By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy Christian’s Nick Baker wasn’t concerned when, with Blanchester only trailing by six with only his match at 195 left to wrestle, Steven Latchford took him to his back early in the first period.
“That was basically my whole season last year, fighting from my back,” the Eagle sophomore said. “I’ve been working pretty hard to turn that around.”
Baker escaped the precarious spot and only trailed 2-1 after the first period, took a 5-4 lead after the second and then pinned Latchford with 43.6 seconds left on the clock in the third period, the exclamation point on Troy Christian’s 45-33 victory in the regional quarterfinal round of the OHSAA State Duals Tournament Wednesday night at the Eagles’ Nest, advancing the Eagles to next week’s semifinal round.
Troy Christian, the top seed in Division III, Region 23, routed No. 8 Northridge 49-24 in its first dual of the night, while No. 5 Blanchester defeated No. 4 National Trail 48-24 to advance to the quarterfinal — and only trailed the Eagles 33-27 at Baker’s 195 match, with a forfeit slated to go each direction after and meaning Blanchester could tie the score with a pin.
But Baker didn’t let that happen.
“I just realized that all my teammates did what they had to do to help us win,” Baker said. “So I had to do what I had to do to help.”
“He turned it on, wore the kid down and got the pin,” Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy said. “That’s kind of his M.O. Nick, he tends to get behind early, but he’s got a big gas tank and he comes back.”
And Baker’s rough freshman season is one thing that fuels that tank.
“Bake’s come a long way,” Goudy said. “He had two wins last year. He’s probably at about a 75-80 percent winning percentage this year. He’s done well. He’s been a big part of our success this year.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Baker said of the turnaround season. “It’s really helped having all these guys around me, encouraging me.”
And even had Blanchester tied the score, the Eagles would have still won the match on criteria — but Goudy still preferred the exclamation point.
“That’s right,” he said with a smile.
Ethan Turner (106) began the dual against Blanchester with a pin in 48 seconds over Daniel Davenport, then Jacob Edwards (113) scored a forfeit. But Drew Whaley (120) dropped a 6-3 decision to Kyle Denier and Lear Current (126) was pinned in 1:36 by Johnny Schirmer, cutting Troy Christian’s lead to 12-9 early.
Michael Sergent (132) wasted no time in pushing the lead back out, pinning Kadin Berwanger in 13 seconds. Jared Ford (138) won a 9-4 decision over Clayton Schirmer to make it 21-9, then after Blanchester picked up a forfeit at 145, Caleb Hoskins (152) pinned Andrew Frump in 1:20 to give the Eagles a 27-15 lead. Troy Christian gave up forfeits at 160 and 170, then Damon Beatty (182) picked up a forfeit to make the score 33-27 and set up Baker’s match.
Following Baker’s win, the Eagles gave up a forfeit at 220 and Seth Douglas picked one back up at 285 to finish the dual and qualify Troy Christian for next week’s regional semifinal.
Against Northridge, Turner and Edwards both picked up first-period pins and Whaley won a 6-3 decision to make it 15-0 early. Current was pinned in the second period, but Sergent scored a pin in 34 seconds and Ford won an 11-1 major decision to give the Eagles a 25-6 lead.
The Polar Bears picked up three forfeits in the next four matches, with a first-period pin by Hoskins breaking them up and making the score 31-24. But back-to-back pins by Beatty and Baker, a double forfeit and a forfeit win by Douglas capped off the easy win.
“In round one, I didn’t think we wrestled great, but we got the ‘W,’” Goudy said.”Spotting teams 24 points, there’s not a whole lot of margin for error. But Caleb Hoskins got two big pins for us tonight, and it’s nice to see him get some momentum, and Nick Baker had a big night, too.”
Troy Christian will travel to Bethel-Tate next week for the regional semifinal round, facing No. 3 Preble Shawnee while fellow top-seed host Bethel-Tate takes on No. 2 Clermont Northeastern. But before then, the Eagles will head to Sandusky this weekend for the Sandusky Duals.
“We wrestled a lot of duals last week, and it’s another busy week,” Goudy said. “We’ve got to catch our breath tomorrow and head to Sandusky St. Marys for 10 more duals. Then it’s off to round two of this.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.