Baumgartner excels despite hearing loss with ‘feel’ for matches
Carter Baumgartner’s wrestling matches always get Highland Park coaches out of their seats and flailing their arms — but not because of excitement.
By rule, coaches typically are confined to their mat-side seats during a match, limited only to verbal instructions with no physical gestures. But what happens when their protege can’t hear them?
Athletes with profound hearing loss are relatively common in wrestling. But not many opponents can compete with Baumgartner, regardless of any limitations or impairments.
The Highland Park senior is aiming for his third consecutive appearance at the state tournament this winter, with a goal of a first podium finish.
“Carter has had to develop a sixth sense for having this feel of what needs to happen during a match,” said HP head coach Tim Marzuola. “He can’t depend upon his coaches to tell him what to do. The most difficult thing is being aware of the time and score.”
He’s been in the sport for nine years, after switching from soccer when his father — a former high school wrestler himself — encouraged his involvement in a youth program.
“I liked it a lot, especially the coaches and the atmosphere. I’ve made a lot of friends through wrestling,” said Baumgartner, who wears hearing aids when he’s not wrestling. “I like the hard work and the drive.”
Baumgartner wrestled at 113 pounds in his first two years with the Scots before bulking his lean frame up to 126 pounds last season. He has started his senior campaign at 132, and was unbeaten in his first few tournaments.
“I was worried in the beginning because I didn’t know how strong they were going to be,” he said. “But it didn’t turn out to be that bad.”
Marzuola said Baumgartner’s tenacity and leadership have provided valuable examples for the younger wrestlers on the team. He won 46 matches last season and has more than 100 victories in his career.
“Carter is the guy with the most experience and has had the most success over the last couple of years,” Marzuola said. “His skills are exceptional and he’s worked really hard.”
Baumgartner admits he was disappointed by losing his first two matches at the Class 6A state tournament last year, but that has added motivation for his final run at state.
“This is probably going to be my last year of wrestling, so I’m trying to make every day count,” Baumgartner said. “I have that opportunity. I just have to take it one match at a time.”