Baker entered 2011-12 with similar expectations at No. 15 nationally, but the team wasn’t sure it was even the best in the state of Kansas. That all changed on Jan. 29 when the Wildcats claimed the 2012 Kansas Cup Championship, a tournament featuring the top wrestling programs in the state of Kansas.
“Our guys knew all along that this needed to be a total team effort,” said Baker head wrestling coach Jimmy May. “Our program took some big steps this season, but winning the Kansas Cup ranks right up there at the top.”
Baker finished ahead of nationally ranked Labette County (NJCAA) and Fort Hays State (NCAA DII). Following the Kansas Cup, Baker went on to finish fourth in the NAIA Central Region. 184-pound Jarid Price became Baker’s first-ever regional champion at the event.
Heading into the 2012 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, coach May was confident the Wildcats would make some noise.
“I knew Brandon Gebhardt and Jarell Price would make some noise for sure,” May said. “Brandon made it all the way to the championship match before getting pinned by a guy that should be wrestling at the NCAA DI level.”
May was referring to Grandview’s heavyweight Eric Thompson, the same Eric Thompson that transferred from Iowa State University to Grandview while holding down a 9-6 all-time record with the Cyclones in NCAA DI competition. Thompson closed out his sophomore season against NAIA competition undefeated.
149-pound senior Jarell Price managed to claw his way to a fifth place finish via wrestlebacks, while 184-pounders Robert Shadrach and Jarid Price each took home respective finishes at seventh and eighth place to grab All-American honors.
“Jarell is one of those guys that is irreplaceable,” May added. “He’s definitely going to be remembered in the history books when it comes to our program, it was his second consecutive season as an NAIA All-American."
Baker also closed out the season with six nationally ranked wrestlers.
141-pounds: Joel Olivas – No. 12
149-pounds: Jarell Price – No. 5
165-pounds: Nathan Sommer- No. 11
184-pounds: Robert Shadrach- No. 7
184-pounds: Jarid Price- No. 8
Heavyweight: Brandon Gebhardt- No. 2
As a team, Baker closed out the NAIA National Tournament at No. 11, but finished ranked No. 9 in the final 2012 NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll. View the final poll here.
Academically, Baker also excelled as juniors Jacob Nowak and Joe Pace were named NAIA Scholar-Athletes. In order to be nominated by an institution’s head coach, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status to qualify for this honor.
“All of our guys should be very proud of the success we had this season,” May added. “We look to continue to build as a program and push towards our ultimate goal of bringing home some national champions.”