Baker University announced Thursday the addition of two new athletics programs to the Baldwin City campus. Women’s wrestling and men’s bowling will be the 21st and 22nd sports added to Baker in the fall of 2018.
The last sports to be added to Baker were women’s bowling and men’s wrestling in 2010. Before the addition of these two teams, the university debated an athletics addition in 2008 between four teams. The teams considered in 2008 were wrestling, women’s bowling, women’s lacrosse and men’s volleyball.
In order to keep up with Title IX regulations, one women’s sport and one men’s sport must be added together.
The teams will be coached by Baker athletic staff that already have a background in the sports. Baker men’s wrestling coach Cody Garcia will continue to coach the men’s team while coaching the women’s team in the fall. Longtime women’s bowling coach Cheryl Keslar will coach the men’s team and the women’s team.
In the Heart of America Athletic Conference, there is currently one school with women’s wrestling. Missouri Valley College is one of the founding programs to have women’s wrestling and hosted the first Women’s College Nationals in 2004. The Vikings finished first as a team at the 2004 Nationals.
There are currently 15 women’s wrestling programs in the NAIA, including the Vikings. The Baker women’s wrestling team, along with all collegiate women’s wrestling programs at NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA institutions are governed by the Women’s College Wrestling Association.
Another program close to Baker that hosts women’s wrestling is Ottawa University. The Braves committed to adding women’s wrestling in 2014 and have continued the program through 2017. This season, the Braves have recorded five wins in duals and placed 8th out of 45 teams at the Missouri Valley Invitational. Since its start, the Ottawa women’s wrestling team has doubled in size totaling more than 20 members on the current roster.
The women’s wrestling team will be coached by coach Garcia inside the wrestling room with the men’s wrestling team inside Mabee Hall.
Sophomore David Dow went to a high school that had a few women wrestlers on the team and is excited to see what the team can do not only in competition but for the popularity of the sport at Baker.
“Having a women’s wrestling team will definitely get wrestling here at Baker more recognized and hopefully gain more supporters of our program,” Dow said. “Also, having both genders participate in this sports should give wrestling a more positive outlook here.”
While Missouri Valley is still the only Heart team with women’s wrestling, there are already five schools in the Heart conference that have men’s bowling. These schools include Clark University, Culver-Stockton University, Grand View University, Mount Mercy University and William Penn University.
While the men’s bowling team may seem new to current students, a men’s bowling program isn’t new to Baker University. Baker originally hosted a men’s bowling program from 1963 until 1982.
The Baker women’s and men’s bowling teams plan on practicing together in their home training facility located at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence.
Former bowler and now team manager Mackenzie Mitchell is excited to see the benefits that can come with the addition of a men’s bowling team. Mitchell previously bowled at Olathe South high school before attending Baker University and built great friendships with the men’s bowling team, something she hopes continues with the current team.
“In high school, you build that relationship and bond,” Mitchell said. “You’ve always wanted that with somebody else.”
There is also a difference in placement during Sectionals when it comes to schools with only a women’s team, compared to schools with both. Mitchell says the addition of the men’s team allows for Baker’s teams to have a better place when it comes time for Sectionals.