While he may have wanted to finish higher than fifth place at 157 pounds in the Division III state wrestling meet held at The Schottenstein Center over the weekend, it was hard to deny that Northmor’s Niko Christo provided the crowd with more than his share of memorable moments.
Five of the senior’s six bouts were close-knit battles, with a couple of them having thrilling endings that caused him to mention more than once that you can’t count him out and that he loves being in close matches.
Christo’s first action came on Friday against Ethan Cooper of Legacy Christian. After a scoreless first period, he got a reversal, but gave up an escape and a takedown to be down 3-2. However, he would lead 4-3 after four minutes of action after recording his own reversal and wouldn’t relinquish that advantage.
In the third period, the Legacy wrestler suffered an injury and wouldn’t be able to return to the mat, advancing Christo to the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, for Christo, he wouldn’t be able to move into the semifinals over Remington Bauer of Milan Edison. He took a 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown and still held leads of 3-1 and 4-3 in the second period. However, his opponent opened the third by getting an escape and then recorded his own takedown on his way to edging the Northmor wrestler 6-5.
In the consolations, in a match he needed to win in order to place for the second straight year, Christo pulled off a huge pin against Cody Coontz of Rootstown. After trailing nearly the entire match and watching a 6-5 deficit in the second period balloon to a 10-5 score late in the third, he was able to catch his opponent with a throw and pin him at the 4:41 mark — a move that had him and coaches Scott Carr and Jamie Christo — who also is his father — ecstatic.
“I needed it to happen,” said Christo. “You can’t count me out. I had to put him on his back or go home. It’s nice to be a two-time placer; better than a one-time placer. I like to have close matches. They’re more fun after I’m done. While I’m in them, it’s a little scary.”
“To see something like that,” added Carr. “Down five with 20 seconds left and we’re yelling, ‘Twister, twister!’ and he hit the move we’re yelling. I’ll never forget that and he’ll never forget that.”
Christo added another memorable moment in his next bout — an 8-3 overtime win over Evan Perry of Delta.
The Northmor grappler led 2-0 after scoring on an illegal hold by Perry and then getting an escape. However, an escape and takedown in the third gave the Delta wrestler a lead until Christo was able to get an escape to send it to overtime.
There, he blocked a Perry shot and threw him onto his back for a five-point move to earn a second straight dramatic win.
“I threw him out of bounds one time when he shot on me,” said Christo. “He keeps his arms out, so I figured if he tried again, I’d be ready.”
In the consolation semifinals, Christo lost 11-4 to Tate Geiser of Dalton, but was able to recover in time to get revenge on Bauer. While the second match as nearly as closely-contested as the first, Christo was able to maintain a lead this time.
The score was 4-2 in favor of the Northmor wrestler going into the third period. Bauer got an escape, but Christo picked up a takedown to lead 6-3. While Bauer escaped again, he would not be able to get any closer than 6-4 as Christo placed fifth one year after finishing eighth.
“I think I should have beaten him earlier,” said Christo of Bauer. “I lost in the quarters and lost in consolations , but I feel happy with fifth.”
“It’s always nice to end the tournament with a win,” noted Carr. “You don’t want to end with a loss and end your career with a loss. He showed heart through the week and did so again.”
Christo finishes his Northmor career as a rare four-time state qualifier — an accomplish that Carr feels should make him proud.
“Obviously, once he qualified as a freshman, we thought he’d continue to get better,” he said. “He grew into it and after that first year, we thought he’s going to make it a few more times.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS