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Wrestling starts season with new head coach

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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A new season for the Baker wrestling team also brings a new head coach. Cody Garcia signed on to become Baker’s new coach following the departure of Pete DiPol.

Garcia comes from a coaching position at Bethany College, which has had immense success in the last decade. He wants to take the culture he learned and helped form at Bethany, and bring it to Baldwin City.

“Coming from a program that won five national titles in seven years, you start to see the things needed in place to be successful,” Garcia said. “To this school and this community, it is very important. That was something that was stressed to me as I came in.”

Garcia is aware of the reputation the Baker wrestling program has built in just six years since its inception.

“The cool thing about a relatively new program is that the guys have a lot of ownership in the development of this program,” Garcia said. “With the way they have thrived, it’s important to build on that early success.”

Even with the Wildcats’ No. 15 ranking last year, as well as having five national qualifiers and three All-Americans, the team will see some changes.

“If you allow change to be a good thing, it can create an awesome experience, and everyone can buy into this new thing,” Garcia said. “I brought some guys along with me that already know the direction I want to take this program, and when you put those two things together, it’s pretty impressive to watch these guys mesh.”

The Wildcats have competed in two open tournaments, starting with the Dan Harris Open on Nov. 2, when freshman Zane Baugh kicked off his Baker career with a first-place finish at 133 pounds. Also, seniors Connor Middleton and Trevor Sutton took second place at 165 and 174 pounds, respectively.

This past Sunday, the Wildcats wrestled in the University of Central Missouri Open and placed six wrestlers. Baugh finished second at 133 pounds, Middleton and Kyler Atwood placed third, Nick Moore and Juan Rivera placed fifth, and Colby Watters sixth at 141 pounds.

“(Baugh) has really impressed me,” Garcia said. “He has made the finals in two straight open tournaments, winning the first one and finishing second in the last one. He has transitioned from high school to college wrestling really smoothly.”

He also talked highly of Middleton and Sutton.

“Connor has put on great performances,” Garcia said. “He’s trying to make a statement as he finishes off his career, same as Trevor, as they’re both finding ways to win and putting on great matches.”

Garcia’s short-term goal for the team is simply to keep improving.

“I just want to win the day,” Garcia said. “From my side, I want to make sure I’m not getting complacent. And if we find ways to make the most out of each practice, and impact others, we’ll be where we want to be.”

He also holds his athletes to a high standard outside of wrestling.

“My expectations are not limited to the product we put out on the mat,” Garcia said. “I think this school gives us the opportunity to have success on a lot of different levels.”

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