Cody Garcia takes over as head wrestling coach

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The sixth season of wrestling at Baker University will feature the program’s third head coach. Coy Garcia, formerly the head coach at Bethany College, will take over for Pete Di Pol.

This will be Garcia’s second season as a head coach after taking over the head job at Bethany for the 2014-15 season. Prior to last season, Garcia served as an assistant wrestling coach for the Swedes for three seasons. Last season Garcia took Bethany to the NAIA national championships. The Swedes finished 20th with an individual runner-up in Cody Crank and an All-American in Victor Hughes.

Not all of Garcia’s coaching experience comes from the NAIA, however, as he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska Omaha. In his only season as a coach at UNO the Mavericks won the NCAA Division II national championship. This was the program’s seventh national title.

Garcia’s college wrestling career was full of accolades. Garcia won team national championships at Nebraska-Omaha in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. He was an individual national champion in 2006 and 2008, a national runner-up in 2010, and finished third in 2009. He recorded an astounding record of 147-18 in his college career, including 48 wins as a senior, which was the second highest in school history. Garcia was an All-American four times and an Academic All-American four times.

Garcia’s roots trail back to his high school days in Hutchinson, where he was four-time state participant and a three-time state champion. He helped the Salthawks, coached by his father Mike, to the Kansas 6A state championships in 2002 and 2003.

Garcia inherits the No. 14 Baker Wildcats after another strong season in 2014-15. Baker had five national qualifiers and three All-Americans including sophomore Mike Andreano, junior Bryant Guillen, freshman Juan Rivera, and 2014 133-pound NAIA national champion junior Bryce Shoemaker.

Junior Alex Ekins is currently working in Japan on a U.S. naval base as a facility manager for the Aquatics Department of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Even from across the globe, Ekins heard the news about his new wrestling coach and liked the decision.

“The new coach looks promising,” Ekins said. “I’m going to miss coach Di Pol and all that he did but I’m looking forward to working with Coach Garcia this upcoming season.”

Di Pol took over the head coaching position in April of 2013 and replaced Baker’s first wrestling head coach, Jimmy May. Under Di Pol Baker crowned its first individual national champion in program history when Shoemaker won the 2014 NAIA national championship.

Junior Josh Thomas was also encouraged to see the news of the addition of Garcia.

“I really look forward to wrestling for coach Garcia,” Thomas said. “I’m excited to have such a decorated and seasoned wrestler as a coach and I think it will be very good for our team.”

Last season Thomas wrestled at 157, 165, and 174-pounds. His best win of the season was in the team’s first home dual against Bacone College. Thomas was the second match of the night and won 12-3 en route to Baker’s 35-6 victory.

“I look forward to another successful season Baker wrestling season,” he said.

The Heart of America Athletic Conference did not get any easier on the wrestling side this year either. The conference has added last year’s national champion, Grand View. The Vikings not only won the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championship but have won the last four. When you add No. 1 Grand View with No. 7 Missouri Valley College, the conference will pose as a challenge for Garcia in his first season.