Baldridge, Visconti both reach podium
The 2013 Division III state wrestling meet was a pretty nice way to spend three days for fans of the Northmor wrestling program.
Not only did senior Tyler Beck earn a state championship at 195 pounds, but qualifying teammates Jamie Baldridge and Colin Visconti also earned places on the podium.
Junior Baldridge finished fifth at 145 pounds, while senior Visconti took eighth at 152. Both wrestlers had competed at the state meet previously (Visconti last year, Baldridge in 2011), but had gone 0–2 in those appearances.
Baldridge reversed that record in his first two matches, as he claimed a pair of wins to advance to the semifinals. He opened with a 4–2 win over Adam Guerra of Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic.
In the defensive match, the difference was Baldridge’s ability to score a pair of takedowns on shots.
“That’s something I’ve used since middle school where I stand up, fake one way and switch to the other,” he said. “I think I’m a pretty good rider on top, so I was able to keep him down for the most part.”
Baldridge noted that not making the state meet in 2012 was a huge motivational tool for him this year.
“Since then, I’ve been lifting year-round and putting in extra work,” he said. “I put in a full summer of just working and lifting and getting in better shape.”
He then topped Reid Stanley of Apple Creek Waynedale 5–4 in his first match on Friday. A takedown, escape and two back points gave him a 5–1 lead early in the third period, before an escape and a pair of late stalling calls tightened up the score.
“It was real close going into the third, so being able to get that turn helped to seal the match in my favor,” he said.
While his match with Jacob Danishek of Dayton Christian, a junior who won his third state championship with ease on Friday, didn’t go well for Baldridge, who lost by 23–8 technical fall, he was still assured of placing between third and sixth on Saturday.
Standing in his way were a pair of rematches with opponents who had defeated him in this year’s postseason.
In his first match of Saturday, Johnstown Northridge’s Thomas Williams claimed a second win over him, this time by a 4–1 margin. However, Baldridge was able to even the score with Shadyside’s Ian Baker in the fifth-place match.
Baldridge took a 6–2 lead after two periods of action, but much like against Stanley in the second round, had to hold on for the win.
Baker got within a 7–6 margin and nearly was able to get back points to steal a win, but Baldridge was able to hold on to claim fifth place.
“I gave up a takedown that I shouldn’t have,” he said. “I got lazy and flat-footed. It’s been a long three days and the body gets worn down. This morning, I was real sore and sluggish and I had to get going.”
With senior Beck and Visconti graduating, Baldridge will be looked upon for leadership next year — a responsibility that both he and his coach are hoping he is ready to inherit.
“We have quite a few freshmen and sophomores in our line-up,” said Carr. “I think he’s got some growing up to do and he knows it.”
“I guess so,” said Baldridge. “It takes a lot to be a leader, so I hope I can help my team become better.”
Not only was Visconti’s eighth-place finish an improvement over last year’s two-and-out performance, but also, in the words of his coach, a testament to his will.
In early January, the senior had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and had to work hard just to make it back before the beginning of the postseason. After losing his match against Johnstown Northridge in the state duals (while wrestling up a weight class and competing against state qualifier Rob Mickey), he finished second in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference before winning at sectionals and placing third at districts.
“When you put a senior on the shelf for four weeks in the middle of the season and he comes back to do this, it’s sheer will and determination,” said Carr. “It’s all heart and it’s amazing to see what the human spirit can do. It’s just a tribute to his will and heart and he’ll be missed.”
In the first round, Visconti topped Mount Blanchard Riverdale’s Seth Knoll by a 9–5 margin. The Northmor senior seemed better on his feet than his opponent, which he used to his advantage.
“I just pushed him until he realized he wouldn’t get anything and when he broke mentally, I started to move,” he said. “I’m still not happy — I have some more to go, so I’m not stopping here.”
As a wrestler who had competed in state before, Visconti tried to use that to his advantage.
“From my experience, wrestling in state the first time, I know you’ll be nervous and make stupid mistakes, so I tried to take advantage of that,” he said.
That win allowed him to meet one of his goals for the weekend.
“I promised myself last year that I’d be back here and I would win a match and I stuck to it,” he said. “I promised I’d do better, whatever that is, and I came here to find out.”
Visconti lost by a techical fall to eventual runner-up Kollin Moore of Creston Norwayne in the quarterfinals, but got a familiar opponent in his first consolation match in Amanda-Clearcreek’s Caleb Horn.
The Knight wrestler had topped Horn by one point in the third-place match at districts and won again on Friday by that same margin with a 5–4 score. It took a late takedown for him to take the lead, though, as he trailed 4–3 in the third period after surrendering an escape.
By virtual of winning that match, Visconti assured himself of a spot on the podium, a moment that wasn’t lost on the emotional senior afterwards.
“I just blacked out and thought this was it,” he said. “What happens, happens. I didn’t even know what to do when I won. It’s a relief — now I can actually have fun with it.”
Visconti would lose his last two matches to finish eighth, as South Central’s Caleb Barnett topped him by technical fall and Seth King of Gates Mills Hawkens scored a late takedown to clinch a 5–3 win in the battle for seventh place.
Carr finished the state meet extremely pleased with the efforts of all three wrestlers.
“It’s just a tribute to all their hard work,” he said. “They were determined to get on the podium, all three of them. It’s amazing how far you can get on sheer will.”