Baker enters the season with four individuals ranked nationally in their respective weight classes. Sophomore Josh Haugen (Claremore, Okla.) is ranked No. 8 in the 133-pound weight class, senior Jarell Price (Las Vegas, Nev.) is ranked No. 6 in the 149-pound weight class, junior Nathan Sommer (Parker, Kan.) is ranked No. 8 in the 157-pound weight class, and junior Brandon Gebhardt (Sparks, Nev.) enters the season at No. 12 as a heavyweight.
“We are expecting continual improvement,” said head wrestling coach Jimmy May. “Having two All-Americans last season set the bar for those who will follow.”
Following the Dan Harris Open, the Wildcats will head to the Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open for one last tune-up before their dual in Iowa City against the University of Iowa, one of the most elite NCAA wrestling programs.
“Wrestling the University of Iowa would be comparable to our men’s basketball team playing against the University of Kansas,” May added. “I’m excited for our guys to experience something like that. It will definitely have a positive impact on our program.”
The Wildcats have also been invited to the NWCA-Cliff Keen National Duals in Springfield, Ill., on Jan. 7-8.
“This is a very prestigious event for our young team to be invited to,” May said. “We will be facing some of the top NAIA competition at this event.”
NAIA schools participating in the event include, No. 2 Campbellsville (Ky.), No. 18 Cumberland (Tenn.), No. 13 Dakota Wesleyan, Dickinson State (N.D.), No. 5 Grand View (Iowa), No. 20 Jamestown (N.D.), No. 3 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), No. 6 Midland (Neb.), No. 9 Missouri Valley, No. 10 Morningside (Iowa), No. 7 Montana State-Northern, No. 19 Shorter (Ga.), No. 1 Southern Oregon, and Waldorf (Iowa).
Along with the Kansas Cup at the end of January, the ‘Cats will also be hosting three duals against No. 8 Oklahoma City University on Feb. 1, Bethany College on Feb. 8, and Newman University on Feb. 15.
“We’ve definitely come in with a different approach this year schedule-wise,” May said. “We’re going to challenge our guys so they’ll be ready to go for the NAIA National Championships in March.”
View the full 2011-12 schedule here.