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Baker, March co-wrestlers of year

Both won state titles, amid many other accomplishments

Thursday, March 5, 2009 - 10:38 am

In the end, there was no way to pick one, so Bellmont's Billy Baker and East Noble's Taylor March are The News-Sentinel's co-wrestlers of the year.

March capped one of the most impressive careers in state history with the 135-pound state championship and the mental attitude award. He had previously finished second twice and third once.

“What Taylor brings is a determination to be good,” East Noble coach Keith Hoffar said. “He knows what he wants to do. He's driven to do it. He pursues it.”

Baker's 43-0 record included the 215-pound state title.

“Billy is one of those kids who works hard in everything he's done,” coach Brent Faurote said. “He gives it everything he's got. He's very coachable.”

March set the East Noble record with 163 career victories. He finished second at 112 as a freshman, second at 119 as a sophomore and third at 125 as a junior. He capped it off with a 39-1 record and the 135-pound title this season.

“It's awesome,” March said. “Only 14 wrestlers end their year or career with a win. Everybody else loses. I'm amazed.”

March ranks first in his high school class of 268, is a member of the National Honor Society and assists special-education students at the high school. He's set to wrestle at Central Michigan next year while studying sports medicine.

The mental attitude award, which reflects scholarship, leadership and athletic ability, comes with a $1,000 award to East Noble in March's name.

March's accomplishments impressed Faurote.

“He's an all-around good kid. He's No. 1 in his class academically. He always shows a lot of class on and off the mat. He represents our conference very well.”

Bellmont's Baker has no plans to wrestle competitively again. That's a big deal for somebody who has wrestled for 14 years. He'll play baseball in the spring, then prepare for his football career at Marian College in Indianapolis.

“I usually wrestle in the spring, but I won't this year,” he said. “There's no point.”

Baker is a standout catcher. He's already started baseball workouts and doesn't plan to take a break.

“I'll get right into it. There's really not a break.”

Baker's size and athleticism made him a perfect fit at catcher.

“They just stuck me there when I was young,” he said. “I was like a big wall back there. I've had to block a few people off the plate.”

Baker's defensive line dominance last fall was a big reason why the Braves won the state football championship. He was recruited as a defensive tackle by Marian coaches.

“Football is by far my favorite sport,” Baker said. “I like the aggressiveness, the hitting. It's not nearly as hard as wrestling. You don't have to cut weight.”

Baker cruised through his senior season, giving up only two takedowns.

“To win it with all the pressure with the No. 1 ranking and all the expectations was special,” Faurote said. “He didn't get caught up in things. He knew what he had to do and did it.”

Baker did it after a disappointing junior season. He lost in the semistate 189-pound quarterfinals to Elhart Memorial's Stephen Stahl, who ended up winning the state title.

“He was very disappointed last year,” Faurote said, “but he had a bad draw. That happens. Sometimes the best kids don't get there. He could have been a two-time state place-winner. He's such a gifted athlete. He has a great work ethic and is a down-to-earth, great kid.”