WHEELING If you look up the name Pete Fritts on the Woodward Academy, Ga., website, you will find that he is the very successful wrestling coach of the War Eagles.
However, if you talk directly to Fritts, you will know immediately that yes, he is a successful man, but maybe a salesman or a business coordinator.
Fritts and his Woodward Academy wrestling team were in the Friendly City for the third time Friday, competing in the Wheeling Park Duals at WesBanco Arena, but it is just one of the many trips he and his War Eagles will make during this, and any other wrestling season.
Steubenville’s Brandon Llewellyn (left) grapples with Bellaire’s Austin Hollingshead (right) on Friday afternoon. Liewllyn went on to win the match, which took place at WesBanco Arena.
"This is my 17th season, and what I have been trying to do all along is sell the experience to the kids," Fritts said. "We fly all over the place for tournaments, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, D.C., it doesn't matter. My biggest thing is that I want these kids to tell the younger kids about the experiences and how much this all means to them.
"I want so much more than for kids to graduate and just tell people that they wrestled in high school."
It has already been a season to remember for Fritts, who entered the campaign with three defending state champions and also picked up his 400th team dual meet victory earlier this year in capturing Woodward's own War Eagle Classic for the first time in 10 years.
Not only is Fritts busy selling the program to younger kids through his actions, he also is busy keeping the War Eagles moving.
"These are business trips for us," Fritts said.
"We travel all over and we spend every weekend in hotel rooms so when the state tournament comes along it is something that we have been doing all year and it is just another weekend for us.
"We are a private school, and have some opportunities that most public schools don't, and that is something that we go out of our way to take advantage of."
But the prize still waits as Woodward, which has a pair of state runner-up finishes, still seeks its first wrestling state team title under Fritts.
"We have three defending state champions, and we always compete at the state tournament, but the state championship is something that has eluded us," Fritts added. "But I really believe that dual meet events such as this one really go a long way towards working us into a better team.
"I like to take advantage of tournaments like this one, which is a great event and really goes like clockwork. We also have a dual meet state tournament in Georgia, and I believe that is something that tells you so much more about yourself because it is a team event.
"The other thing that I like is that the dual meet tournaments give your middle-of-the-road kids a lot more chances to wrestle 8 or 9 matches in a weekend. And it is not all about winning, we won our pool here last year, but we got blistered some at the end."
In watching the War Eagles, the biggest thing you will notice is the fact that Fritts likes his wrestlers on their feet and ready for quick takedowns. In one match Friday, Woodward continually scored two takedown points in the opening seconds of most matches and were not afraid to give up the escape point to get two more for another take down.
"We are a much better team wrestling on our feet," Fritts said. "Actually, wrestling on the mat is probably our biggest weakness. We are not the strongest or most athletic group, but we try to exploit what the kids can do. Yes, we do have a system in place, but we are not afraid to tweak it for each individual wrestler."
As for how Woodward Academy of College Park ended up in Wheeling well you need look no further than Luke Underwood, a 1994 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestling champion from Weir High School, who is now an assistant to Fritts.
Aside from their own classic, the War Eagles have also won the Allatoona (Ga.) Parlay Invitational, in which they had four champions and a runner-up placer.