COLUMBUS — Wadsworth’s Noah Baughman and Black River’s Sebastian Vidika are different as much as they are the same.
Baughman is a fundamentally sound wrestler that likes to feel out opponents before making calculated moves, while Vidika is the aggressor from the opening whistle.
The tandem, however, had one key similarity in their drives for individual titles. The 106-pounders pushed each other, as they captured state championships in their respective divisions Saturday night at the state tournament.
“It just shows you how, especially in this last stretch, we made each other a lot better, and I’m happy he won,” said Baughman after sharing a congratulatory high-five from Vidika. “I’m just thankful to have people like him to train with. I want to thank my coach (John Gramuglia) for going all over the place just to find great partners for me to roll with to get better so I can achieve things like this.
“I’m extremely happy for him, and we can celebrate together.”
Baughman and Vidika had spent the last month training against each other in Wadsworth’s wrestling room. The two developed a friendship through the sweat and hard work and found out a lot about themselves in the process.
The training paid off, as Baughman captured the Division I crown with a 6-3 decision over Massillon Perry’s Tommy Genetin, while Vidika held off Hunter Bray of Dayton Christian 7-5 for the D-III title.
“It was great because each of us have different styles,” Vidika said. “He’s more of a defensive and technical wrestler, and I’m more aggressive and, I guess you can say, funky.
“I still have that technique aspect, but those styles conflicted and they brought out are weaknesses with each other, so we built up a more balanced wrestling style coming into this weekend. It was awesome to see him win, too.”
Dream come true
Baughman has been waiting for the day he could run onto the mat under the lights at Value City Arena. He daydreamed about walking with the parade of champions and then competing in front of 12,767 fans.
The sophomore realized that dream and made the most of it.
“I’ve been watching that parade of champions and been coming to the finals for, like, eight years now from in the stands in the nosebleed seats, section 318. I’ve been watching ever I was young,” Baughman said. “Walking through that and being a part of the experience was insane.
“It got me pumped up a little bit and kind of hit me with reality.”
The projected state champion according to InterMatwrestle.com’s Josh Lowe for most of the season, Baughman shook off goose bumps of the pre-match festivities and got to work. He came up with a takedown 40 seconds into the match before Genetin tied the score with a pair of escapes.
In the final period, Baughman picked up a reversal early and responded to another escape from Genetin with the eventual title-clinching takedown.
“I had to feel him out a little in the beginning, but once I got rolling, I got rolling,” he said. “I knew what I had to do and, after feeling him out, I knew how to take him down and how to get to his legs. I definitely started to work my takedowns and positions in the third where I wanted to be. I just had to get rolling a little bit, start attacking and be the person on the go.”
The workmanlike approach helped Baughman capture the Suburban League, Medina Sectional and Cleveland State District titles as well.
“He’s just in different world,” Gramuglia said. “On his feet, he’s the best kid down here. He’s been around the sport since he was four. He has a lot of self-confidence.”
While Baughman’s smile will eventual wear off, the memories and the medal he earned will never be erased.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “It’s crazy to think. I mean, this is my first time even to the state tournament as a qualifier, so to say I’m a state champ is a little bit extreme. I’m still letting it sink in, but the experience overall was awesome and I’m happy.”
Vidika vowed to be back from the minute he lost the third-place match at last winter’s state tournament.
The disappointment of that 8-4 decision fueled Vidika during a senior season in which he lost just one match — to Shawnee’s Hunter Lucas, who placed fourth in D-II — and found himself in the state title bout against a familiar foe in Bray, who ended his season a year ago.
Vidika wasn’t going to let Bray do the same thing twice.
“When I started (Thursday), I told myself that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from getting into the finals,” Vidika said. “And once I was there (in the finals), I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, either.”
Vidika used his past matchup with Bray to his advantage, taking the match to the sophomore from the opening whistle and not allowing the defensive-minded Bray to relax.
That plan worked, as Vidika took down Bray 25 seconds in. After getting reversed, Vidika responded with a reversal of his own and a takedown to lead 6-2 midway through the second period.
“Last year, he got a five-point lead on me to take the lead, and I wanted to make sure (tonight) that I took the lead and kept the pressure on,” he said. “I know when he faced Drew Mattin (of Delta in the semifinals) that they’re both defensive guys. I’m not a defensive wrestler. My coach (Corey Kline) is all about the offense and getting those takedowns.”
As quickly the match was in Vidika’s favor, Bray came up with a reversal with 1:05 left and then picked up another point when Vidika was whistled for stalling. That made the score 6-5 with less than a minute to go.
“We made one little mistake in that match, and it was perfect timing because, 10 seconds later, I had a blood timeout to scream at him,” Kline joked. “Then at the end of the match, he didn’t make any mistakes. He just did what he had to do.”
Vidika responded by standing Bray up and escaping for a key point.
“(Coach) came over and told me to be smart and to keep my offense up,” Vidika said. “Don’t keep playing defense. You have to keep pushing and putting the pressure on him.”
The move paid off and helped Vidika become the school’s first state champion since Jesse Campbell in 2007.
“Right now I’m just extremely excited,” he said. “All that hard work paid off.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.