By PAUL STURM , C-T Sports Editor
COLUMBIA — Freshman 132-pounder Aaron Baker will finish somewhere between third and sixth place in the 2012-13 Class 2 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships Saturday.
His long-shot chance of winning the state crown was summarily ended by Cody Pae of Fulton after only 58 seconds of their championship-semifinal bout at Mizzou Arena Friday night. The 126-pounds champion last year, senior Pae will try to close out his prep grappling career with back-to-back titles Saturday night, this time one weight class higher.
In Saturday's closing day of action, A. Baker (36-8) will have a tough first assignment as he will match up again with junior Bryce Mercer (42-6) of Oak Grove, who pinned him in the district tournament title bout last Saturday.
The other two 132-pounds consolation semifinalists are Taylor Airrington (28-21) of Odessa, who A. Baker finished ahead of at district, and Trevor Waldner (47-3) of Dexter. A. Baker will meet one of those two in the finals at around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Chllicothe's other state qualifier, sophomore Kyler Sewell, came up one victory short of repeating as a state medalist when he was decisioned by Hunter Smith of Mexico 5-2 in the consolation quarterfinals Friday evening. Sewell finished his sophomore season with a 38-12 record.
Southwest Livingston Wildcats junior Ethan Crowe is in the same boat as A. Baker, pursuing third place at best at 195 pounds in Class 1 Saturday after a gut-wrenching 2-1 championship-semifinals loss to Kyle Kunz of Herculaneum Friday night.
In Saturday morning's consolation semifinals, Crowe (32-1) will tangle with Michael Stanley (30-6) of Gallatin. The other consolation semifinal pairing is last year's state champion at that weight, Justin Hicks (43-2) of Polo, and Austin Tevis (35-4) of Holden, last year's fourth-place medalist.
Friday morning, A. Baker joined the ranks of CHS state tournament medalists when he decisioned Levi Hopkins 4-2 in the championship quarterfinals.
By virtue of his second victory in two state bouts, A. Baker was assured of no worse than a sixth-place finish. The top six wrestlers in each weight category receive state medals.
While A. Baker clinched his medal, Sewell was forced to pursue two consolation-side wins in his ill-fated bid for another medal.
Sewell (38-11) lost to tough Slade Stiles of Nevada, last year's third-place finisher – two spots ahead of Sewell – in the 113-pounds class, by a 16-0 technical fall in the championship quarterfinals Friday morning.
He rebounded to decision Justin Gans of Cameron 7-3 in the second round of consolation wrestlebacks at midday Friday before being eliminated by Smih.
Crowe also clinched a state medal Friday morning when he pinned John Melton of Adrian at 5:21 of their 195-pounds bout. Crowe led 7-1 at the time.
Page 2 of 2 - Crowe (32-0), the fourth-place finisher at state in the 171-pounds class last year, will battle last year's 195-pounds third-place finisher, Kyle Kunz of Herculaneum (43-1) Friday night in the semis.
A. Baker's victory Friday morning came in solid fashion. The Chillicothean gained a first-period takedown, ducking under the taller Hopkins' arms to gain a high upper-leg grab and pull his foe to the mat.
It stayed 2-0 through the rest of the period and all of the second, which A. Baker wrestled from the "up" (offensive) position as Hopkins chose to be "down." With his option to start the third period, A. Baker convinced head coach Drew Passley to let him stay "up," but Hopkins got a quick reversal within the first 10 seconds to tie the bout, 2-2.
The knot unraveled quickly, though, as A. Baker twisted to his right to not only break free of Hopkins' grasp, but reverse. The Hornet then fairly easily kept his Bolivar foe in good control the final 1:40 to close out the win and clinch his medal.