MORRIS – Morris senior Kenny Baldridge is 76-3 over the last two seasons and 112-10 over the last three. He is about to head to the State Farm Center in Champaign for the third straight year, where he will once again be trying to place at the IHSA state finals. Two years ago, Baldridge was fifth and last year he finished third – both times in Class 2A.
So, what is the biggest thing he has learned from his time wrestling in the finals on the campus of the University of Illinois?
“The big match to win down there is the semifinal match,” Baldridge said.
Baldridge is coming off his first loss of the season at the Pontiac Sectional, where he lost to the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state, Alexander Butler of Rockford Boylan.
So what does Baldridge think will happen with the draw?
“I’ll probably be seeing [LaSalle-Peru’s Jake] Weaver again since he’s on my side,” he said at the Pontiac Sectional.
Which is true.
Baldridge, a 132-pounder, is set to open with Steven Bradford (34-10) of Bloomington High School and the winner will meet either Patrick Schoenfelder (34-15) of Antioch or David McDonald (33-8) of Tinley Park.
“If all goes well, he’ll have another rematch with Jake Weaver of LaSalle-Peru in the semifinals on Friday night,” Morris coach Jon Lanning said.
The last time the two met was in the regional as they were on opposite sides of the bracket at Pontiac.
In the regional, Weaver had Baldridge down 3-0 before the Morris senior pulled out a 4-3 win.
Baldridge won 5-3 in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament championship over Weaver.
Whether Baldridge is still ranked ahead of Weaver and behind Butler right now is only relevant to a certain extent, Lanning said.
“I think the biggest thing, and I’ve said that from the beginning, is that it’s the end result in Champaign that’s the real deal,” Lanning said.
“Last year we beat the state champion in the sectional and he came out and won the state championship the next week. So, maybe we will reverse that role next year. That kid wins the sectional this year and hopefully we will win it at state this year.”
Baldridge will be have a teammate at state this year in 160-pound senior Trevor Allbert.
“It will nice to have someone down there with me this year,” Baldridge said.
Allbert was second at the Pontiac Sectional, but suffered a major cut on the top of his head in the semifinals.
“It should be OK. It is just a small cut on the head but that is just a bad location where blood spurts out all over,” Lanning said. “We’re going to train hard this week but we only have three days. Two days of going hard and one to make weight. We’ll probably superglue it up or possibly get a stitch and he’ll be ready to go.”
Though it will be Allbert’s first trip to compete at state, his goal is the same as Baldridge.
“My priority is to get on that podium,” Allbert said. “I’ve got to work harder and hopefully that’s where I’ll be – on the podium next week.”
In the opener, Allbert will meet Joel Barker of Oak Forest and the winner will get either Mathew Wheeler of Harvard or Cole Witzig of Troy Triad. The No. 1 seed in the 160-pound division is Garrett Sutton of Richmond-Burton and that would mean a meeting for Allbert in the semifinals if he wins the first two.
Though there has been no scratches yet, Morris 220-pounder Dalton Ness also is on standby should something happen in that class in the days leading up to the competition.
“Dalton was named the alternate and will have a chance to compete if one of the four competitors from our sectional is injured or misses weight,” Lanning said. “Unlikely that will happen, but you never know, crazy things always happen in wrestling. Believe it or not kids have gotten in as alternates and walked away with state medals, so you never know.”