By BEN JOHNSON
PARK HILL — No matter what he does down the road, Seth Fritts’ name will forever be etched into the Keys record books. Just like the boys basketball team picking up the school’s first-ever trip to the state tournament, Fritts made history of his own on Saturday.
The 138-pound freshman advanced to the semifinals of the Class 3A regional tournament at Berryhill High School to guarantee himself a spot in the state tournament. Once that happened, Fritts became Keys’ first-ever wrestler to reach the state tournament.
“It’ll mean quite a bit,” Fritts said when asked what it will mean to him when he’s older and his name will always be first on the state-tournament list. “I mean, it does right now, knowing that I’m the first one ever.”
In the regional semifinals, Fritts dropped a 4-3 decision to Jay’s Cole Wheeler, sending him to the consolation bracket to wrestle for third place. Fritts would end up beating Tonkawa’s Brandon Hurst 11-2 for the bronze, but something was still eating away at him.
“Of course I wasn’t satisfied with third place,” he said, “I always thought I should have been in the finals. But at least I got to punch a ticket, and I’ll get a chance to redeem myself at the state tournament.”
For Keys coach Travis Kirby, Fritts’ invitation to the state tournament was four years in the making.
“It was a great accomplishment,” said Kirby, who had wrestlers come close but failed to get over the hump in his previous three years on the job. “Last year, I had two kids come really close. They took fifth, both of them. They weren’t quite able to get in.”
Luckily for Kirby, Fritts transferred in from Tahlequah to bolster the Cougars’ program.
“Seth came in and he was a great workout partner for Brent (Gladd),” Kirby said. “I thought those two were going to make each other better and they did throughout the year. (Seth) has been a huge asset to the team, and I’ve seen him improve throughout the year.”
Fritts joining the Cougars was a last-second decision before school started in August.
“We didn’t know I was going to move until the head coach over at Tahlequah (Brandon Benson) got fired,” Fritts said. “So we decided it would probably be the best decision...and I thought I would have more of an opportunity here.”
It didn’t take Fritts long to establish himself as a dominate wrestler in 3A. He racked up tournament victories at Okmulgee, Inola and Pawhuska.
However, en route to winning the gold in Pawhuska, Fritts injured his knee and was forced to sit out during the Maverick Conference Tournament.
“I was kind of concerned,” Fritts said of his right knee. “It was hurting pretty bad, but after a couple of days the swelling went down. Then the pain wasn’t as bad, so I wasn’t as worried. I knew I could push through it and go to state.”
That’s exactly what he did.
Now Fritts — wrestling at 138, after winning regular-season tournament titles at 145 — will take his 34-2 record this season into the state tournament where he’ll face Kingfisher’s Christian Roney in the first round on Friday. Fritts was originally slated to take on Chandler’s Blake Barrier, but he opted to take the No. 4 seed from the east side.
“We found out that the kid from Perry (Hunter Condit) got hurt and wasn’t able to finish out the (regional) tournament, so the Kingfisher kid stepped in and I don’t think he’s been ranked all year,” Kirby said. “...We figured, (Berryhill’s Jonce) Blaylock, for sure, deserves the No. 1 spot and he’s going to the finals. We figured it was an easier route to get him in the finals.”
Joining Fritts and Roney on their side of the bracket will be Hinton’s Kyler Vowell and Wheeler in the other quarterfinal matchup.
“I honestly think me and Blaylock will meet in the finals,” said Fritts, whose win percentage is slightly lower than Blaylock’s mark of 33-1. Last year, Blaylock was the state runner-up at 132 pounds, losing to Comanche’s Jon Townsend in the finals.
As for Kirby, being able to coach at the state tournament for the first time will be something special.
“It’s definitely going to be a different experience,” he said. “I haven’t ever gotten experience sitting in the chair in the state tournament, so it’s definitely going to be a little different. I’m excited for it, and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”
Class 3A — 138 pounds
Bout 1: Seth Fritts (Keys) vs. Christian Roney (Kingfisher).
Bout 2: Kyler Vowell (Hinton) vs. Cole Wheeler (Jay).
Bout 3: Jonce Blaylock (Berryhill) vs. Tre Parker (Geary).
Bout 4: Brandon Hurst (Tonkawa) vs. Blake Barrier (Chandler).
Bout 5: Bout 1 winner vs. Bout 2 winner.
Bout 6: Bout 3 winner vs. Bout 4 winner.
Bout 7: Bout 5 winner vs. Bout 6 winner.
Bout 8: Bout 1 loser vs. Bout 2 loser.
Bout 9: Bout 3 loser vs. Bout 4 loser.
Bout 10: Bout 8 winner vs. Bout 6 loser.
Bout 11: Bout 9 winner vs. Bout 5 loser.
Bout 12: Bout 10 winner vs. Bout 11 winner.
Notes: Berryhill’s Jonce Blaylock hasn’t just been one of the best wrestlers in the 138-pound weight class this season, he’s been one of the better wrestlers in the state. Blaylock, a junior, has gone 33-1 this year with his only loss coming against Collinsville’s Gary Wayne Harding — a two-time state champion in 5A — in the finals of the Cushing tournament. Other than that, Blaylock has secured tournament titles at Sapulpa, Chickasha and Bishop Kelley. ... Tonkawa’s Brandon Hurst finished third at the Kingfisher tournament at 132 pounds. Then he bumped up to 138 pounds and won the title at the Will Rogers Conference Tournament. ... Keys’ Seth Fritts is the only freshman among the 138 field. Hinton’s Kyler Vowell is the only sophomore. Christian Roney (Kingfisher), Blaylock and Hurst are juniors, and Cole Wheeler (Jay), Tre Parker (Geary) and Blake Barrier (Chandler) are seniors.