Usually, after high school athletes accomplish great feats, they say they didn’t think they were capable of it when they entered high school.
Whether it’s the basketball player who scores 1,000 points or the running back who runs for thousands of yards, they typically say their younger self would be surprised.
Not Clay Baker.
The senior 138-pounder at Spring Grove wasn’t surprised after his 100th victory Wednesday night during the Rockets’ 58-16 win over Central York. In fact, when asked if he expected, as a freshman, to one day achieve the feat, his answer was simple:
“Yes, Baker said. “No doubt.”
Baker’s confidence after his 10-0 major decision over Central’s Jeremiah Smith doesn’t mean he isn’t grateful for his coaches and teammates who have helped him in his three-plus seasons at Spring Grove.
“It’s a big thing for me,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment, because of how hard I’ve worked every day. I have good teammates and coaches who have pushed me.”
Baker’s style of wrestling: Spring Grove head coach Tyke Conover said Baker’s biggest strength is his smarts on the mat.
“Clay is the blue-collar type kid. He’s a hard worker and does what you ask him to do,” Conover said. “He’s very mat savvy. He knows where he’s at, and he’s very good with mat tactics. He’s been in the wars before, so he knows what he needs to do in every situation.”
Conover said Baker’s 100th win is emblematic of the type of wrestler he’s been at Spring Grove, where he’s compiled a 100-27 record and qualified for three regional tournaments and one state competition.
“Clay wrestled a very smart bout against a very good freshman who hasn’t been on the varsity scene too long, but the Smith kid from Central is going to be very good down the road,” Conover said. “Clay wrestled a smart match, like a veteran should.”
Confidence is key: Baker said he knew going into the bout that he would have a good chance of winning.
“I knew I was going to win if I wrestled my best,” he said.
That confidence, Conover said, is crucial for any wrestler to be successful.
“Wrestling is 95-plus percent mental,” the first-year head coach said. “You’ve got to be prepared to battle. He has an attitude. He has a chip on his shoulder. … He has some confidence, and that’s a good thing.”
Unusual start: The start of the match at Central York High School was different than expected.
The match started at 285, which was supposed to be a bout between Spring Grove’s Seth Worley and Central’s Michael Wolfgram, a West Virginia University commit. Worley, however, was sick, Conover said, and couldn’t wrestle, giving the Panthers an early 6-0 lead after the forfeit.
Despite the early deficit, the Rockets didn’t waste any time taking the lead, winning the next three bouts by fall to give themselves an 18-6 lead. Braxton Rice pinned Central’s Donovan Carrero at 106 pounds halfway through the third period, while Sam Meyer (113) and C.J. Styk (120) won by fall in the first period over Brendan Smith and Isaak Gray, respectively.
“We knew we would be down six (points), so the kids had to respond,” Conover said. “They can’t worry about the team score. They have to worry about their job and scoring their points and getting their first takedown, which I think they did very well.”
Central won the next two bouts at 126 and 132 to narrow the score to 18-16. Logan Paluch posted a 10-1 decision Alec Villareal at 126 pounds, and Mason Myers pinned Will Smyser in the third period.
Rockets score 40 unanswered: The Rockets then won the remainder of their bouts, totaling 40 points, for the blowout win.
After Baker’s major decision, Brady Pitzer posted an 8-2 decision over Joseph Musti at 145 pounds for three points. The next three Spring Grove competitors won by fall. Kahle Zumbrum (152), Thomas Dressler (160) and Juan Landaverde (170) pinned Danny Mamary, Ricky Medina and David Fahmy, respectively. Zumbrum earned the pin only 42 seconds into the bout. Landaverde got his at 0:16.
Hinson battles for win: One of Spring Grove’s other top wrestlers, Anthony Hinson, took part in one of the most exciting bouts of the night against Tanner Schaller at 182 pounds. Schaller took an early 6-2 lead, before Hinson battled back to score a 13-6 decision.
“I told Anthony when he came off there that not all of your wins will be pretty, but it’s about finding a way to win and figuring it out,” Conover said. “Anthony dealt with some adversity there. I think that’s the first time he’s been taken down all year. … Adversity is just going to help us down the road, because they won’t all be easy.”
Spring Grove’s Camden Rice and Eric Glass wrapped up the night with falls at 195 and 220, respectively. Rice pinned Jacob Dinges late in the first period, and Glass defeated Ethan Miller only 44 seconds into the bout.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.