Smith: Baldridge managed to back up the tattoo

Right away at the onset of this past wrestling season, I immediately noticed that something was different about Morris’ 132 pound wrestler Kenny Baldridge. While he looked as strong as ever and showed his natural speed and quickness, something was different.

Then it dawned on me – Baldridge got a tattoo on his left arm. Then not much longer later, he added another.

“I got one right before the start of the season and that’s the one on my left side – the tribal,” Baldridge explained. “Then after that, two weeks later, I went back and got the skull.”

Tatoos can signify different things for different people according to their personalities, but for a wrestler to get a tattoo is another thing altogether.

“He showed up one day with a tattoo and I said. ‘man, you got tatted up’,” Morris coach Jon Lanning said. “One of the first things in wrestling that comes up when you get a tattoo is that you have to back up the tattoo. It makes you look tougher so, if you get a tattoo, you have to be tough. But we knew he was.”

Baldridge said that it was something of a family affair when it came to getting inked.

“I went and got the tribal for my 18th birthday. I’ve been wanting that since I was 14,” Baldridge said. “My dad’s best friend has a bunch of tribal on and I always thought it was really cool. When I went and got my tattoo, my dad [Tim] went and got one on his ribs.

“That was the skull I have on my arm, except his has different colored eyes. I love the skull because it has G2 [Gilbert Grappling] in it which is the other place I wrestle out of.”

Thus the skull on his right shoulder.

“I went back two weeks later. I conned my mom [Jenny] into getting a tattoo and I didn’t tell her I was getting another tattoo and when we were there till 12 at night and I told the guy I wanted one and was there until like three in the morning,” Baldridge said.

While the outside can be dressed up however an individual may want, it’s what’s on the inside that matters most when in comes to wrestling.

“He’s [Kenny] put in so much time into it. He’s a kid that came along slow. I told his dad, since their goal from the beginning was to be a state champ, is that it is a process,” Lanning said. “You start out an undersized 103 pounder, 106 pounder and then he gradually grew his freshman year and proceeded to get better and better. Then as a senior I knew he was going to have a chance to win it. I knew at the beginning of the season that he had a good shot at it. There’e only been so many times that I’ve been able to say that we had a shot at having a state champ like that.”

• T.G. Smith is the sports editor of the Morris Daily Herald. He can be reached at tsmith@shawmedia.com.