Hinton paces BHS wrestlers
In the end, it was Baldwin High School junior Witt Hinton who made the biggest splash at the Class 4A State Wrestling Tournament Friday and Saturday. Along the way, he set records, placed fifth and did all that with a severely injured hand.
"Witt is a warrior," said coach Kit Harris. "He wrestled through a lot of pain with his thumb injury and competed with a lot of courage. He won three last second matches against tough kids. He competed with a lot of determination to do well and I like to see that in young athletes."
Hinton compiled a 3-2 record during the two-day tourney. Although he weighs only around 200 pounds, he was entered in the 275-pound weight division, where he has wrestled all season.
Hinton beat Wellington's Daniel Kerr in the first round in exciting fashion.
"With the score tied 5-5 with time expiring, Hinton was countering Kerr's last-second shot attempt and Hinton spun around behind Kerr with one second remaining for the winning takedown," said Harris. "In the quarterfinals, Hinton was behind by one point with 32 seconds remaining, but a double-leg finish with nine seconds left on the clock gave him an exciting 11-10 victory."
Hinton, who had ligament damage in his thumb, then lost his next two matches to wrestlers who had placed second and third at state last year. He rebounded to win the fifth-place match with some more last-second heroics.
"With the score tied 6-6 in overtime, Witt body-locked his Sumner opponent to his back and recorded his 20th fall of the season," he said.
Hinton tied the school record for wins with his 34-10 record. He also set a new mark for team points, scoring 207 to better Luke Lang's old mark of 194.5 points set last year.
It was also Hinton's first trip to state, so it was even more remarkable, according to Harris.
"It is rare for kids to place at state their first time there and so for Witt that is a great accomplishment," he said. "His only losses were to defending state place winners and Witt didn't qualify last year. He competed real well."
Kyle Flory, a freshman, was the only other Bulldog to win a match at state. Flory won his opening match at 160 pounds by an 8-3 count. He then dropped two tough decisions to senior wrestlers to end the tournament with a 1-2 record.
Also competing at state and finishing with 0-2 records were sophomore Wayne Sage (103), sophomore Nathan Deel (112) and senior Andy Breedlove (215).
"Our team will greatly miss Andy Breedlove next year," said Harris. "Not only because of how fun he is to have around, but more importantly because of the leadership he provided in our practice room each day and for the strong desire he showed to be a winning wrestler.
"He came a long way and for him to qualify for state and make the regional finals was an exciting way to end his career," he said. "I am real proud of him and all he has done for himself and for the BHS wrestling team."
He's already looking forward to next year with the returners who have state experience in addition to Hinton.
"Wayne, Nathan and Kyle wrestled tough. They put forth a championship effort and came up short," Harris said. "They are all returning next year and will be ready to get in the mix for a medal next year. It was a great experience for them and I am proud of their accomplishments this season."
The state experience capped a successful season for BHS wrestling. The Bulldogs recorded their second straight winning season and placed fourth in the league. Their regional and state performances were also improvements from the past.
"It was quite an exciting season. I had a lot of fun," said Harris. "These kids worked real hard for me and I perhaps demanded more of them than in years past. But that is how it is done. These kids learned the concept of competing and winning comes along as a byproduct of that mentality and that is all I want from them.
"I simply ask that that they put forth a championship effort, never show quit and act like winners and then they learn how scholastic athletics can turn a kid into a young man who knows how it feels to win or how if feels to lose," he said. "And either of those feelings are better than neither of them."
Harris also learned a valuable lesson about making promises for finishes. He made a deal with the team that if five qualified for state and one placed, he would dye his hair blonde. Monday, that happened.
"I guess I'll learn not to open my mouth and say stupid stuff," said Harris. "Oh, well, it is worth it. I thought it was a pretty safe bet because we had zero returning state qualifiers and only three returning winning records. But I guess I was wrong.
"But, I don't care about the hair," he said. "These kids accomplished some goals and I am happy to be a part of that."