Pinning, winning, and grinning.
That's all Dalton Ishmael knows. The North Baltimore senior has recorded more pins than any wrestler in the history of Ohio high school wrestling.
On Saturday, Ishmael's latest victim gave him the record with 144 career falls. He pinned all three of his opponents in his 195-pound weight class at the Perrysburg Invitational Tournament, finishing with the record-setter in the final against Brady Claython of Perryburg in 1 minute, 54 seconds.
The 6-foot-2 intimidating force bumped up his career record to 164-14. All but 20 of those victories have come by pin.
“I'm always looking for a pin. I've always been a pinner,” Ishmael said. “The reason why I get so many pins is that I am physical and technical. I'm aggressive with them. Others can't inflict the pain that I do.”
This season Ishmael is 32-0 with 31 pins. And only three of his matches have lasted longer than the first period. He pinned his first foe Saturday in just 15 seconds.
“He's a phenomenal kid,” North Baltimore coach Jesse Thomas said. “Dalton is a pinner. When he puts you on your back it's over. I've been around wrestling for a long time, and I've never seen someone consistently dominate and not let them make it out of the first period. He's done it against state qualifiers and state placers.”
Ishmael himself is a two-time state placer. He finished fifth as a sophomore at 189 and was third at the Division III state meet last year at 195.
Ishmael, who aspires to be a dentist, has a 4.0 grade-point average. He has received interest to wrestle in college from Ohio, Kent State, Maryland, Arizona State, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, and several Ivy League schools.
“The best part is that he is humble about it,” Thomas said. “He's confident and he's a natural leader. Every coach wishes he had a kid like Dalton.”
Ishmael found himself on the other side of the coin — on his back looking up desperately at the ceiling — in the state semifinal when he was pinned by Rootstown's Garrett Linton in the first period. He went on to pin both of his next two opponents to finish his junior season 50-1.
That lone setback cost him a shot at his ultimate goal. Now every opponent must face a relentless, singled-minded focus.
“There's a lot of motivation,” Ishmael said. “I had so many nerves last year. He caught me in a move I wasn't ready for, and he capitalized. It really sucked. But it's helping right now. I don't want that feeling ever again. It makes me work even harder.”
Ishmael said he entered his senior season knowing he had a shot at breaking the career pin record set by Derrick Bendau of Mayfield Village Mayfield in 2003.
“That puts him in an elite class of wrestlers,” Thomas said. “You look at that list and it is ridiculous how many good people that are on that list. There are multiple state champions on there. And that is his ultimate goal. He has all the tools he needs to get there.”
But Ishmael called the record “just a bonus.”
“I don't want to dwell on that state record because I really am focusing on the state title right now,” he said.
Ishmael, who is seeking to become the first North Baltimore wrestler to win a state title, is already the highest place winner in school history.
He has excelled in football and baseball at the small Wood County school — located about halfway between Bowling Green and Findlay — that has an enrollment of just 82 boys.
As a running back/linebacker he earned All-Midland Athletic League and all-district second team honors after rushing for 670 yards. As a center fielder, he earned All-MAL honorable mention.
But Ishmael grew up with wrestling in his blood. The son of former North Baltimore coach John Ishmael, Dalton said he has been around the sport since he was in diapers. His older brothers Derek and Wade also wrestled. Wade was a state qualifier at Oak Harbor.
“I've been around it my whole life,” he said. “I'd watch my brothers. When I first started to walk, they'd put a football in my arms and tackle me. I did what they did. I started competing when I was 4. ”
“They taught me a lot,” Ishmael said. “They still come up and I wrestle with them.”
He also credits NB assistant coach Brian King who has been his wrestling partner since Ishmael was a sophomore.
“He pushes me hard,” Ishmael said.
Ishmael, who is solidly built, said he prefers wrestling on top. He also admits to not always being the strongest man on the mat.
“Even if they are more strong, I am more physical,” he said. “I make them feel the force and show them I'm here to wrestle. I don't go through the motions.”
The highly respected Brakeman Report predicted Ishmael would win the state title last year. In it the author said Ishmael “is like wrestling a stick of dynamite with a very short fuse.”
Ishmael said he favorite moves are the slide by single and knee pick that he often sets up with violent head snaps. The quick pins save his body wear tear and allow him to reserve energy. He said hearing the ref's hand slap the mat and the roar of the crowd never gets old.
“The feeling is always so good,” Ishmael said. “When I go out there, I'm not messing around. I am going for the pin.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.