While the Northmor wrestling team had a state tournament for the ages, with all four of their competing wrestlers placing in Division III and the team taking seventh place overall, the way it ended left a bad taste in head coach Scott Carr’s mouth.
Senior Conan Becker, competing in the championship of the 145-pound weight class, fell by a 3-2 decision to Gavin Grime of Archbold and the head coach was seething about two borderline calls that both went against his wrestler, who took second on Saturday after finishing fifth and sixth at state the past two years.
Trailing 1-0 in the match in the second period, Becker was victimized by a close takedown call that put him in a 3-0 hole. In the third period, he narrowed the score to a 3-2 margin on a penalty point against Grime followed by an escape. He then tallied an apparent takedown with 38 seconds left in the match, but the referee decreed that it happened out of bounds.
“I’ve seen it all night on all three mats,” said Carr. “Both guys have a leg and it’s no takedown, but here, both guys have a leg and he gets a takedown. Then we have a takedown where we had more control than he did in the first one. That was legitimately four points we don’t get.”
Making matters worse for Carr was how Becker was the more aggressive wrestler throughout the match, regularly attempting shots while Grimes was content to wrestle defensively.
“When you go out and get in a situation like that, it’s a travesty,” he said. “We probably took 15 shots to his zero. Conan outworked him and out-hustled him. To lose it like that, I don’t know what else to say. He’ll go down in Northmor history. You can’t take anything away from his career; he’s a good kid.”
Up until the ending, it was a magical tournament for the Knights and Becker, who finished his season with a 53-3 record. In his first two matches, he topped Beau Lefever of Ashland Mapleton by 16-1 technical fall and defeated Chase Sumner of Ada 8-5. In the semifinals, where he’d been defeated in each of the past two years, he was able to outwrestle Logan Kissell of Garrettsville Garfield and take a 6-3 decision.
In that match, Becker struggled with a nosebleed for much of the first period, but was able to get a late takedown and was awarded two back points when the ref had to stop action due to Kissell suffering an injury while on his back. With gauze wrapped around his nose, he noted that as the match progressed, it was tough to breathe.
“I couldn’t breathe out my nose or anything,” he said. “It was just another obstacle I got through. I felt really good and knew what I had to do. He had funky leg defense, but once I got a good takedown on him, I knew it was over because I’d seen it.”
Becker’s 53-win season ties him for second place in school history with Jamie Baldridge, who reached that mark in 2014. His brother, Conor, leads in that category after finishing a 54-5 season with a third-place finish at 152 pounds. To place third, he had to win five straight bouts after falling 10-8 to David Cumberledge of Ashtabula St. John in his first match on Thursday.
After that loss, Carr noted that his sophomore had what it takes to place third, but needed to be more aggressive, noting that Cumberledge instigated nearly all the offense.
“You’ve got to leave it all out there and go after it,” he said. “He’s one of the best athletes at 152, but sometimes doesn’t show it. You can’t wait for things to happen, you have to make it happen. He can win five in a row and get third and that’s what he should do.”
Conor spent the rest of the tournament making Carr look like a prophet. On Thursday night, he bounced back with an 8-5 decision over Kerington Martin of Covington. On Friday, he opened with a pin of Dillon Walker of Legacy Christian Academy in 2:51 to clinch a spot on the podium.
“The first period wasn’t as fast as I wanted,” said Conor. “In the second period, he got out and told myself ‘This is it’. A shot opportunity opened up and he was just standing there, so I was able to take him to his back. I told myself to get it done here and not give him another chance.”
Conor then defeated Matt Hall of Bethel-Tate 3-2 to close Friday and would advance to the third-place match with a pin over Kyle Rider in 1:47. In that bout against Chase Moore of Swanton, who defeated him in the consolation bracket last year, preventing him from placing, Becker recorded three takedowns and a reversal, while only giving up three escapes in an 8-3 win.
“It’s great, really great,” he said after the win. “I had to keep my head up after the first match and put the pedal to the metal. He was coming at me and I dropped low and took shot opportunities then. I knew I had to get the first takedown to win the match.”
Carr was pleased with his wrestler’s improvement from previous year at the state meet.
“It just shows what kind of character he has,” he said. “Last year, he was feeling his way through the tournament. This year, he went after it. Last year, he lost to that kid in the match to place, so he wanted payback.”
Another wrestler who exorcised some state meet demons was senior Aaron Kitts. After going 0-4 over the last two years at state, Kitts opened Thursday by earning his first state win, topping Tad Jensen of Oak Harbor, who’d beaten him earlier in the year, by a 10-1 margin.
“I knew it was nothing less than I expected, but it feels good to go out and get that first win,” he said. “No nerves. I don’t like to be nervous. I like to be confident I’ll go out and beat the kid and I did it.”
Kitts would lose in the next round via pin to Niko Chilson of Rootstown, but bounced back to top Peyton Lane of New Paris National Trail by a 10-4 score before edging Cael Rowland of W. Salem Northwestern 3-2. On Saturday, he would lost 7-1 to Parker Watson of Rocky River Lutheran W. and 10-1 to Chilson to fall to sixth in the 132-pound weight class, but his three state wins allowed him to finish his season with a 40-13 record.
Also finishing on the podium was 126-pounder Gavin Ramos (45-13), who took eighth. He opened his tournament by upending Garfield Heights district champion Seth Majewski of Brooklyn by a 5-2 margin.
“He was getting tired and trying to throw me,” said Ramos. “He couldn’t really score, he just kept trying to throw me. It feels pretty good, but my ultimate goal is to be a state placer.”
Ramos lost his first match on Friday by a 5-2 margin against Devan Hendricks of Jamestown Greeneview, but earned his spot on the podium by defeating Ethin Hoffman of Arcanum in his first match Friday. A pinfall loss to Logan Hursey of Newcomerstown later that day bumped him down to the seventh-place bout Saturday, which he lost by an 8-6 margin to Dakota Blanton of Ashland Crestview.
While disappointed in how Conan Becker’s career ended, Carr was pleased with how his team performed over the three-day meet, especially after only having one place-winner among seven state competitors last year.
“It was a whole new attitude they brought down this year,” he said. “They just mentally seem more prepared. I think last year, some of their goals was just to get here. These guys wanted to be placers and get to the top.”
And with two of those four state wrestlers coming back, Carr is hoping that trend continues.
“Those two (Conor Becker and Ramos) placing as sophomores and we’ve got Austin Amens as a sophomore and Tony Martinez as a junior who I think are hungry to get down here. I think Conor Becker and Gavin Ramos will be good leaders and bring those guys with them.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS