A Man for all Seasons
TUALATIN — Football.
Chris Freese did them all at Tualatin High School. He did them all well. He did them with ferocity. He did them all with skill. He certainly did them with a high level of competitiveness.
But, of course, that leads to one question — which sport is his favorite?
"I get asked that a lot," Freese said with a smile, as he sat inside the third-base dugout at the varsity baseball field at Tualatin High School. "I couldn't say what the answer is. I love them all for different reasons. Growing up, I always played all three sports, and I'm glad I didn't stop."
And, likely, so is Tualatin.
In these days of specialization, Freese was the exception. He played all three sports at a high level, which is especially rare to see at the Class 6A level.
"He's competitive in everything he does, whether it's football or video games," Tualatin football coach Dan Lever said of Freese. "He's in it to win it. He's a throwback kid."
"He's probably the most intense competitor in the whole school," Tualatin baseball coach Jake Austin said. "I enjoyed coaching him in baseball, and watching him in other sports. He just loves to compete."
And Freese certainly got the chance to compete for the Timberwolf teams as a senior. Playing at cornerback, he helped the Tualatin football team reach the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs. As an undersized post, he helped the Tualatin boys basketball team reach the Class 6A state tournament. And, as a hard-hitting outfielder, he helped the Timberwolf baseball team win a share of the Three Rivers League championship and get to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
"I thought about it, just focusing on one sport," Freese said. "But I didn't want to do that, and I didn't regret not doing it. Juggling all three sports was tough. There weren't any breaks. But I like being busy. It's tiring, but fun."
"He's a great multi-sport athlete," Lever said. "The football, baseball and basketball teams had successful years, and that's not a coincidence."
"He's just enjoyable to coach," Austin said. "For Chris, his No. 1 goal is winning."
Now, Freese has another win, as he's been named the Times' Athlete of the Year from Tualatin High School. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at the school for the 2017-2018 school year.
"I had a lot of fun," Freese said. "I got to play with all the kids I grew up with. I had not breaks in between the three sports. When one sport got over, I went straight to practice for the next sport the next day — it was just the right thing to do."
Freese, and his senior teammates on the Tualatin High School football team, had already been through plenty going into the 2017 season. In fact, this past fall, the Timberwolves had their fourth head coach in as many seasons.
"We all went through a lot of changes," Freese said. "We said that we might as well accept it, and just go out and play hard."
Admittedly, expectations weren't high for the Wolves going into the 2017 season.
"A lot of people criticized us," Freese said. "No one thought we'd be good."
But they were wrong.
With the hard-working senior helping to lead the way, and with a new, enthusiastic head coach in Lever, the Wolves hit the ground running.
"We had a lot of fun," Freese said.
Freese, playing at cornerback, got his season off to a flying start, coming up with an interception in a season-opening 55-21 home win over Grant.
He also had an interception, and 39-yard return, in a 28-6 loss against rival Tigard.
But Freese's biggest interception of the season may have come in a 27-12 win at Sherwood.
In that game, with the Bowmen already holding a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter, Freese ended a Sherwood scoring threat with an interception near the goal line.
"That was exciting for me," Freese said. "I knew it was a turning point. I thought that was our best game. Our defense really stepped up. We weren't supposed to be able to stop the Wing-T, but we all did our job."
Tualatin would go on to earn a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs, where it scored a 36-8 win over Madison in a first-round game played at Tualatin.
"No one thought we'd make the playoffs," Freese said. "But we came in, played well, and won."
The Wolves, who fell 38-17 at Tigard in a second-round state playoff game, finished its season with a final overall record of 7-4.
Freese, who moved to cornerback as a junior, was a second-team All-Three Rivers League selection on defense.
"I really enjoyed the season," he said. "It was good."
"I wish more people had the same mentality that he has," Lever said. "He was a good leader for us, and he always played hard."
Power in the post
Listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Freese had good size for a cornerback during football season.
But, come basketball season, on the undersized Timberwolf squad, Freese had to play inside, in the post for Tualatin.
"We were undersized, for sure," Freese said with a laugh. "I think I was outsized in every game."
And, like in football season, Tualatin may have been underestimated going into the 2017-2018 season.
