FCHS wrestler is a double All-American

Tue, 08/28/2007 - 12:57pm
By: Kevin Wandra

Patrick Blankenbeker

Patrick Blankenbeker is a versatile teenager; the 16-year-old junior at Fayette County High School is a runner on the school’s cross country team, plays piano and is a member of the school’s quartet team, which sang its way to a region championship last year.

Oh, yeah, he also is one of the top wrestlers in the state.

Blankenbeker, a two-year starter on Fayette’s varsity team, finished second in the state last year in the 189-pound weight class in Class AAAA. This summer, Blankenbeker’s wrestling career reached new heights.

Coaches with Team Georgia, the official non-profit state level representative of USA Wrestling, the national governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States, closely observed Blankenbeker wrestle at a couple of meets at which Fayette participated, plus watched him wrestle in freestyle tournaments outside the regular season. They were impressed.

Team Georgia recruited Blankenbeker to join its team, and Blankenbeker went on to wrestle in Team Georgia-hosted tournaments throughout the state in the spring and summer. Blankenbeker excelled at the tournaments, earning a spot on the team that wrestled in the nationals.
He first traveled with the Team Georgia duals team to Kansas City to wrestle in a tournament in June. Blankenbeker went 7-3, but Team Georgia failed to place.

The last week of July, he traveled with Team Georgia to Fargo, North Dakota, to take part in the Cadet nationals, individual matches that featured the top 15- and 16-year old wrestlers in the United States. Blankenbeker wrestled in two tournaments, one each for two different styles of wrestling, Greco and freestyle, and placed in both: fifth in Greco and sixth in freestyle.

Blankenbeker’s performances earned him double All-American status. (The top eight wrestlers in each classification were named All-Americans.) He was one of only three wrestlers from Georgia to earn that distinction.

He wrestled 16 matches over a five-day period, with only one day off, and went 11-5 overall. The wrestling was intense at Fargo. Blankenbeker wrestled seven matches on the first day. The longest break in between matches was 40 minutes and the shortest was 10.

Blankenbeker admitted the event was nerve-racking.

“I went up there all nervous,” Blankenbeker said. “It wasn’t like the duals, where I wasn’t as nervous because it was a team event. This tournament, you’re all on your own.

“All I wanted to do was finish in the top eight and be an All-American. I was nervous about going two-and-out and getting knocked out the tournament.”

Little did he know at the time, he was well on his way to overcoming his nervousness and achieving his goals.

Blankenbeker withstood the grueling heat -- “It was very hot there,” he said -- and made his presence felt on the first day of Greco wrestling, finishing 5-2 to finish as the third-best wrestler in pool A. He advanced to the medal round the following day, where he faced the third-best wrestler from pool B, a kid from Texas he had lost to in the duals, 2-1 and 1-0.

Blankenbeker avenged that loss by beating the Texan in two periods, 3-1 and 4-0, to earn fifth place.

“I was looking for payback,” Blankenbeker said. “There is nothing I like better than beating people who have beaten me before.”

After a much-needed day off, Blankenbeker wrestled in the freestyle tournament. He was dominant, winning all but one of the seven matches he wrestled that day.

Blankenbeker wrestled five times on the fifth day, going 1-2, including a 1-0, 0-2, 1-0 loss in the medal round that dropped him to sixth place.

All the hard work Blakenbeker put in and the sacrifices he made to reach Fargo were worthwhile in the end.

“I like knowing all the work I put in this summer paid off in some way,” Blankenbeker said. “I had to give up spending time on the weekend with my friends. Doing well at the nationals makes up for all of that.”

Blankenbeker expects to be back at the nationals next year, but in a different classification: the Junior nationals, which feature the top 17- to 18-year-old wrestlers in the country.

His love of wrestling keeps him motivated.

“Wrestling is a sport you really have to love,” Blankenbeker said. “It’s always easier to get to eat everything you want. It’s a not a glory sport. You don’t have fans screaming for you in the stands.

“What I love about wrestling, though, is that it’s always a struggle to see who’s the better man. There is a lot of sense of accomplishment.”

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