Before heading down to the IHSA State Wrestling Class 2A Finals for a third straight year, Morris 132-pound senior Kenny Baldridge already knew what to expect from the atmosphere down at the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He also said he knew what the most important thing he’s learned in the past from being down at state and that is to win his semifinal match.
A challenge to be certain, but with two wins at the onset of the tournament this year heading into Friday night, Baldridge already is assured of being named All-State for a third consecutive year.
Previous to leaving town and etching his name deeper into the Morris wrestling lore, Baldridge agreed to engage the MDH as this week’s question and answer subject.
Q. Well, here it is. You are a senior with probably four more bouts left in your high school career. What kind of thoughts are going through your head this week leading up to state?
A. Well my thoughts this year are it is THE year.
I’m going to put it all out on the line and go for that state title. It’s my last year and I’ve worked all these years for this.
Q. I know what a competitor you are and I know you don’t like to lose, but was there any value to losing at the Pontiac sectional last Saturday?
A. I think that there was value in losing the match. It makes me want to win that much more, and I learned a lot in the match.
I’m going to fix my mistakes and wrestle to the best of my potential.
Q. Was there any pressure in being unbeaten this late in the season? Even last year you lost once before heading to state.
A. I didn’t really have any pressure, I just went out on that mat and wrestled the best I could and the outcome was the outcome, win or lose.
Q. Illinois Matmen has seemingly had your weight class ranked pretty accurately all year. Do you see it that way, and what was it like having the top six guys at the Pontiac sectional?
A. I believe the rankings were pretty accurate this year, but anything can happen to change that. You never know what may happen.
Having the top six guys in the weight class made it a little more difficult, but that’s part of the sport.
Q. How much do you think that will prepare you for state?
A. I think it has prepared me well for state, and I am ready for the tournament. It’s going to be a great year, and I’m very excited.
Q. For those reading this while you are probably still wrestling down at state, what will be the keys for you to achieve your goals this year?
A. I am going to wrestle to the best of my abilities and go out there and put it all out on the line, I’ve been training for this all my life, and I’m just going to go out there and do it.
Q. Finally, if you had a piece of advice for a young kid who wanted to know what it takes to be an All-State wrestler, what would you tell them?
A. I would tell that young kid that hard work and dedication pay off and that if you put forth the effort you will achieve your goals.