Colby Baker is tired of going to the state wrestling meet and returning with a hooded sweatshirt sporting a patch on only one shoulder.
State qualifiers head to The Lakeland Center and are given new hoodies to mark their accomplishment. The wrestler’s weight class is on one shoulder. State placers have their finish stitched to the other side.
Baker has advanced to the state meet four times. The senior never has placed. Some non-placers have “state qualifier” placed on the other side of their hoodie, but Baker sees that as a sign of failure rather than a source of pride.
“That’s redundant, it goes without saying that you’re a state qualifier, that’s why you’re there,” Baker said. “I have three hoodies with nothing on the shoulder. I want to place.”
Baker is one of nine area wrestlers set to compete starting on Friday in the Class 1A and 2A meets. He moved on as a second-place finisher in the 138-pound weight class at the Region 1-1A meet last weekend. Teammate Brock Carlan (120) is the area’s lone regional champion.
Baker was one win away from placing as a junior, his wrestleback elimination coming by a scant two points. He said he’s learned something new with each experience.
His first trip wasn’t about nerves, as he had competed in national events as a youth. He said the surge in the competition level struck him as a freshman and he soon understood what it would take to improve.
Last year, he learned the harsh lesson of not having enough in his stomach. He missed a meal in the afternoon and went more than four hours past the time he should have eaten. He vowed to not make the same mistake twice.
“It made my energy low,” he said. “It’ll be peanut butter and honey all day for me.”
Baker said not placing will be a disappointment. However, he admitted there was an better goal ahead, one that will supplant even a state championship.
“I’m trying to wrestle in college, that’s my focus,” Baker said. “Not many people from this area can say they have. It would be a major accomplishment for me.”
Carlan leads the pack: Carlan, an Arnold sophomore who has lost just once this season, forged through a competitive region. His road to the 120-pound title will be paved with a region runner-up in the opening round and a potential matchup against a second- or third-place finisher in the second round. That’s not to say Carlan will roll to the championship semifinals, but coach Jeff Skipper said the Mosley transfer is primed for success.
Carlan is joined by fellow Marlins Taylor Ryan (145) and Kole Krimm (heavyweight) in the 1A meet that’s set to begin at 9 a.m. CST. Bozeman’s Jonah Savage (106) and Kris Kenney (170), Marianna’s Devin Combs (152) and Rutherford’s Alijah Saffore (220) also will compete in 1A. Mosley’s Forrest Lang (152) will compete in the 2A event.
Place matches are set for Saturday afternoon.