keys' first-ever wrestler to qualify for the state tournament, and he had only lost four times all season.
Still, though, Fritts found out just how tough the eight-man field at State Fair Arena can be. Fritts lost his opening-round matchup with Kingfisher's Christian Roney — a 9-6 decision — and fell to the consolation bracket, where he came up one match short of wrestling for third place.
It was an eye-opener, indeed.
"I learned that everyone is tough when you get to state," Fritts said. "You can't overlook anyone and you just can't let the big stage and big crowd get to you."
All of those will be helpful guidelines when he returns to the same venue this weekend. Fritts, a sophomore, will enter the 160-pound field in the Class 3A state tournament, which starts on Friday.
Fritts' first-round opponent this year will be someone he's had success against this year. It's Quinton's Peyton Knell.
"Knell is a good wrestler, so I'm going in there looking like it's the finals every match," said Fritts, who enters this year's state tournament at 30-4. "You can't slack even a little in any of the matches. You have to wrestle lights out 24-seven."
In two encounters this season, Fritts has beaten Knell both times. But all of that is thrown out the window, Keys coach Travis Kirby said.
"He's wrestled Knell twice this year and has won both times," Kirby said of Fritts, who posted both wins over Knell by fall at the Poteau Border Brawl tournament and the Maverick Conference Tournament.
"But that doesn't mean that Knell is going to lay down and give Seth an easy match."
Also on Fritts' side of the state-tournament bracket is Perry's Davis Thomas and Blackwell's Brian Moran.
"My bracket is tough — just like all the other brackets at state," Fritts said. "But it's anyone's ball game and I'm going to try and make it my game."
Fritts enters the state tournament as the No. 2 seed out of the east, after losing a 4-3 decision to Newkirk's Jacob Vap in the regional tournament finals. Those two wouldn't meet again until it were in the finals.
"It was a close match and Vap is a tough wrestler, but I gave him all his points," Fritts said of the regional showdown. "I tried a cheap move early and it cost me."
On Vap's side of the 160 bracket is his first-round opponent, Steven Baker of Sulphur. The other two are wrestlers that Fritts is very familiar with: Jay's Kaleb Reece and Marlow's Seth Scarbrough.
"He's wrestled four of the guys in his bracket," Kirby said of Fritts, who is 2-1 against Reece this season and 0-1 against Scarbrough after losing to him in the consolation finals of the Tuttle tournament.
"There are two that he hasn't wrestled, but they were in his bracket at a couple of tournaments, which Seth placed higher at then they did."
To Kirby, Fritt's recipe for success at the state tournament is simple.
"For Seth to win a title, he just has to show up being himself," Kirby said. "He also has to take it one match at a time and dictate each position in every match."
And if Fritts were to trump the seven others in his field, it would be a dream come true.
"A title would mean the world to me," Fritts said. "I've dreamed about that day ever since I was a little kid."
As for his success, Fritts credits that to a higher power.
"I just wanna put out that I had nothing to do with my success this year," he said, "it was all God."