"No one thought we'd be good," Freese said. "But we played well together, and we had a good basketball IQ."
And, of course, there was Freese, battling inside as a 6-3 post.
"I just tried to make up for it with physicality," he said. "It was a challenge, and one I liked. It was fun being the underdog."
While Freese battled inside, the Wolves also had high-scoring guard Alexis Angeles leading the way.
"He deserved a lot more credit than he got," Freese said of his fellow Tualatin senior. "Alexis was one of the most humble stars. That was nice. He was a great teammate."
The Wolves finished the regular season with a record of 16-8. The earned a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs, and opened postseason play with a 69-47 home win over Sheldon. In the second-round of the state playoffs, with a state tournament berth on the line, Tualatin rallied in the second half to get a 61-41 win at McNary.
"We played great in the second half of that game," Freese said. "Bridger Steppe really stepped up."
With that win, Tualatin earned its first state-tournament berth since 2008.
The Wolves opened the tourney with a heartbreaking 69-66 loss to Barlow. Freese had six points and six rebounds in that game. Tualatin bounced back to beat Jesuit 53-49 before losing 66-60 to Southridge."
"Getting to the state tournament was cool," Freese said. "Beating Jesuit was fun. We really wanted that game. It was exciting, and our fans were great all season."
And that season ended with the Wolves holding the sixth-place trophy.
"No one in the state thought we'd get hardware," Freese said. "It was nice to prove them wrong."
And Freese, of course, was a big part of that.
"For two years, Chris was an integral part of our team," Tualatin boys basketball coach Rick Osborn said. "He provided great energy and was always one of the hardest working players on the floor. His hustle plays resulted in extra possessions which often meant the difference in the many close games that we always seemed to be in."
As usual, Freese jumped from one sport right into the next, but things were a bit different this time.
"It was a weird feeling," Freese said of his senior baseball season at Tualatin. "It was an eye-opener. This season was going to be the last time I was going to wear a Tualatin jersey."
That said, Freese wanted to make his final season a good one — and a special one.
"I've played with most of these guys since sixth grade," he said. "It was a big group that always stuck with it."
The Wolves certainly picked things up during Three Rivers League play, going 13-4 to tie Lake Oswego and West Linn for the league championship.
"It was good getting a share of the league title," Freese said. "The title was one of our goals."
The Wolves opened postseason play with a 4-1 home win over Barlow, which was especially sweet for Freese, thinking back to the state basketball tournament.
"I really wanted to beat Barlow," said Freese, who played in center field for Tualatin. "It was nice getting revenge. Danny (Shell) pitched a great game. It was my last time on this field, but it was a great way to go out."
Freese went 1 for 3 at the plate in the playoff victory, with an RBI.
In the second round of the state playoffs, when the Wolves traveled to play at West Salem, Freese blasted a second-inning home run, tying the game at 1-1 at that point.
"That felt great, and got us going," said Freese, who ended up going 2 for 4 at the plate in the contest.
However, West Salem would come back and get an 8-4 win, ending the Wolves' season at 19-9.
"It was a great experience," said Freese, who was a second-team All-Three Rivers League pick as an outfielder. "I wouldn't want to end it any other way. I love Tualatin."
"He's a great kid, and a great athlete," Austin said of Freese. "He earned respect from everyone on the team."
Throughout football, basketball and baseball seasons, Chris Freese knew there was something he could always count on — his parents.
"They've always been there to support me," Freese said of Adrienne and Brandon Freese. "They guided me through it all. They were always at all my games."
And they also served various roles in his success.
"My mom was always there behind the scenes," said Freese, whose family also includes a foster sister. "She was talk to be about the mentality of the game. She also taught me to take responsibility for my own mistakes. And my dad is a baseball guy. He helped me a lot with that."
Chris Freese is going to have to make some adjustments in the future, as he's going to play just one sport in college.
That sport is baseball, at Lane Community College in Eugene.
"It will be weird," Freese said of playing just one sport.
He said he'll be playing in the outfield at Lane C.C.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I want to improve and move on."
Lever, for one, is looking for Freese to have a bright future.
"I know he'll do something amazing," he said of Freese.
If nothing else, Lane Community College will be getting quite a competitor — and a man for all seasons.