Despite frustrating season, Coach Baxter and Firebird wrestling eye future success


Photo: Gabe Berlean

Freshman, Nevan Snodgrass, and senior, Alex Burger, prepare for upcoming matches by running drills.

By Gabe Berlean, Sports Writer

During a rugged season of battling on the mats for victory, the Firebird wrestling team fought through injuries and sickness. This team of new, upcoming prospects and experienced seniors teamed up together for the program.

The 2017 season for the Firebirds has not been an elementary course, wrestlers have not been able to put points together at meets, due to the team’s inexperience and lack of depth, because of key injuries.

The inactive list has held wrestlers like freshman, Nevan Snodgrass, who suffered from skin issues and has been recovering from an ankle injury that happened over the summer. Senior, Alex Burger, has dealt with a torn ACL and MCL which has affected his season since he still has not gotten surgery for it. Senior, Ben Smith, had a torn labrum and still suffers with shoulder problems. Senior, Cade Ball, is suffering from a dislocated elbow.  These injuries have impacted the season and team excessively. Frank Baxter, the wrestling coach at Fairmont, has had to change the way he is instructing each teammate.

“They’re some elite wrestlers, some very good wrestlers, and a lot of young kids, that makes planning practice and helping each kid a little bit different.” Coach Baxter said.

Training for the team is essential, they work hard on getting their team in the right shape and prepared for any kind of intensity of any match. GWOC is a big tournament that the team looks forward to to competing in.

Five wrestlers placed in the top six in their weights. Wrestlers like Nevan Snodgrass, Mark Kimbrell, Alex Burger, Michael Maas, and Gavin Fogel were the successful athletes at the GWOC tournament.

Senior Mark Kimbrell and Freshman Nevan Snodgrass both received invitations to the toughest high school wrestling tournament in the USA according to, the Walsh Jesuit Ironman near Akron. Snodgrass (weight class 145) won every match he had by pin, technical fall, or major decision which led snodgrass to his first All-GWOC title and being named East Division Wrestler of the meet. Mark Kimbrell (weight class 182) went 3-2 at the tournament before being eliminated in round 12.

Although, enduring rough challenges throughout the season, the wrestling program still seems to good students-athletes for Fairmont.

“Staying true to the program, we try to make good champions on and off the mat, and I think we have achieved that this season.” Coach Baxter said.  

After the season being rigorous, Coach Baxter thinks that they have met their standards. The team has worked together and bonded. Athletes like Nevan Snodgrass, new wrestler on varsity, tried to get more involved with the team with teammates Alex Burger and Mark Kimbrell. Burger has been Snodgrass’s drill partner throughout the season and has helped Snodgrass improve and feel more comfortable on the team.

Athletes on the wrestling team have different jobs and responsibilities to give their part for the Firebird program. If these jobs are not done or not done correctly, then things like team bonding between teammates and enhancing skills on and off the mat can not be done.

“My role on the team is to make it a fun aspect and give everyone an equal opportunity,” said senior, Alex Burger, realizing his job for the varsity wrestling team.

Having a coach like Frank Baxter, jobs get done to where it benefits the team and the season. Alex Burger (weight 152) has really impacted the season for the Firebirds.

Not only has he done well in his matches, going 27-8 with 10 pins, he has really helped out the team as well as potential star, Nevan Snodgrass.

“Snodgrass is a worker, a great kid, and he started to wrestle really well over the year,” says Coach, Frank Baxter on Snodgrass’s work ethic.

After Nevan Snodgrass’s first year of experience on Varsity, he expects next year to be ten times better. He likes his team and can see a lot of good work happening next year once they get more experience. Snodgrass has been up against very skilled opponents that have been ranked, and has fulfilled his expectations and more going 26-5 with 15 pins.

Wrestling has been a big impact in Snodgrass’s life. He has been deeply involved in wrestling. In Nevan’s past, he has gone to state three times through middle school and won Nationals once in eighth grade. He has been known as an upcoming successful wrestler for the Fairmont program.

“I can clearly see that Nevan is going to be a leader for the program, he is a special guy,” said Baxter.

The new wrestlers added into the program have been putting in a lot of hard work. Teammates like Alex Burger and Nevan Snodgrass see potential in the upcoming seasons for the program. Coach Baxter has worked a lot with new athletes on the team this year to get them into shape. He is looking forward to the junior class of wrestlers and keeping his head and mind on the new teammates coming onto the team.

After a “frustrating” season, Baxter still ended up with good outcomes. He had 5 athletes sent to districts in Columbus to compete. The Firebirds ended up with 2 athletes winning sectional titles in their weight classes. Other teammates won top five and four finishes which moved on the athletes to District Championship.

Freshman, Nevan Snodgrass, won his first districts for Fairmont and moved onto state with senior, Mark Kimbrell.

But after all is said and done, Coach Baxter is already directing his focus towards the future with the off-season coming quickly.

“Looking into next season, we have to take each group of athletes and put them on their right paths,” Baxter said.