His cool and calm approach to just about everything he does served Jonathan Alder junior Troy Caldwell well, during the championship finals at the Division II state wrestling tournament on Saturday, March 1.
The eyes of thousands inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center at Ohio State University were directed toward mat No. 2 during the 220-pound final match between Caldwell and Uhrichsville Claymont’s Garrett Harding.
Harding’s charging-bull like approach had Caldwell on his heels and down 3-0 in the match. But instead of panicking or doing something rash, Caldwell calmly wrestled his match, waited for his chance and like a cobra struck with deadly precision.
The Pioneers standout scored a game-changing reversal and a stunning pin in just a matter of seconds of each other as Caldwell claimed the first state wrestling championship for Jonathan Alder since 1986.
“I think it’s important to keep your composure,” a low-key Caldwell said afterward. “It makes it easier on yourself and you don’t make as many mistakes, you try and wrestle it like any other match.”
While he did admit that being down against a tough wrestler in the state final wasn’t the best position to be in, he had confidence in his abilities to come back.
“I knew I needed to pick it up,” Caldwell said. “But I knew he was getting tired too. I knew the first period I was tiring him out, he was coming at me hard. I know it was taking a lot out of him, but not really out of me.”
Harding led 2-0 after the first period and went up 3-0 when we escaped Caldwell’s clutches in the opening seconds of the second period. But momentum began to swing in the favor of the Alder wrestler.
Caldwell got a pair of points with a takedown to make it 3-2 midway through the second period. He surrendered another escape just before the end of the middle stanza and trailed 4-2.
In the third and final period Caldwell started on the bottom and fought to get loose. But as soon as he realized Garrett had gotten too high on his back, Caldwell made his move. He slipped free of the hold, gathered his two points for the reversal with 1:30 to go and all in one scoop caught his opponent in a cradle and kept him on his back for a surprising and sudden end to the match.
“I don’t know how long he was on his back,” Caldwell said. “It seemed like it was like 30 seconds. I could see his shoulder getting closer and closer, I was looking at the ref, I knew it was going down I just didn’t know how much time was left in the period.”
When the referee slapped the mat signaling the pin and the end of the match, it touched off a celebration for everyone except Caldwell. He of course stayed true to his cool and calm demeanor, sporting a wide smile.
“We saw the kid before,” Alder coach Ron Thomas said. “We wrestled him at the district. So we knew that he goes hard at all at once. When he got the three points and Troy escaped, you could tell he was slowing down quite a bit.
“We knew if we kept going he was going to die. Troy is a brawler, he doesn’t quit and he doesn’t get nervous, he’s been behind before and he just keeps coming at you.”
Caldwell became the first Alder state wrestling champion since 1986 when Ron Thomas Jr., now an assistant with his dad at Alder, won the 175 pound crown.
Caldwell qualified for the state tournament a year ago, but failed to even finish in the top eight which would have put him on the award’s podium.
“I wanted to go for first place,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let myself leave this year without at least getting on the podium. I had a whole year to think about it.”
And now he’ll have a whole lifetime to think about doing just that.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.