BUTLER TWP — Even when he doesn’t wrestle, Cole Baxter wins.
With four years of mat eligibility remaining at Kent State, Baxter was recently named No. 1 in the country at 184 pounds among wrestlers from 2011-12 who were non-starters or red-shirted. The rankings were done by the Amateur Wrestling News.
“I didn’t even know those rankings existed until my coach told me about it,” Baxter said. “It’s pretty cool. But I still have to take it to the next level.”
By rule, red-shirted wrestlers are eligible to compete in Division I tournaments by entering as open wrestlers, not competing for the university.
“Cole did a number of those,”
Baxter was 24-3 last season, winning the Eastern Michigan Open and
“I picked up a lot of experience against some top-notch guys last year,” Baxter said. “For being a red-shirt, I got a ton out of that season.”
Baxter has always been the wrestler who teammates benefited from in the practice room. He owns Golden Tornado records for wins in a season and career (45 and 160), season and career winning percentage (45-2 and 160-17), pins in a season and career (26 and 86) and he was a three-time team captain in high school.
But this year, Baxter will be the practice room beneficiary.
Former NCAA champion Dustin Kilgore returns to
Kilgore plans to wrestle at 197 pounds, which will be Baxter’s weight class this season.
“He’s going to be my workout partner in the room and I am really looking forward to that,” Baxter said. “Talk about having somebody to learn from.
“Everybody wants to start and that’s certainly my goal, but becoming a better wrestler supersedes wins and losses ... and this guy is definitely going to make me a better wrestler.”
Stoner said Kilgore is at 235 pounds right now and will have to cut a lot of pounds to get down to Baxter’s weight class.
“Normally, you’d look at that and say there’s no way,” Stoner said. “But athletes like that are special people. I imagine he’ll get there.”
While Baxter likely won’t start for the Golden Flashes this coming year, “I think I’ll get a few matches in,” he said.
He’s been spending the summer working out five days a week, maintaining his weight and staying in top condition.
“My long-range goals haven’t changed,” Baxter said. “I want to become an All-American and win a national championship. I feel like I’m in a situation at a school right now that can help me do that.”
He is also maintaining a grade-point average above 3.0 while studying dentistry at
“To a degree, Cole’s high level of performance surprised me last year,” Stoner said. “But I know that kid. He’s as motivated as ever.”