Filling a void: Rob Frias steps in just one week after joining wrestling team
Athletics - posted on 1/20/2009
It didn't take long for freshman Rob Frias to get his "welcome to college wrestling" moment.
In just his third collegiate match for the Lakeland wrestling team, the 133-pound Frias took a shot to the eye from MSOE's Dominick Deligio, leaving a black and blue shiner below his left eye. Frias received a penalty point for the bruise, but lost a tightly-contested 5-4 decision.
"It was actually swollen shut [the next day]," Frias said.
Frias, the younger brother of Lakeland junior 165-pounder Jake Frias, fared better in his first collegiate match, winning a 13-5 major decision over Elmhurst's Steve Templin on Jan. 8. Frias had practiced for only one week prior to his first contest.
"Rob has been very impressive, especially considering everyone else has been wrestling for at least a semester," Lakeland coach Pete Rogers said.
After transferring to Lakeland at the end of the first semester from Illinois State, Frias has stepped into a spot which the Muskies have had to forfeit in dual matches since Nov. 18.
On that date, Lakeland forfeited six points to then-No. 9 UW-Stevens Point because the Muskies didn't have a wrestler at 133 pounds. The lost points proved to be costly, as the Muskies lost 21-18 to the Pointers at Lakeland.
Since making his debut, Frias has proven to be more than a fill-in for the 30th-ranked Muskies. He has a 3-4 record, including a fourth-place individual finish at last Saturday's Al Hanke Invite in Elmhurst, Ill., helping the Muskies finish third in the nine-team tournament.
"So far, I've learned the difference in the level of competition between college wrestling and high school wrestling is huge," Frias said. "I love it. It's so intense, and my teammates practice the same way."
After participating in club wrestling at Illinois State, Frias, a state qualifier at H.L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Ill., decided he wanted more. According to Frias, Rogers had recruited him in high school and had kept in touch with him since the beginning of the academic year.
"I participated in [Rogers'] intensive wrestling camp for a few years, and it was hard work, but it made me a much better wrestler," Frias said. "I tried club wrestling at Illinois State, but I got a little bored and discovered I couldn't get away from serious wrestling.
"I wanted something more structured and competitive. Pete has always welcomed me - he's a great coach and I appreciated all the one-on-one time he gave me at camp."
Frias' arrival makes him the third wrestler in the Muskies' starting line-up from H.L. Richards High. His older brother, Jake, and sophomore Isaac Roberson (149 pounds) are the others.
Jake, whose bruise underneath his right eye matches his brother's, is happy for Rob and is excited to have him on the same team, even if the two sparred regularly as teammates before.
"In high school, we'd get in fist fights, and [Rob's] braces would get stuck to his lips and stuff, so it wasn't pretty," Jake said. "We don't wrestle anymore because he's 30 pounds lighter than me.
"He's doing well. We wouldn't have finished third on Saturday if he hadn't done as well as he did. He had to cut some weight when he got here to get to 133 pounds, and did a really great job with that."
Rob also enjoys the company of his brother.
"It's really nice having him on the team," Rob said. "He has my back and has that experience, so he knows what's going on."
Rob's wiry, lengthy frame makes him a difficult match-up for the shorter, stouter wrestlers who are more often associated with the 133-pound division.
"A lot of guys are stronger than I am right now, so I have to use my speed and length to my advantage," Rob said. "Pete's done a great job recognizing my wrestling style, allowing me to use what I have to my advantage and incorporating my strengths."
Just over a week into his first semester of classes at Lakeland, Frias has enjoyed the smaller, friendlier feel on campus.
"It's been comfortable, that's the one word that really describes it so far," Frias said. "I'm less than five minutes away from all my classes and I know everyone in them. It's much different than sitting in a big lecture hall with 300 people, and the professors have been really cool."
Rogers believes that he is not just throwing in a body at 133 pounds. Rather, he sees potential in Rob, and not just on the mat.
"When you look at Jake's accomplishments, you know Rob is going to work hard and get good grades," Rogers said.
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