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07.05.11 | Athletics

National Spotlight

1.31.11| Wrestling

Andrew Hurla looks to close out senior year in style

Andrew Hurla and Coach May

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – Baker wrestler Andrew Hurla has seen it all in the world of NAIA wrestling.

Hurla was a member of national championship teams at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., before he realized something was missing. Originally from Shawnee, Hurla couldn’t resist the opportunity to return two years ago to his home state when Baker announced it would add men’s wrestling to its athletic program. Hurla was among the first recruits for Hall of Fame coach Jimmy May in 2008.

“Starting out with nothing after being at Lindenwood was a pretty unique experience,” Hurla said. “There aren’t many people that can say they helped build a wrestling program from scratch.”

In just two seasons, the Baker wrestling program has transformed into one of the top programs in the state of Kansas. The Wildcats placed second at the 2011 Kansas Wrestling Cup on Sunday at Fort Hays State University. The Wildcats defeated No. 14 Fort Hays (NCAA Div. II) before falling to No. 4 Labette Community College (NJCAA). Baker currently has 26 wrestlers qualified for the NAIA wrestling national championships, set for March 3-5 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Baker has yet to lose a dual meet and currently ranks 26th nationally in the NAIA wrestling coaches’ poll.

“I’m in my twilight here at Baker,” Hurla added. “We have a real unique problem in that we’ve qualified 26 guys for nationals but can only take 12 for competition. Not many schools have problems like that.”

The Wildcat coach has a solution, though. Each Baker team member will vote for the top 12 wrestlers they believe should represent the Wildcats at nationals.

“I think having the input from our kids will be a huge help when it comes to narrowing down our list for nationals,” said May. “All these kids know the role they’ve played in getting us to the point where we can start to hang our hat on being a part of the national landscape.”

Hurla himself is coming off the best performance of his college career, taking first place at the York Invitational in the 157-pound weight class.

“It was the first time I’ve won a tournament since high school,” Hurla said. “I think if we can get a few all-Americans and finish in the top 20 at nationals we’ve had a pretty successful start in just two seasons as a program. Myself and Levi (Calhoun) are the only two seniors on this team. The foundation they have heading into the future looks pretty bright.”

Baker will return to action at 6 p.m. Friday when they host Hastings College at the George F. Collins Center.

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