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Bakos focuses on winning

Nick Bakos, Wrestler of the Year
Sherando's Nick Bakos, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2009-10 Wrestler of the Year, completed an impressive season capped by winning a Group AA state championship as a 171-pounder. Dennis Grundman/Daily (Buy photo)

All-area wrestling team

FIRST TEAM


    103

  • Tanner Sine, Millbrook — Sine capped off his senior season by capturing a district and regional championship, then following with an appearance in the state finals. He finished the 2009-10 season with an impressive 49-7 record.
  • 112

  • Ben Genda, Clarke County — Genda had a solid showing in the postseason, finishing third in the Region B tournament and placing eighth in the Group A state tournament. The sophomore will have two more years to go after a state championship, and will look to improve off a 25-11 record.
  • 119

  • Gage Swartz, James Wood — After suffering a broken elbow last season, Swartz returned this season with something to prove. The senior claimed a district championship and a regional title, then capped off his comeback with the Group AA state title at 119 pounds.
  • 125

  • Daniel Reynolds, Strasburg — With a 44-6 record, Reynolds amassed the most wins on a Strasburg team that finished third in the state tournament. Reynolds captured third place in the Region B tournament, then went 4-2 in the state championships to take home fifth place.
  • 130

  • Jesse Farmer, Clarke County — One of five Clarke County wrestlers to place at states, Farmer took seventh in the 130-pound weight class. The junior went 24-9 in the regular season and regionals, then defeated Chilhowie's Michael Yonts 10-1 to finish seventh in the state.
  • 135

  • Todd Dean, Strasburg — Though only a freshman, Dean had a successful opening campaign with the Rams, accumulating 40 wins and capturing a regional title. Dean won his first two matches at the state tournament before falling to the state runner-up in the semifinals, where he finished fourth.
  • 140

  • Cody Mead, Sherando — Mead ended his high school wrestling career on a high note, finishing second in the Region II tournament and placing seventh a week later at states. Mead amassed more than 30 wins this season, among the highest on Sherando’s squad.
  • 145

  • Joe Nappi, Clarke County — Following a Region B tournament title at the 145-pound weight class, Nappi was a contender for a state championship, but slid down to the consolation bracket after a second-round loss to Darian Sizemore. Fueled by the loss, Nappi ran through the bracket, capturing third place with a 3-1 overtime win to finish his tournament.
  • 152

  • Matthew Huffstickler, Skyline — Skyline had four wrestlers represented at states, and Huffstickler did not disappoint. After capturing a regional title, the senior placed fifth in the state tournament, earning a 10-3 win over Staunton River’s Chris Tyree.
  • 160

  • Matthew Deavers, Stonewall Jackson — Deavers had an impressive showing at states, going 4-2 in the tournament to finish in fourth place. The senior finished his final season with a 30-8 record as well as a third-place finish in the Region B tournament.
  • 171

  • Nick Bakos, Sherando — Entering the state tournament with an astounding 50-2 record, Bakos showed the mark was no fluke. The senior won his first three matches by a combined score of 43-8, then took home the Group AA state title at 171 pounds.
  • 189

  • Rob Wallace, Clarke County — After transferring from Pennsylvania, Wallace found equal success at Clarke County. The senior captured a Region B championship, then advanced to the state finals before falling in overtime, 3-1. Wallace finished his senior season with a 44-3 record.
  • 215

  • Baxter Newman, Sherando — Newman capped off his senior season by advancing all the way to the state championships. Newman accumulated a record of 32-4 during the regular season, then captured a Region II championship on his way to an impressive showing at states.
  • 285

  • Austin Woodall, James Wood — Woodall joined Swartz as Colonels who brought home state championships this season. The senior entered the tournament with a 45-5 record, then advanced to the finals with back-to-back pins in the quarterfinal and semifinal matches. In the final match, Woodall earned a win over New Kent’s Evan Canady.


SECOND TEAM

  • 103: Lance Ford, Strasburg

  • 112: Joe Rioux, Millbrook

  • 119: Bobby Rager, Strasburg

  • 125: Levi McDonald, Sherando

  • 130: Ryan Runion, Millbrook

  • 135: Jonathan Martin, Stonewall Jackson

  • 140: Tommy Cleary, Clarke County

  • 145: Trevor Walker, Skyline

  • 152: Seth Williams, Strasburg

  • 160: John Sharpe, Millbrook

  • 171: Colin Barnes, Strasburg

  • 189: Joe Jessen, Millbrook

  • 215: Logan Large, Clarke County

  • 285: Lucas Ryan, Stonewall Jackson


COACH OF THE YEAR

  • Pepper Martin, Sherando


By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Don't bother cheering for Nick Bakos during a match. He can't hear you.

