By ROB HAMILTON
Mere seconds proved to be the difference between second place and a state title for Northmor’s Jamie Baldridge on Saturday in the Division III 145-pound championship match at the Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus.
Unfortunately for the Northmor senior, he wound up on the losing end of a hard-fought defensive struggle against Jamestown Greeneview’s Logan Lacure in a match that lasted the maximum number of seven periods.
Lacure wound up winning by a 5-4 margin via overtime criteria. After the three regulation periods, action goes to a one-minute period from the standing position. If neither wrestler scores during that time, both competitors get 30-second periods started from the bottom position. Both Baldridge and Lacure were able to get escapes, with Baldridge’s coming in the final seconds of his period on bottom, to send it to a seventh and final period.
Since the Northmor wrestler had scored first in the match, getting a first-period takedown, he was able to choose between top or bottom in the seventh period, which also was 30 seconds in length. This time, however, Lacure was able to control Baldridge for the 30 seconds, barely able to fight off a final frenetic attempt by him to free himself in the final seconds.
“If they ride you out, you lose,” said Knight coach Scott Carr. “We got the pick and picked down and they rode us out. Sometimes, that what it comes down to — one second here or one second there makes all the difference. You’d almost rather get beat 10-0 than like that. We’re devastated…it’s a hard pill to swallow, that’s for sure.”
Baldridge, who finished his season with a 51-3 mark — one shy of Andrew Wright’s single-season win total of 52 — scored in the first period on a throw near the out-of-bounds line to take a 2-0 lead, but Lacure quickly escaped. In the second period, he picked the bottom position and quickly escaped to tie things up. Baldridge returned the favor in the third period to regain the lead, but was dinged with two stalling calls in the period to be penalized a point to tie the score at 3-3 heading into the extra sessions.
That final match proved to be a bitter end to what had been a memorable tournament for Baldridge. In a stacked bracket that included two former state runners-up and three other former placers (including Baldridge, who was fifth at the same weight last year), he advanced through three opponents into the finals.
In his first match, the Knight grappler quickly dispatched of Beachwood’s Anthony Walden via a pinfall at the 1:48 mark of the first period. “Even though it’s just the first round, a pin is a pin and gets you excited,” he said after that match, which took place on Thursday.
His next two matches were held on Friday. In the quarterfinal round, he took on Dayton Christian sophomore Nick Vestal and was able to edge him by a 4-3 margin. Vestal got a first-period takedown, but Baldridge got an escape. In the second period, a Vestal escape gave him a 3-1 lead, but the Northmor wrestler was able to tie things up with a takedown of his own. Then, in the third period, he started from the bottom position and was able to escape to take a 4-3 lead, which he narrowly held on to for the win by barely fighting off a Vestal takedown attempt that came so close to succeeding that the ref initially signaled for it.
“Initially when they hit the mat, he though Vestal had control, but Jamie is so good at hitting switches, there was no control,” explained Carr after the match.
In the semifinals, Baldridge took on Apple Creek Waynedale’s Reid Stanley. Baldridge had edged him 5-4 in the first round of last year’s state meet, but there was no such suspense in their 2014 rematch. The Knight wrestler took down his opponent in the first period and got three quick back points to take a 5-0 lead. Then, after giving up two back points on a tilt in the second period, he reversed Stanley to his back for a four-point move to got up 9-2 in a match he won by an 11-3 margin.
“I was obviously being lazy on the bottom and he got a two-point tilt and that made me mad,” said Baldridge. “I knew I had to pick it up a notch and got a reversal and two back points.”
Baldridge, who will be entering the Marines after graduating high school this June, wasn’t sure why he had such an easy time with Stanley after being in a closely-contested match with him last year, but was definitely happy with the result.
“I’m not really sure — I guess it has to do with all the hard work I put in and just having that goal of making the state finals. It definitely makes me proud to know I’ll be another finalist for Northmor and I’m keeping that trend alive.”
Baldridge’s teammate, 195-pound junior Kyle Johnson, also qualified for the state meet, but was unable to reach the podium. In the first round, he was pinned by state runner-up Moises Lopez of Willard in the second period. He then lost his first consolation match via 7-2 decision to Kyle Dieringer of Versailles to finish his season with a 12-5 record.
Two other Morrow County athletes also competed in the state meet.
Mount Gilead’s Mike Mollohan (34-14) won his first match, as he topped Mitch Murray, a district champion from Creston Norwayne, by a 3-2 margin in the opening round.
Mollohan got a shot for a takedown in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. After Murray got an escape and then picked up another one in the second period to tie the score, the Indian sophomore was able to get one of his own in the third period and then hold off his opponent to advance into the quarterfinals.
“It’s the biggest win of my life, probably,” he said after the match. “I started thinking about what I’d worked for all year and how that hard work meant nothing if I didn’t win.”
For Mollohan, this was his first actual high school postseason, as he was injured in the league meet last year and missed the rest of the season. Entering his match with Murray, nerves might have been as big of an opponent as the wrestler standing across from him. “I was pretty nervous when I walked in and saw how big it was,” he said. “I kept my head and told myself I’m going to win.”
In the second round, he fell behind Archbold’s Travis Jaramillo, who finished third in the meet, by a 4-0 margin early in the second period. He was able to rebound to get an escape and takedown to get as close to 4-3, but Jaramillo wound up getting a reversal to go up 6-3 and then pinned him in the third period.
He then dropped a 5-2 decision to Reading’s Mike McKinney in the match that determined if he’d place on not. The score was only 3-2 after two periods, but the Reading wrestler was able to control him from the top position for the final two minutes, getting two back points in the process, to take the win.
Indian coach Mike Williamson was proud of his wrestler’s season. Mollohan became Mount Gilead’s second state qualifier in school history, following Zach Tinch, who did so in 2006, ‘07 and ‘08, while placing seventh in the ‘07 season. The coach noted that he was wrestling his best late in the season.
“He’s bent his legs instead of wrestling arched over,” said Wiliamson. “That’s made all the difference in the world. He was late starting football because of his shoulder (from the 2013 league meet) and did no wrestling in the offseason, which hurt us a little. But Mike’s wrestling better now than he’s been all year long.”
Highland junior Mike Stewart lost both his matches in Columbus to finish his season with a 47-9 record. In the Division II 120-pound class, he opened with an 8-1 loss to Canfield senior Korey Frost, who finished in fifth place. The score was only 3-1 entering the final period, but the Canfield wrestler got a takedown and three back points to pull away.
Stewart had another tough opponent in his consolation match against Dominic Vagnier of Circleville Logan Elm. Against the wrestler who finished fourth in the weight class, he lost by pin in the second period.
Highland coach Adam Gilmore is expecting his wrestler to keep improving, much like he did after last year finished with him just missing out on a trip to the state meet.
“He had a really good year and got a lot better in a lot of areas,” he said. “I think he’ll learn from it. He took last year, being a state alternate, to get better all summer and fall.”
Gilmore noted that if he continues to improve, Stewart could have an even better season next year.
“Mat wrestling,” he said when asked on things his wrestler should work on. “He needs to continue to focus. Takedowns, he’s really solid, but there are areas to improve on there, as well.”
Rob Hamilton may be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 204.