FRANKFORT – While all of the elite wrestlers in Illinois have plenty of motivation to push them toward claiming a spot on top of the awards stand at the IHSA finals in Champaign, it’s difficult to imagine anyone being more driven this season than Cody Baldridge.
He’s a two-time finalist who dropped a 3-1 decision in the final minute of last year’s Class 2A title match at 182 to Carbondale’s Cameron Caffey. And he’s trying to follow in the footsteps of his brother Kenny, who won two state medals before capping his career by capturing the 132 title in Class 2A in 2014.
Those factors have helped the Redskins senior to put together a dominant start to the current campaign that he hopes will result in him becoming just the fifth individual from the school to win a state championship in the sport.
In Saturday’s 182 finals at Lincoln-Way East’s Illini Classic, Baldridge improved to 28-0 on the season after capturing a 9-3 victory over one of the top-ranked individuals in 3A, Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Mihajlovich. That helped him to earn the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award.
To put Baldridge’s dominance thus far into better perspective, that was the first time all season that he hadn’t won by fall, technical fall or major decision.
“Things are going really good this season,” Baldridge said. “I played it a little safe in that match, more than I should have since I should have been more on the attack. The last two or three weeks, I’ve been getting some pretty good competition and have been running into kids who are more my size and are higher-caliber wrestlers. And you need to see that type of competition to see where you’re at. You need to get that push.”
“After coming close the past two years, my attitude this year is that this is my last year, so it’s all or nothing, so I have to get it done this year by winning it. So there’s no holding back in any matches anymore, I just have to go out there and win it and do whatever it takes. There’s a couple of kids who are going to be pretty tough, but I’m confident in myself. I know that I’m going to do what needs to be done and I’m not going to let anyone stop me.”
Owning an impressive 103-9 record during the past three seasons, Baldridge also has won invitational titles at Buffalo Grove and Metamora in 2017-18.
Baldridge was top-ranked at 182 in Class 2A in the Illinois Matmen rankings and second in the IWCOA rankings behind Richmond-Burton sophomore Jaden Glausner, while two seniors, Urbana’s Arnold Fox and Manteno’s Stevie Silva, are next in line. All four won state medals a year ago, but Baldridge is the lone two-time medalist out of that group.
After competing in the NIB 12 meet, Baldridge and Silva will likely meet up in both the Sandwich Regional and the Sycamore Sectional. And after that, Baldridge hopes that his third trip to Champaign finally proves to be the charm.
And based on what he’s seen from the senior not only this season but throughout his career, Morris coach Jon Lanning is definitely excited about what he might accomplish.
“That was his closest match all year,” Lanning said of Baldridge’s Illini Classic title win. “So it’s been a great year and he’s just at another level. We wrestle a tough schedule but he’s also competing against himself. We saw a lot of great athletes here and also last week at the Lincoln-Way West super duals. So these last two weeks were big ones for us.
“Our theme for this year has been climbing to the top of the mountain one step at a time, and Cody’s got one last thing to do, and that’s get to the top of the podium. He’s put in so much time in the regular season and the offseason and has done a great job of conditioning his body and he’s leaned out and gotten a little stronger this year. So it would be nice to finish up in these last few weeks by winning a state title, that’s the goal.”