By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A year ago, wrestling at 189 pounds, Sherando senior Baxter Newman wrestled just as much off the mat as he did on.
Keeping such a relatively light weight, with the body frame of a 215-pounder, was more difficult than he, or anyone, may have anticipated.
Newman couldn't eat when he was hungry and he couldn't focus on wrestling when so much of his time was spent trying to make weight.
Wrestling at 215 pounds this year, Newman's mind is clear and his stomach is full. He feels nourished heading into matches, and with a 26-4 regular season record, he's often the victor heading out of them.
And his broad shoulders are finally strong enough to carry the load of his team when need be.
"If the team needs somebody to win the match, me, Nick [Bakos], or Levi [McDonald] have no problem stepping up," Newman said.
At the Northwestern District Wrestling Tournament at Millbrook on Thursday, Sherando had only a marginal lead over Millbrook when Newman took his place on the mat.
Newman slipped by Zach Woodell of Skyline with a 4-3 decision, giving Sherando 173 team points and the district tournament title.
Millbrook followed Sherando with 163 points, while Skyline came in third with 120 points.
Though Newman and classmate Nick Bakos (171 pounds) both admitted to being comfortable with the weight of a match resting on them, the Warriors had plenty of opportunities to swell their lead, negating any need for Newman and Bakos to perform flawlessly in the clutch.
Sherando had nine wrestlers compete in the championship round, to Millbrook's seven, four of whom were top seeds. But the Warriors' first three championship bout wrestlers, Brandon Fletcher, McDonald and Aaron Laboy, each lost their matches. Meanwhile, Millbrook had already won two district championships: Tanner Sine and Joe Rioux.
Following the losses, Bakos, coming off a third-place finish in last year's state tournament, pulled each Sherando wrestler aside and imparted words of wisdom. When the veteran Warrior got to Patrick Maclaine, he told him to "stay down and wrestle his style."
"Wrestling's all about momentum and when you see guys losing like that, it kinda builds up pressure," Bakos explained. "I gave them all an individual talk, just told them, 'Do your part and everything will fall into the team score.'"
Maclaine listened, and he won a 9-2 decision over Millbrook's Tyler Seal. Cody Mead followed with another district championship for the Warriors, a third-round pin of Handley's Tom Delaney, and Bakos and Newman followed with wins of their own. Bakos' win was an all-important technical fall, worth five team points, over Seth Fauver of James Wood.
"The momentum changed a little bit and [Millbrook] actually took the lead on us," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "I think the key match for the evening was Patrick Maclaine's match.
"Patrick's a three-year starter for us and he has never made it out of the district tournament."
Rodney Twigg and Shawn Branham both garnered second-place finishes for Sherando. Aside from Sine and Rioux, Millbrook saw championships from John Sharp and Joe Jessen. Gage Swartz, Cody Landis and Austin Woodall won their respective weight classes for James Wood, and Trevor Walker and Matt Huffstickler won theirs for Skyline.
Handley had one district title winner, Cory Crenshaw, who climbed from the tournament play-in bout to the championship with wins over Skyline's top-seeded Shane Smith and Sherando's second-seeded Laboy.