BALLSTON SPA – There is someone out there who is faster and stronger and has moves that are more difficult to combat.
That’s Tyler Barnes’ firm belief, and the motivational force behind his impressive wrestling win streak that reached 70 matches Wednesday night.
“There’s always someone better,” the 175-pound senior said. “There are good guys out there. Got to keep working.”
Sweat and toil have taken Barnes far, to heights never seen by a Ballston Spa wrestler before. He became the high school’s first state champion in the sport last February, and with his 70 consecutive wins, shows 212 in his six varsity seasons. He won the state title at 170 pounds last year.
Barnes hasn’t lost since his sophomore year in the Division 1 consolation semifinals of the 2016 state tournament. He received a forfeit win afterward to finish fifth in New York, a result that began his streak of victories.
“I lost in the quarters, and then won back until the consolation semis,” Barnes said. “I still had a lot to work on.”
So he did, adding to a grappling arsenal he began building at the age of 4.
“I knew he was going to prepare himself after that loss,” Ballston Spa coach Harvey Staulters said. “He went to Journeymen. He went to our club. He made himself better.
“He was our best wrestler as a seventh grader, and it’s continually growing.”
Barnes rattled off 41 wins last season, and is 28-0 this season with Wednesday’s 48-second pin of Shenendehowa’s Matt Moran. He won four times at the Saratoga Invitational last weekend, and prevailed eight times at the Mountain Duals before that, when he reached 200 career victories.
“The main thing I try to do is pin them as fast as possible,” said Barnes, who also played football for the Scotties. “In eighth grade and ninth grade I did one or two moves so that was harder to do. Now I have a lot more.”
Some wins, the 3-time Section II champion said, have been a struggle.
“At the Eastern States last year, in the quarters and semis, I was down in both and came back and won,” Barnes said of the event he will return to today and Saturday as one of the defending champions. “In those situations, I have my mind on the clock and know I have to score points.”
“He’s got another gear when he’s behind,” Staulters said. “He can take it up another notch.”
Barnes has scored points this year in the 170, 182, 195 and 220-pound weight classes.
“It doesn’t faze me,” said the humble 12th-grader. “Whatever it takes for the team.”
Barnes wrestled at 195 Wednesday in what Staulters described as a strategic move.
“With the ability he has, it doesn’t matter,” Staulters said of Barnes, a North Carolina State commit, moving up in weight class. “He’d go 285 and beat everyone one of them, too.”
Barnes’ win Wednesday was part of a comeback that led to a 37-35 win against the Plainsmen. The Scotties wrapped up their second straight Suburban Council North Division championship with the victory.
“He [Barnes] is very much into our team and wants the other guys to do well,” Staulters said. “He is a little more vocal during our matches than he used to be. He is coming off the bench now and rallying the other kids. I could hear him [Wednesday]. For his success it requires others to have success.”
Before his matches, Barnes will step away and find a place for some solace. He is a picture of calm before he goes to the mat and remains cool through the traditional handshake. Once the whistle blows, though, he is all action and intent.
“He is different than a lot of wrestlers,” Staulters said. “He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but behind those eyes, he’s got it figured out. He never gets overexcited, just focused.”