Best of friends and soon to be Big Ten foes, Luke Baughman and Michael North will lace them up one last time as teammates when the Wadsworth duo opens the Division I state wrestling tournament today at Value City Arena.
While competing at such a high level has become old hat for the two, who have been best friends for more than a decade, they’ll take to the mat in Columbus today hoping for individual success while keeping a close eye on each other.
After that, Baughman will don an Indiana singlet, while North will head to Maryland.
“State has a little more meaning because it’s our last time together,” Baughman said. “We’ve been training together for the one state championship goal. I just really want to see Michael obtain his goal almost as much as I want to obtain my goal. It would be awesome if we could do it together.”
That goal is to win a state title and has been a dream since they each threw on a singlet in Wadsworth’s youth wrestling program.
Baughman (138 pounds) is the warmup act for North (145) this season, but sometimes it has been the other way around, as one has followed the other in the lineup for what seems like an eternity.
Because of that, the two have not only become close on the mat, but off it.
It’s not a surprise to find North over at Baughman’s in the wee hours of the morning, nor is it out of the ordinary to see Baughman grabbing a quick bite to eat in the morning in the North household.
“I think of no other word than family,” North said. “We know each other’s family so well. I have lived at his house before. He’s lived at my house. My mom acts as if he’s my brother and his mom does the same to me.”
Their careers have eerily mirrored each other at Wadsworth.
Baughman comes in with four state appearances, while North has been there three times and was an alternate as a freshman.
Both have two district titles and a third-place finish. Both have three sectional titles and a runner-up finish. Both have three Suburban League titles and a runner-up finish.
The only difference is Baughman finished fourth as a freshman at district, while North was fifth. Baughman has finished second and fourth at state, while North was third and fourth.
North (159 career wins) and Baughman (155) have had their hands raised 314 times for Wadsworth.
“It’s awesome to have those two guys,” Grizzlies coach Clay Wenger said. “The leaders they are, the people they are, they do everything right. To have them in our program for this long with the kids they’ve brought along is great.
“We preach to our team brotherhood and those guys being so close brings everyone else together. This group has been together since these two were 4. People want to be around Luke and Michael because they’re good kids. They’re just good people.”
No matter what happens, Baughman and North will leave Columbus together on Saturday. Whether it comes with living out a goal they’ve had since they were riding around on training wheels or coming up just short, they’ll finish their high school careers the same way they started.
“When he was in front of me, I was more into his match than I was focused on wrestling my own,” Baughman said. “We have a friendship unlike many others. Wrestling with him every day and being with him every day allows me to see a side of him not everyone gets to see. It’s been fun this entire time.”
There’s a very real possibility the two could wrestle each other when they get to college. Both admitted that unless they’re squaring off against each other, they’ll be secretly pulling for the other to win when their teams face off.
School ties may be strong, but brotherhood lasts a lifetime.
“I’ve known them since they were 4, too,” Wenger said. “Just watching them grow up and what they’ve brought to the program with the love for the sport, it’s just incredible. To see their whole high school careers play out, I’m lucky that I’ve gotten to be a part of their journey.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
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