He can't hear the screams from the fans. He can't hear his coaches hollering at him, telling him to swing around this way or drive his hips that way.

When Bakos is on the mat, he can't hear anything. He's too focused. While the noise festers around him, Bakos is focused on two things -- his next move and his opponent's next move. Maybe that's why he's so good, so intense during a match. Maybe that's why in four years at Sherando High School, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2009-10 Wrestler of the Year went 163-24, including a 54-2 mark this season. And maybe that's how after years of training and conditioning, Bakos finally achieved his goal of becoming a state champion.

It's difficult to think of what the past few years may have been for Bakos if he had, in fact, let his doubts about wrestling get the best of him. It was back in fifth grade, and Bakos was only months from starting middle school. He had been wrestling for a few years, garnering interest after his older brother, A.J., wrestled, too.

But something wasn't right for Bakos. He wasn't feeling the passion needed to succeed. He thought about quitting.

"I don't know, it kind of got to the point where me and my brother were always a 1-2 punch," he said. "We'd go to tournaments together when we were little and it got really competitive. At one point we were on and off winning and losing so I kind of got burned out with it. I told him I really didn't want to come back. He said, 'Give it one more year. If you don't like it you can do whatever you want.'"

Looking back, it was the best advice anyone had ever given him. Trusting his brother, Bakos stuck with it, and as he grew older, his passion grew as well.

Eventually, Bakos became one of the top wrestlers in the area, but by the time senior year came, he was still without a state championship. Knowing this season was his last chance at a title, Bakos went to work. He went on a diet in order to keep his weight around the 171-mark. He cut out soda, fast food trips and always made sure he came in at weigh-in time.

That hard work began to pay off, as Bakos rolled through the regular season, then captured his third consecutive district and regional championships. In the state tournament, Bakos continued his dominance, winning his first three matches to advance to the state finals, where Tabb High School's Chris Junio awaited.

The night before the match, Bakos sat in his hotel room. His teammates were relaxing, the ones whose tournaments were over. Bakos, meanwhile, began to zone out and look back on his career as a wrestler.

"Thinking about second place wasn't in my mind at all," he said. "I remember, if I got second place I don't know what I would've done with myself. It kind of gave me chills, made me tear up a bit thinking that kids on our team would die to be in this position. I was really nervous, but it was a different nervous. I kind of felt like if I lost, coming back here saying I got second wasn't going to happen. It was either say I got first or say I didn't place to me, that's how I looked at it."

Early on in his match, Bakos found himself trailing by two points, after a takedown by Junio sent him on his back. No matter, however. According to Bakos, wrestling is "back and forth." One guy scores some points, then the other tries to come back and match him. He didn't panic, and neither did coach Pepper Martin. Despite the urge to holler at Bakos, Martin stayed quiet, watching his wrestler fight it out.

"As a coach, and I know some people would say I'm not telling the truth, but I knew we weren't in trouble," Martin said. "I just knew he would find a way to come back, tie it up and take the lead. And [not listening to me] isn't out of disrespect. He would even say sometimes, 'Coach I couldn't hear what you're saying.' It's not like he was ignoring it or anything. It was just simply, there are some wrestlers where you can yell all the moves you want and they're so focused on what they're doing in the match that they don't comprehend it."

Sure enough, Bakos eventually turned the tables on Junio, taking the lead and capturing the Group AA state championship at 171 pounds. After the match, the words were hard to come by for Bakos. He was ecstatic, sure, but the thought that he had actually achieved his goal had yet to hit him.

He had the gold medal around his neck and the winner's plaque in his hand. But the day wasn't complete. There was still the matter of the year-end Sherando tradition.

Before the Warriors headed back home, they stopped off of Interstate 81, where a fuel stop and a trip to Burger King completed the season. For Bakos, it was his first fast food experience since he could remember, and though it sounded like a good reward, his body had forgotten what it was like to indulge.

"It was horrible," he said. "I haven't eaten it since. I was about to throw up."

The meal to end the day may have left him feeling queasy, but it was the feeling just a few hours before that Bakos will never forget. The feeling that everything he worked for had come to fruition. The feeling that persistence and determination had paid off. The feeling that after so long, he was now a state champion.

Bakos said he is unsure what the future holds for him. He plans on making some visits to nearby colleges, including the University of Maryland, West Virginia University and Old Dominion University, and he's not sure if he wants to wrestle again.

If the state championship was the end for Bakos, it was a fitting end for a kid who has worked so hard to reach his goal. In the days following his title Bakos had to remind himself there would be no more wrestling this season. All of the practices were done and all of the cheers for his name were finished.

Not that he could hear them, anyway.



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