Senior wins state wrestling title
He's listed as the 275-pound Class 4A State Champion, but Baldwin High School's Witt Hinton will say he's far from a heavyweight, the common term for the highest weight class. But, he's no lightweight either and he's thrilled to be a champion.
"Everyone goes for a state championship, but not many people can do it," said Hinton, a BHS senior who won the state title Saturday in Wichita. "I was just thrilled to do it, especially with all the weight I was giving up.
"I couldn't believe it when the official was counting down the time 3, 2, 1. I was the state champ," he said.
Hinton became Baldwin High's first wrestling state championship since 1987 when Jay Harris won the school's first title. The victory was still sinking in Monday.
"When I first realized it, I don't think there's a word to describe the emotion joy, happiness, confusion," said Hinton. "You work so hard to get to that point and you haven't thought past that."
Most of Hinton's thought processes were consumed Friday night and Saturday in anticipation of the championship match. He dispatched his first three opponents easily, beating Logan Mize of Clearwater 14-0, Chris Perdue of Columbus 18-2 and Daniel Kerr of Wellington by fall.
Then it was hurry up and wait for the last match of the state tournament late Saturday night.
"That was a big deal because I was done wrestling until the finals," Hinton said of Friday's three victories. "I was suppose to relax, but I didn't. I don't think I slept much. All I could do was think about the final match and run it through my mind."
Ironically, the title bout was against an opponent who lives just 15 miles to the north of Baldwin, Shane Grant of Eudora. It was a Frontier League match-up for the championship although the pair had surprisingly only met once before.
Grant, weighing at least 40 more pounds than Hinton, opened an early 1-0 lead and was using his power to manhandle Baldwin's entry. But, not for long.
"He's a real tough kid," Hinton said of Grant. "He's been wrestling since he was a little kid. He's strong. He had me over powered. I was having trouble with him because he was so strong.
"I got a reversal on him and got five quick points," he said. "After that, I was able to relax and I got three more points and that's how the match ended."
Hinton was the heavyweight champ, although he was more than a few pounds short of the 275-pound designation.
"No, I'm not even close to that," Hinton said. "Some of the time I'm lucky to weigh over 200 pounds. After the match I heard a lot of congratulations, but also a lot of 'how much do you really weigh?'
"It worked to my advantage though with my quickness and being able to match the strength of most of those guys," he said.
BHS head coach Kit Harris and others came up with the plan to wrestle Hinton at heavyweight two years ago.
"It was a strategy move the coaches and Witt made two years ago," said Harris. "Over the years, every once in a while you get a kid like Witt who is strong enough to handle it. He definitely was the lightest in his bracket."
Hinton wrestled the higher weight at the national level through summer wrestling tournaments. The experience he gained through that and his coaches paid off with the state title.
"This will be a moment in this young man's life he will never forget," said Harris. "I am very proud of him and happy to have been able to be a part of it. He put in the off-season time, competing with the best around and it helped him get to that level. He is a fine young man and a true competitor.
"What is most impressive is that he didn't start wrestling until high school," he said. "And he really didn't have varsity-level success until late in his sophomore year. His work ethic helped him make great strides as far as his wrestling development."
Hinton, who also gained academic all-state honors with his 3.46 grade-point average, spread the credit around.
"It was a combination of over the summer work, incredible coaching and making the most out of the mistakes my opponents would make," said Hinton. "I could not have done this without all the time the coaches gave me and all the people that helped push me in practice."