A year after taking third place in the Division III state wrestling meet at 152 pounds, Northmor junior Conor Becker was able to climb those final two steps up the podium at 170 pounds, as he claimed a state title — Northmor’s first since Tyler Beck won at 195 pounds in 2013 — Saturday night.
Making the victory even sweeter: It also served as sweet revenge against the one opponent who had beaten him during his tournament run last year, as he pinned David Cumberledge of Ashtabula St. John in the second period at the 2:57 mark in the match.
Last year, Cumberledge was the aggressor in claiming a 10-8 decision in the first round that prompted Golden Knight head coach Scott Carr to say the following: “You’ve got to leave it all out there and go after it. 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.”
Becker heeded that advice last year, winning five straight matches to place third. This year, he raised that streak to nine straight state meet wins by going 4-0 to close his season with a 49-2 record.
To defeat Cumberledge, the Northmor grappler used both offense and defense. Late in a scoreless first period, he blocked a throw attempt by the St. John wrestler and put him on his back for a five-point move to take the lead.
After that period, Carr was just hoping his wrestler would not get complacent with a lead.
“Even being up 5-0 after the first, you never know,” he said. “He could get thrown to his back and get stuck. Anything can happen.”
He didn’t have to worry for long. Starting on the bottom in the second period, Becker was able to fight off a turn attempt and record an escape. He then quickly went on the offense and put Cumberledge on his back. Mere seconds later, the ref’s hand pounded the mat and he was a state champ.
“In the second, I got out pretty easy,” he said. “He was weak down there and I just pushed him over. In the bullpen, I still didn’t believe I was in the finals, but it was just one more match. I gave all I could give.”
Even though Becker had been very impressive in his previous matches, defeating two returning state placers in his first three matches, Carr knew his finals bout would be a tough match-up.
“The guy’s good,” he said of Cumberledge. “He had a pretty easy go (three pins) through the tournament. You don’t take anything for granted here.”
After opening his tournament with a quick pin of Defiance Ayersville’s Caden Brown, he had to nearly go the distance against Sevi Garza of Rittman.
Wrestling defensively, Garza was able to keep the match within a 1-0 margin until late in the final period, when he attempted a throw, got put on his back and was pinned with one second remaining on the clock.
“I was trying to get on offense,” said Becker. “It was just a weird match-up. I just kept moving my feet when up 1-0. Keep moving and taking shots. I could tell by the end of the first period, it was going to be that kind of match.”
To reach the finals, Becker had to defeat Gibsonburg’s Brad Mendoza. While the match was equally low-scoring, it wasn’t due to the efforts of Mendoza, whose aggression forced Becker to be strong on defense.
The Golden Knight wrestler trailed 1-0 going into the final period, but got an escape and a quick takedown to take the lead.
“He pushed the pace really hard,” said Becker. “As soon as I stood up, I knew he wouldn’t be ready for my shot.”
A Mendoza escape made it 3-2, but the Gibsonburg wrestler’s late throw attempt was blocked into a Becker takedown to give him a 5-2 win.
Making the win especially sweet was the fact that Mendoza had defeated Becker twice by decision during a summer tournament.
“That kid beat us twice this summer,” said Carr. “We knew this would be a huge match for him confidence-wise. To lose to a kid twice and come back at this stage is awesome!”
After Becker claimed his state championship, Carr was very happy at what his wrestler achieved over the weekend at the Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University, as three of his victims finished second, third and fourth on the podium and had all placed in 2018.
“Three of his four wins to three returning state placers,” he said. “He earned it. Nobody gave him anything. He had to go out and wrestle his tail off four straight matches.”
And now Becker has the potential to do something never accomplished by a Northmor wrestler — claim a second state title. While C.B. Dollaway, Jamie Baldridge, Tyler Heminger and Beck all earned state championships, they all did so as seniors, while Becker still has one year of high school to go.
“We just said that upstairs,” said Carr. “I told him we’ve never had a two-time champ and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s no pressure, coach’. I’m sure he’ll be ranked number one in every poll, which we don’t care about. He’ll have a target on his back and people will be gunning for him; that’s for sure.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS