FAIRMONT - There was likely a bit of deja vu for Fairmont Senior grappler and defending Class AA State Champion Zach Frazier as he stepped onto the mat Saturday night for the 285-pound weight class championship final at the 2020 Winner’s Choice Wrestling Tournament.
You see, Frazier had stood in the same spot in the Fairmont Armory as he prepared for the championship match of the same tournament two years earlier. If those similarities alone weren’t enough to send Frazier’s mind racing back to his sophomore season, maybe his opponent would.
Because as he looked across the mat, he found himself staring at defending Class AAA state runner-up grappler Austin Chapman from Riverside, the same foe he had defeated to earn the top finish at the 2018 Winner’s Choice — that win had marked Frazier’s first-ever championship in the prestigious tournament.
Fast forward to present-day, and Frazier is in the midst of the final season of what will likely go down as one of the most prolific wrestling careers in both Fairmont Senior and West Virginia prep wrestling history. And there would be no better way to close than to earn his third-straight Winner’s Choice championship in his program’s home gymnasium — but it wasn’t going to be a Sunday stroll.
“I knew I had to not give up a single takedown,” Frazier said of his mindset entering the match.
In a bruising battle between two of the best heavyweight prep wrestlers in the state, it would take a full six minutes to reach a decision. But when the dust settled, Frazier would outlast Chapman in a 1-0 decision that proved an identical result to the pair’s previous Winner’s Choice battle.
“I was able to get a quick standup off the whistle and get an escape. After that, I was trying to shoot, but I didn’t have an opening...luckily I was able to ride him out,” Frazier said.
“Zach will do whatever you tell him, and he did a great job this weekend. He wrestled smart — he is smart. He’s the most storied wrestler to ever come through this program, and I can’t say anything bad about him. He did a great job tonight,” Fairmont Senior head coach Vincent Delligatti said.
It was Frazier’s first match of the season that would end in a decision, and the sole point scored wouldn’t come until the third period of action. Both Delligatti and Frazier are excited to have the opportunity to see how the standout grappler — who is gunning for his fourth state title this winter — measures up against elite in-state competition at this point in the season, as well as getting the chance for Frazier to wrestle the type of longer, closer match he’ll likely see in the later stages of the postseason.
“It just helps me be able to control matches better — I know as long as I can wear them down and keep attacking, I’ll be fine,” Frazier said.
“It’s good to see him get a feel for a kid at that level this season, and hopefully we’ll see some more kids like that soon — we’re about to go to another tough tournament here in a few weeks. I just want good competition for him,” Delligatti said.
The Polar Bears finished second overall at the 32-team tournament, with Mikey Jones and Nick Scott grabbing runner-up finishes to round out the Polar Bears’ top performers — the team would also have one third-place, two fifth-place, and one sixth-place finishers.
“I’m very happy with our performance at this tournament. To finish this high is a big deal and I’m glad to see our program turn back around. We have a very storied program, but it’s been a while since we’ve been up at this level, so it’s nice to be back,” Delligatti said.
A pair of Marion County wrestlers were able to nab third-place finishes after tough losses in the semi-finals on Saturday morning — East Fairmont’s Geno Casuccio earned a technical fall to win the 106-pound consolation bracket and North Marion’s Hunter Kuhn earned a win via a 9-3 decision in the 138-pound consolation bracket. East would finish 13th as a team and North 19th.
“The loss in the semi’s really boiled my stomach, and it made me get my head right and work hard for these final two matches. It’ll help me work harder in the practice ring throughout the rest of the year. I’m working for the big title at the end of the year” Casuccio said.
“It was a tough loss this morning but I knew I’d be alright if I came out and wrestled fundamentally sound and wrestle my style, and it worked out in the end,” Kuhn said.