He’ll remember his dominance of the 145-pound class.
He’ll remember the young Baldazo pinning coaches at practice.
He’ll remember the annual trips to the state tournament.
Most of all, he’ll remember how Baldazo took it all in stride.
“He was very strong, but just real quiet,” Chappel said of Baldazo, named The Press’ Male Athlete of the Year. “Really kind of an unassuming-type kid. He practiced hard and did what he was supposed to do.”
Baldazo’s character became evident to the coach as a freshman. After qualifying for the California Interscholastic Federation meet in his first year, Lions coaches and athletes were ecstatic for the young grappler. While they were cheering, high-fiving and clapping it up, Baldazo just took a seat on the nearest bench and unwrapped a granola bar.
Why celebrate this win? There’s still a tournament to get ready for, he figured.
“There was another time to make weight again,” Baldazo said. “I’m just humble.”
While Baldazo’s high school career started with fanfare – he took second place in his first tournament for Liberty – it also ended nicely. This fall, he claimed a North Coast Section title in an 8-1 decision over Dublin’s Nate Vincent.
His winning streak didn’t stop there. At the state meet, Baldazo was victorious in his first four matches, over Alisal’s Jovan Villalobos, Isiah Morfin of Selma, Brandon Sotomayor of Centennial and Buchanan’s Damien Arredondo.
Ranked fourth in the state, Baldazo lost in a hard-fought finals battle to California’s top 145-pound wrestler, junior Jake Elliot of Oakmont.
“He just was a gamer,” Chappel said. “I think he would’ve been a hell of a football player and maybe a great cross country runner.”
Chappel credited Baldazo’s calm demeanor for his success on the mat. Whereas some wrestlers can let one bad match haunt them through a tournament, Baldazo rarely let his emotions pin him. If he didn’t perform up to his expectations in one match, he was ready to take care of business the next time around.
Chappel was also amazed by Baldazo’s strength. One time during his freshman year, Baldazo took on an assistant coach more than 10 years his senior and about 50 pounds more massive in a friendly rumble. The kid won.
“In the beginning, I set a goal for myself to be in the state championship and I did it,” Baldazo said. “I felt like I accomplished something.”
Having finished his time at Liberty, Baldazo will attend Sierra College in Rocklin with former teammate Anthony Thurgood. Sierra is one of the stronger junior college wrestling schools in the state, and Baldazo hopes to help keep that going before transferring to a four-year school such as San Francisco State or Arizona State.
Wrestlers from Sierra have gone on to Iowa State, Sacramento State, UC Davis, Nebraska and Arizona State.
Much like he did four years ago, Baldazo has already set a goal to accomplish for the Wolverines: “I want to win state at JC.”