Opponents like Wauseon’s Wade Hodges keep Genoa senior wrestler Brandon Bates humble — and focused.
Bates, a 145-pounder, finished 54-8 with over 30 pins. On Feb. 7 he won his first Northern Buckeye Conference title, finished third at districts and fourth at state.
Hodges, the projected Division II state champ at 145, dealt Bates his only loss by pin earlier this season; Bates conceded that the two-time state placer was simply better than him that day.
That, however, is a rarity. Bates became one of the best wrestlers to ever compete at Genoa — he is second on the all-time win list at Genoa — yet there is still a large hole in his resume. Coach Bob Bergman said Bates, a four-time district qualifier, was “absolutely” primed to reach his first state tournament this season.
“He’s done everything you can do, and he’s excelled doing it,” Bergman said. “He’s put in the time, and he doesn’t waste time. He’s lifted year round since seventh grade and has taken advantage of every opportunity our program offers. I don’t think he’s missed three lifting (sessions) since seventh grade. If anyone deserves it from our team, it’s him. He can place at state, because he’s got that kind of ability.”
At state, Bates lost to West Jefferson’s Cody Dingess in the match for third place. Bates recorded three pins en route to getting on the awards podium.
|Genoa senior wrestler Brandon Bates on his way to a 145 pound
Northern Buckeye Conference championship. (Press photo by
“We couldn't be more proud of Brandon,” Bergman said. “He has a huge heart and it certainly showed last weekend. None of the ‘experts’ had him placing down there, but someone forgot to tell Brandon. He has a giant gas tank on him and he never lets up.”
As a result, Bates is among state placers on this year’s Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Honor Roll. Bergman, who coached Genoa to a Northern Buckeye Conference title, is Co-Coach of the Year.
Bates, 18, said he relied on his work in the offseason and his burgeoning confidence to get him over the hump and on to Columbus. He knew the expectations from everyone around him were high.
“Everyone was expecting me to place at state,” Bates said. “I’ve had a few tough losses, but I’ve learned from them.”
Step in right direction
Bates said winning the NBC title — he was the runner-up at 138 pounds last season, was “a step in the right direction” heading into the postseason.
“I’d say (winning NBC) was definitely an accomplishment,” Bates said, “but it’s not where I wanted to stop. I don’t have any complaints about this season…it’s been a good year.”
Bergman said Bates has always taken to coaching well, and he realized he could no longer rely on his strength to get him through the tougher matches. He had to embrace the finer points of wrestling.
“He is our strongest guy, pound for pound,” Bergman said. “His strength is through the roof. He can bench press his body weight 25 times. In the last two months, his technique has vastly improved. As a youngster he would rely on that strength and try to challenge people. At those middle weights, you won’t be too successful living and dying on that.”
Bates said he ultimately came to the realization after his sophomore year that just being stronger than the other guy wasn’t enough.
“My freshman and sophomore year were pretty rough,” he said. “I lost a lot of matches. The coaches and everybody were telling me people are going to be out there who are stronger than me, and I have to learn to wrestle with them. I had to change my style and start wrestling more mentally. It took some time, but I think now I’ve got it pretty well set.”
Bates admitted to being a “morning person” for most of his life, which helps him get to the Comets’ thrice weekly morning lifting sessions rather easily. Bates and his brother, Adam, a sophomore who took second at 132 pounds at the NBC tournament, sometimes get into disagreements when it comes to getting motivated for those early lifting sessions at school.
“I wake up easy,” Brandon said. “For school, I wake up at 6:30 and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have lifting before school. My brother and I always wake up at 5:30 so we can get a lift in before school. Adam takes a little more motivation (to get ready). Sometimes there’s a lot of yelling in the morning. We get mad at each other sometimes, but it always works itself out.”
Bergman called the Bates brothers “quite the tandem.”
“Adam has been a huge bullet for us, another weapon,” Bergman said. “He has been a huge contributor. There are some mornings where he and Brandon are not talking at morning workouts. Brandon’s a morning person and Adam’s not. When they do wrestle, older brother definitely gets after him. He does not hold back. It’s great.”
Brandon said of his younger sibling, “I’m definitely proud of him. I think we can still get more out of him. He hasn’t reached his full potential yet.”
Brandon, an honorable mention All-NBC defender on Genoa’s soccer team last fall, said it seems like his high school career flew by. He’s in the school’s all-time top 10 in regular-season victories, pins and consecutive falls, as well as career victories, takedowns and falls.
Bergman said Bates, who has a 3.87 GPA and plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Toledo, has been an outstanding role model and will be missed next season.
“He just does the right thing at all times,” the coach said. “I wish I had more kids like him.”
At the sectional, Bates added another championship as the Genoa grapplers used depth to pile up 215½ points in route to capturing their fourth consecutive team championship.
The Comets outdistanced runner-up Elmwood (174½) by more than 40 points. Genoa crowned five sectional champions and advanced ten wrestlers to the Division III district, while Eastwood, with two sectional champions, finished third with 162½ points.
Besides Bates, Genoa junior Damian D'Emilio (46-9, 120), senior Devon Cannon (32-3, 132), senior Tyler Baird (26-7, 182), and a 2014 state champion, senior Jay Nino (36-2, 220), captured first place. Genoa sophomore Matt Herrick (38-13, 195) was runner-up while freshman Seth Moore (32-18, 126) took third. Sophomore Thor Morrison (28-23, 106), freshman Andrew Muir (35-21, 113), and sophomore Adam Bates (38-17, 138) took fourth. Freshmen Xavier Beach (14-31) and Trey Duran (10-35) took sixth in the 16-team field.
Other local D-III sectional champs were Eastwood freshman Jacob Hahn (31-11, 106), Woodmore senior Thomas Schnitker (32-9, 113), Northwood junior Johnny Wheeler (32-6, 126), Eastwood junior Andrew Caris (32-9, 160), and Gibsonburg sophomore Madison Jaso (19-1) at 195,