DENVER — Nick Baldwin did not get much time to savor his first state wrestling experience last year.
Then a junior, Baldwin had barely hit the bright lights of the Pepsi Center stage when he was forced to call it a season after dropping his first two matches. Yet for Baldwin and the rest of the Mavericks, 2012 clearly is a different story.
Baldwin made amends for last year’s quick exit during the first round of the Class 3A tournament on Thursday, overcoming an early deficit to record a pin in his first match of the 160-pound division. Baldwin was one of five winners among Mead’s seven entrants, a run of success the Mavericks hope will continue during the quarterfinal rounds on Friday.
The Mavericks are in a three-way tie for fifth in the team standings after Day 1 along with Highland and Bennett. All three have 16 points. Alamosa leads with 28.5, followed by Olathe (24.5), Holy Family (20) and Valley (16.5).
“There’s a lot of wrestling left, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Mead coach Ty Tatham said. “The tournament just gets tougher, it doesn’t get easier. We’re in the right frame of mind and just need to keep plugging away.
“We talk a lot more about performance and not so much about winning. It’s about trying to wrestle hard for six or seven minutes and control the things that you can control, stay with the things you’ve been doing all year. The nerves part of it, it’s tough. I tell them to shut it out and that it’s just another tournament.”
Baldwin fell behind in his opening-round match against Olathe senior Joseph Pridy. Pridy jumped out to an early lead against the Mavericks senior, but Baldwin was able to turn the tables in the second period before posting a pin at the 4 minute, 50 second mark.
“I knew what I needed to do from last year,” Baldwin said. “It’s nothing more than just a huge tournament. This has been something to shoot for, to come here and do better than I did. It is a big start and puts me in a better position to place.”
Mead’s other opening-round winners included 120-pound sophomore Austin Van Hooker, 152-pound sophomore Kyle Couch, 170-pound senior Greg Rademacher, and senior heavyweight Nick Testroet.
Couch, a third-place finisher last year, needed only 1:35 to post a pin in his 152-pound bout against Hotckiss junior Dustin Head. Testroet recorded the Mavericks’ other pin, taking down Tylor Ballisteri of Cedaredge in 3:41.
Van Hooker — one of two Mead regional champions last weekend along with Couch — defeated Kaleb Hansen of Lamar 8-6. Rademacher, meanwhile, won 10-6 over Monte Vista’s Nick Maes.
Although 138-pound sophomore Kyle McNellis and 145-pound senior Ian Stinson each suffered first-round losses, both athletes will still have opportunities to compete in the consolation brackets on Friday.
“The plan was to just go out hard and get the match over with so I could get ready for tomorrow,” Couch said. “I’ve been wrestling for 18 years now, so I’m kind of used to this. It’s just another big tournament.”
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org