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By JIM HOPKINS
To get to that incredible figure of 32 wins in 33 regional wrestling matches over 17 seasons ... well, Bellmont has had to have a whole bunch of good wrestlers. But that's only part of the formula.
Senior Isaac Birch, who sealed two of those victories on Wednesday at Adams Central when the Braves pulled out all of the stops to capture a 15th and final berth in the Team State Wrestling Finals, has a theory about the consistent show of excellence by his school's teams.
"We're 32-1 in regionals because of those coaches right behind us," declared Birch, while about to board a very happy Bellmont bus.
Braves head coach Brent Faurote and assistant Paul Gunsett have been there throughout the great run by BHS in the now lame duck Team State Wrestling Tournament, and their ability to coach up young men, to get them to be all that they can become, and to do it in about the most pressure-packed situations imaginable is simply amazing.
One can't practice the conditions in these winner-take-all meets and matches. You can't simulate the pressure, the emotion, the desire and clarity needed to grab onto that victorious magic carpet ride. However, the Braves have it down pretty well. Regional wrestling, which was never held at Bellmont, was Braves' territory. There can be no doubt.
Assistant coach Tim Myers, whose high school career ended the year before the Team State Tourney started, has been helping with the team for over a dozen years and that's about the help record of Sean Faurote, who works with varsity and middle school. The late John Friedt, who assisted the program for well over 30 years, played a key role in both coaching the boys and mentoring Faurote, and Phil Thieme was a long time contributor.
Statistics and trophies don't lie. This program is very, very special, and a lot of young men have imbibed in the Bellmont wrestling kool-aid and accomplished things for their team that they would not have done just for themselves.
The wins over rival Yorktown and Snider Wednesday did nothing to spoil that tradition. The Braves, down 31-9, had to win the last five matches to take out the Yorkies, and then had to win the final four to beat Snider.
Desire and supreme effort ran rampant. At a break late in the critical 170-pound match against Yorktown, Bellmont's Landon Baker looked over to Coach Faurote. He offered no technical advice, which is the norm in a sport which features arm drags, corkscrew turns and duck-unders. In fact, the coach said nothing. He just took his fist and pounded on his chest.
The message was simple. It was about heart. Landon's heart, the team's heart, a lion's heart. Landon got it. He outlasted that man in overtime, and reached back and rifled a takedown in the final two seconds to beat his next foe. Landon knew the score. He knew the script, and it was his.
"If I wouldn't have won that match, we wouldn't have won, and I knew that. We're going to state for the last time. Feels great!" said Baker, who won that second match over a 182-pounder as the Braves moved up a weight in a final strategical gamble.
"I had to win. I lost the first takedown and that kind of scared me. I wasn't feeling my best," said senior Dewey Melcher, who won his first high school tournament last week, a sectional title.
"All the sudden, it popped in my head. Wow, it was like, we need to win. I had to get it done," said Melcher (152), who fought through a cradle, then cradled Snider's Austin Whisler for critical points, lifting the Braves to within six after they had trailed 21-3.
"Landon really stepped it up at the end. It was an awesome match and came right down to the last takedown. And Brian Hakes, to come and wrestle with us before the hockey match and then come back for the celebration! If he doesn't wrestle the score changes. That was huge," offered Melcher.
"Brad (Busse) wrestled great tonight, and Ben (Baker) did his job, as did Birch. Brooks (Faurote) had two big falls. Bobby (Keuneke) did really well, and almost beat Bevans (OT loss). (Jacob) Bergman had that big pin. (Trevor) Gray kept off his back twice, losing only decisions. I thought everybody wrestled pretty well. They did their jobs."
Ben Baker spoke for the team. "There's nothing better than to see B.J. (Coach Faurote) happy about this, being possibly his last year of (head) coaching and going to Team State for the last year. I feel really proud of that, as well as do all the other team members.
"Everyone is thrilled to death and I know coach is. That's all we wanted. We obviously want to win that first round of Team State, but we're very happy to be there. This is huge," said Baker.
"Smoke, mirrors, whatever it was, we made it" back to state, said Gunsett. "It was God telling us, 'you guys deserve it.' The kids did everything they could to make it happen."