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11 Marion County wrestlers bring back medals, including three champions

Mar. 5—FAIRMONT — Another state wrestling tournament has come and gone, and three more Marion County wrestlers claimed state titles in their weight classes.

In total, eight Marion County wrestlers reached the finals of their weight classes, and three more had place finishes on top of that, bringing the total of Marion County place finishers to 11.

"We had eight state finalists represented just from Marion County alone," Fairmont Senior Head Coach Mike Fortier said. "I think that says a lot for our county and the rest of what's taking place in this county."

Fairmont Senior freshman Maximus Fortier and senior Hunter Spitznogle and East Fairmont sophomore Blake Ringer all came back from the tournament as state champions, winning the finals of the 144, 150 and 132 weight classes, respectively.

Maximus Fortier had an incredible run in the tournament overall. He never had points scored on him, winning by pins and shut-out decisions. In his last two bouts, Fortier defeated two seniors — Berkley Springs' Will Gageby in the semifinal and Weir's Shawn Young in the final. Fortier also became the third freshman in Fairmont Senior history to win a state wrestling title, joining Zach Frazier from 2017 and Jason Walker from 2023.

"It was pretty tough," Maximus Fortier said. "It was my fifth time wrestling [Young] this year. Each time got a little closer and closer. I just kept working for the next point."

For Mike Fortier, it was a special moment to see his son take the top of the podium as a state champion.

"Obviously a proud dad and a proud coach," Mike Fortier said. "Him doing that as a freshman is a pretty big accomplishment. I personally know all the time and extra effort he puts in. It's well deserved."

Spitznogle successfully defended his state title from last year, ending his high school wrestling career on a high note. In the final, he defeated an intra-county rival, East Fairmont freshman Tony Preolitti, by major decision.

"It feels great, and it's a weight lifted off my shoulders honestly," Spitznogle said. "I had a lot more pressure on me coming in as a defending champ, and everyone was kind of expecting me to win. It put a lot of pressure on me, and now it feels good that I accomplished that goal and I'm where I'm at."

Ringer entered this year's tournament as last year's runner up. Determined to win it all, Ringer beat Point Pleasant's Bobby Minor by decision in the semifinal and Berkley Springs' Jacob Morgan in the final, pinning him in just 51 seconds.

"I was extremely excited [to see Ringer win]," East Fairmont Head Coach Logan Bowman said. "Blake is one of the hardest workers in the room. He was working all summer to make sure that when he got back to the state championships that the same thing that happened last year didn't happen again. He worked and worked all summer and all season, and it paid off."

There were also six runners-up from Marion County this year as well. While Preolitti lost to the defending state champ in the final, he defeated by decision a former state champion in the semifinal, Point Pleasant's Conner Blessing.

Fairmont Senior as a whole had four runners-up: Junior Bryce Nichols in 106, sophomore Jason Walker in 126, senior Gavin Michael in 175 and junior Kaleb Arbogast in 285. With six total finalists, Fairmont Senior broke its own record for most finalists in a tournament.

While it didn't defend the team state championship, Fairmont Senior took second in the AA standings with 172 points, behind only Point Pleasant with 213.

"I'm proud of them," Mike Fortier said. "We knew going into it, it was going to be tough to compete with Point Pleasant. Everybody was going to have to do something that we brought. Everybody wrestled hard. Super proud of them. We just had some matches not going the way we wanted obviously or could have, but that's wrestling."

Marion County had three more place finishers to boot: North Marion junior Noah Hess took fourth in 126, and his teammate Toby Michael took sixth in 165. East Fairmont freshman Kyra Hamilton, the lone girl wrestler from Marion County, finished fourth in the 107 weight class of the girls' invitational tournament.

With the 2023-24 wrestling season officially over, the off season finally arrives. Both Mike Fortier and Bowman said they encourage their returning wrestlers to find ways onto the mat during the summer, and to stay in shape in the off season.

Fairmont Senior, meanwhile, will lose some members to graduation. With three seniors in this year's tournament, Spitznogle, Gavin Michael and Dylan Ours, who suffered injury in the first round, moving on, Mike Fortier said he'll miss this group and the other seniors on the team.

"This senior group was a great bunch of kids," Mike Fortier said. "They make practice fun. They all worked hard and pushed others to work hard. I felt like our team really meshed more this year than ever, and they had a big part to do with that, I think."

Spitznogle said he's not planning on wrestling in college but instead plans to go to work. He said finishing high school as a back-to-back champion is a sweet moment, but he'll miss wrestling at that level.

"That makes the win just that much sweeter," Spitznogle said. "It was a little bit sad, considering I'll never wrestle another high school match. I'll definitely miss it for sure, but overall I'm happy with how it turned out, and I'm OK with it being over."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548