Gold is the only goal in mind

A man on a mission.

A drastically overused phrase.

But it sums up Dove Creek senior Cole Baughman perfectly. He is on a mission.

The day was Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. The time was somewhere around 7:45 p.m. He was in the spotlight but it wasn't his night to shine.

With the score tied at 2-2 starting the third period, Baughman saw his dream of gold shattered by giving up the next five points.

So close. A state wrestling silver medal serves as a reminder of that unfulfilled quest.

Cole Baughman's mission is now 369 days long. He's back in Denver with only one goal - gold.

He remembers with an eerie vividness that final match. Every move, every missed opportunity, every point and every ounce of disappointment.

The anguish and torment of last year - two minutes away from a state title. He remembers seeing the right arm of Adam Baca of Rocky Ford being raised. Then there was the podium, when the gold medal was placed around Baca's neck.

There really isn't anything overly dramatic about this mission for Baughman. A simple but lofty quest.

"I've been working this year to try and get one step better," he says.

One step higher on the podium.

"Everyone wants to be a state champion, so last year has been the motivation for me."

Nothing motivates more than losing; unless maybe the fear of losing.

Baughman fears little when he's on the mat. His coach, who's also his dad, sees a great wrestler now.

"Cole is wrestling with so much confidence and he's taken his wrestling to another level," Shane Baughman says.

Now the quest is the highest level on the podium.

"His takedowns are just dynamite right now and that's usually where championships are won," he says.

Like Albert Einstein taking an arithmetic test, Cole sliced through the Class 2A Western Regional 132-pound division with incredible ease. It was a workmanlike effort. Just another step in his mission.

After tucking away his first-place medal from regionals, Cole's thoughts were again focused on state and last year.

"I never want to feel anything like that again," he says.

Like a demented loop, those haunting memories of Feb. 18, 2012 play over and over in Cole's head.

But he doesn't mind. It motivates him. It fuels his desire and determination.

Last year, Cole was at 120 pounds. This year he's at 132 pounds. He's transformed his body. With beefy, powerful shoulders, chiseled biceps, he brings a more muscular presence to the mat this year.

"I've been lifting really hard. I've always had pretty good technique, but I felt like some of them (opponents) were stronger than me," he says.

Confident but not to a fault. He knows one missed step and the gold is gone - like last year.

"I know I can't do little stupid things in a tough match," he says

Shane says they have worked on everything, including the specific mistakes Cole made against Baca. Shane talks about the two or three things that cost Cole the title match last year. Shane battles a slightly different torment. It's the torment of a coach, the agony of a father who watched his son come so close to state wrestling's highest achievement.

Cole is prepared for any situation that arises on the mat. And that breeds confidence.

"Confidence is 90 percent," Shane says. "You have to have that kind of confidence and have a little bit of the 'nobody's going to beat me' attitude. That's what you need."

Cole has that but he knows overconfidence could drive a stake through his dream. One loss now and the quest for gold is done.

Cole has only lost twice and neither were from Colorado.

Cole's focus is as powerful as an eagle at lunch time. But there's just one thing that's missing from his mission.

There will be no rematch with Adam Baca, who is ranked No. 1 at 126 pounds.

"I would love to go after Baca," Cole says without a smile.

It would be the ultimate rematch. The ultimate chance for redemption. And Cole thought about trying to shave the pounds down to 126 to have a shot at his rival from 2012.

"I tried to cut, but it was just too much to cut."

So Cole will go for the 132-pound title and enters today's state tournament as the No. 1 seeded wrestler in the weight class.

Confident and focused - the quest has begun, the end of the mission is in sight.

Gold is the only goal. On Saturday night, 371 days after seeing his dream shredded, Cole Baughman hopes to get another shot.

A mission with only one satisfactory outcome.

Cole has the silver medal and he's not looking for silver linings. He wants gold.

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