Highland’s Zach Baker finished fifth in the Division II 220-pound weight class on Saturday at the state wrestling tournament.
Baker went 1-1 on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center to claim fifth. In his first match of the day, he led Jack DelGarbino of Girard late, but gave up a takedown. DelGarbino then got back points in the final seconds to win 9-5.
However, the Scot senior rebounded to easily win in his fifth-place match, quickly taking Austin Norris of Jefferson Area down, putting him on his back and earning a pin in only 41 seconds to close out his high school career with a spot on the podium.
“That felt amazing,” he said after winning his final match to finish his season with a 54-6 record, setting a team record for most wins in a year and tying another record for most pins. “Especially to go out in my last high school season and go out with a pin. Fifth is not what I wanted, but I’ll take it.”
If Baker had any regrets, it was in letting his consolation semifinal match with DelGarbino get away from him.
“I just sat and though it over and decided to not let this loss dictate my year, so I went out and got it,” he said of his mindset after that match. “I controlled the match, but got content being up a couple points and got lazy and let him in on my legs. It was a hard loss, definitely.”
His coach, Adam Gilmore, agreed with that assessment.
“I think his first match was definitely winnable,” he said. “He just had to have a short memory here and move forward. If the chips fall for you one round and not the next, you just have to move forward.”
Baker won his first match, pinning Sam Brothers of Clarksville Clinton-Massie in 3:46 on Thursday. However, on Friday, he fell in his quarterfinal match to Brandon Phillips of Maumee by a 5-2 margin.
Fortunately for his dreams of placing, he was able to bounce back in a hard-fought overtime battle against Wyatt Hillard of Franklin. The match was tied at one through six minutes, but Baker was able to work for a takedown in the extra minute of action to pick up the win. Then, in the consolation quarterfinals, he collected his second win of the day over Johnny Shafer of St. Paris Graham Local by a 3-1 margin, this time in regulation.
After his match with Hillard, Baker was relieved. In the match, he’d been called for stalling, so one more infraction would have essentially handed the match to his opponent. Then, in overtime, he shot in and got Hillard’s leg near the edge of the mat and had to keep him from getting out of bounds in order to complete the takedown.
“Going into overtime, that kid was trying to push into me and get that stalling call,” he said. “I knew if I set it up well, the shot was there. He was trying to dive, but once I got it, I knew there was no way he was getting out.”
Coming into the tournament, Baker may have been an unknown commodity at the 220-pound class. He’d wrestled 285 for most of the year, but dropped to 220 shortly before the MOAC championships.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought 285, so I wouldn’t have to cut weight, but I got tired of pushing bigger kids around,” he said. “At heavyweight, most of them want to tie up, so I used more speed. At 220, they’re not nearly as strong, so I can use more strength. You have to combine speed and strength.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS