Victories, pressure mount for state champ


Nathan Bachmann Nathan Bachmann, The Sun's third-ranked 145-pound wrestler, doesn't have to rack his brain too long to fondly recall when things were much easier.

A year ago, Bachmann was a talented up-and-comer, wrestling with little more than his own hopeful expectations on his muscular shoulders.

But that has all changed, and Bachmann -- 21-1 this season -- is reminded every time he enters the Fallston wrestling room. Hanging outside is a black banner, with orange and white trim, recognizing the school's individual state champions from all sports.

With a pin of Chopticon's Eli Black last year in the Class 4A-3A state final bout, Bachmann, then wrestling at 135, became the first Cougars wrestler since 1980 to win a state title and the first ever to win a triple crown: a county championship, a 4A-3A North regional championship and a state championship all in the same year.

Bachmann reflected on the achievement, and the same two words kept reverberating about its meaning: more pressure.

"At the time, it really didn't mean that much because I knew I still had two more years to go," said the junior, whose only loss this season was to Wicomico's Eric Thomas. Bachmann was 36-2 last year. "I was unknown to a lot of people, and now, I have a lot of pressure on me. I kind of liked being the underdog.

"Obviously I want to win states, but to be honest, I'll be perfectly satisfied to finish somewhere in the top four, but I know there's pressure on me to finish first."

Don't let the words of the shy, modest 16-year-old fool you into believing that he doesn't have the drive to be the best. And don't be deceived by his pre-match routine, either.

Before his team wrestles, Bachmann can usually be found up in the bleachers, catching up on some sleep. It's a routine that he and teammate Chris Baum started last year at states as they were awakened by a team manager about 25 minutes before Bachmann's title bout against Black.

By match time, Bachmann's face is a picture of unwavering concentration, and he shows a level of intensity on the mat that few can match.

His demeanor has impressed even the coach of the Cougars' biggest wrestling rival. "I love him. I love his attitude and aggressiveness," said Harford Tech coach Gary Siler.

Not blessed with overwhelming quickness or bone-jarring power, Bachmann is a highly technical wrestler with defined moves, quick hands and plenty of brains.

"He has really superb balance," said Cougars coach Andy Amasia, whose team is 11-2-1 after falling to the Cobras on Friday night. "When you think you're putting him in a bad position, all of a sudden, you're in a bad position because his balance is so good.

"He's always been a good wrestler, but now he's a good wrestler with good balance and in good physical condition."

Bachmann, who started wrestling when he was 8 years old and was a standout in the Harford junior leagues, was a county runner-up and qualified for states as a freshman.

He practices with the Harford Grapplers, a club team, in the offseason and tries to get a couple of tournaments in on his own in the spring and summer, but his other athletic interests -- he also plays football and lacrosse at Fallston -- prevent him from devoting all his time to wrestling.

That's just fine with Bachmann, who said that the team nature of lacrosse and football is a welcome deviation from wrestling's focus on the individual.

In Fallston's cozy wrestling gym, many teammates refer to Bachmann simply as "state champ."

"It annoys him a little, but usually, some guys will walk around and be like, 'I'm a state champ,' but Nate doesn't do that," Baum said. "We have to do it for him."

Bachmann, who should face a huge test Thursday with a likely matchup against Centennial's undefeated Mark Nakasone, top-ranked at 145, prefers to let his performance on the mat do the talking.

"Some kids come up to me in the halls and ask me if I'm going to win states again this year," Bachmann said. "I say, 'I'll try, but I'm not guaranteeing anything.' I don't need that pressure."

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