North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
CENTRAL POINT — Motivation can come from any number of sources for an athlete. In the case of Crater senior wrestler Chance Fahndrich, it stems from the number on a scale from last year's Class 6A state tournament.
Fahndrich was one of eight Comets to advance to the state tourney, making it to the grand stage as a fourth-place finisher during regional action at 160 pounds. Unlike his peers, however, Fahndrich never got to step foot on the state mats as a junior — and that experience, or lack of it, has stuck with him to this day.
In a situation he still doesn't completely comprehend, Fahndrich says he weighed in at four-tenths of a pound under the weight allowed for those competing at 160 before he left the team hotel but came in two-tenths of a pound over the allowance on the scale used at the state site.
"Last year I was doing good and I go to state and I didn't make weight," says the 5-foot-9 standout. "From then on I told myself I was going to go 100 percent nonstop and work my butt off to try to be the No. 1 guy and be on top. That's always been my goal, to be a high school champion. And to be No. 1, you can't just not give it your all."
Fahndrich's renewed dedication, combined with a little help from national averages, has put him on the fast track toward achieving his goal this season.
Wrestling at 182 pounds, he has already gone undefeated during four tournaments — the Grants Pass Winter Kickoff, Chico Invitational, Rogue Valley Invitational and Oregon Classic — and finished a close second in the Army Strong Coast Classic after a 4-3 finals loss to Clackamas senior Brandon Ferington, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A at the weight.
The third-ranked Fahndrich's record is 34-2.
"He's having a great year so far," says Crater head coach Greg Haga. "He's just been great to have up in the practice room and is really focused and he's wrestled really smart, too. He's one of those people who doesn't beat himself."
Such a successful start can also be attributed to Fahndrich being able to wrestle at a more natural weight than he did a year ago, before a national trend led to the addition of more weight classes in the upper tier.
His only choices last year were 160, 171 or 189 pounds, with 189 pounders being too much to handle and his chances looking brightest at 160. That meant constantly cutting weight, and the stress took its toll as the season wore on. With the introduction this year of a 182-pound class to go with weights at 170, 195 and 220, things have opened up nicely for Fahndrich.
"Last year it was 189 instead of 182, and that seven pounds makes a difference," says Haga. "Those are a lot bigger guys than 182, so the weight shift kinda helped him stay up a little bit. He's still able to go 170, but right now it'd be hard to convince me to drop him down."
The same goes for Fahndrich, who feels stronger and more comfortable now that he's not having to sweat the scales as much.
"It was just a tough year and things just got to me," he admits. "I feel a lot better about this year."
While weight may not be as much of an issue, the competition level at 182 is definitely something that's keeping Fahndrich on his toes. Forest Grove's Jake Bennett is ranked No. 1, with conference foes Selmar Hutchins of Roseburg (No. 4) and Ryan Shean of Grants Pass (No. 7) among the top contenders.
There's also the rumor going around that three-time state champion Brandon Griffin of Sprague may drop down from 195 and settle in at 182 for a late-season run.
"Everyone's probably going to run away from him but we're just thinking about what's best for me and staying here at 182," says Fahndrich, 18. "I like that challenge."
While he's out to finish his senior season out in the best possible way, another important role Fahndrich has been playing this year has been as a team leader for the Comets, who are dominated by underclassmen. He's joined by heavyweight Brian Barlow and 126-pounder Truman Winningham as the lone seniors from a class that was 15-deep when they were freshmen.
"We're having ups and downs and not everyone's at that level pace yet but we'll be ready by districts," says Fahndrich. "It's just too sloppy right now, but at districts we'll all be there and definitely prove to people who we are."