By Eshan Singh and Alex Carder, Staff Reporters Conestoga has a new wrestling coach, and he has brought some new energy to the mat and changes along with it. Gary Baker, replacing Tom Elicker, who stepped down last year, is now having practices run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Last year, practices were immediately after school. As...
By Eshan Singh and Alex Carder, Staff Reporters
Conestoga has a new wrestling coach, and he has brought some new energy to the mat and changes along with it.
Gary Baker, replacing Tom Elicker, who stepped down last year, is now having practices run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Last year, practices were immediately after school. As a coach in the Conestoga Youth Wrestling Association, which develops wrestlers from grades K-8, Baker was an attractive option for Conestoga’s wrestling team. There was a problem, however: Baker has a full-time job as a portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch.
“One of the requirements for me to take the position was that we would have to alter the practice schedules to accommodate my work,” Baker said.
As a result, practices are now in the evening, after his workday is done. Baker thinks the wrestlers have adapted well to the change in scheduling.
“They understand that with evening practices, when they get home, they have to do any schoolwork early, so they can come back with a clear mind for wrestling practice,” Baker said. “Then by the time they get home, it’s probably time to settle down and get ready for the next day.”
Senior and four year varsity wrestler, Hayden McLellan appreciates the change in the practice schedule, enjoying time to relax after a long school day instead of immediately having to go to practice.
“He knows a lot about (the sport). He’s done it for way longer than I’ve been alive,” McLellan said. “He’s done it at the highest level. He’s just amazing.”
Under Baker, the wrestling team has had an impressive 8-1 record, a significant improvement from its 13-7 finish last year. Baker’s philosophy is to achieve small goals that build up into large successes.
“We focus on winning each position. If we win every position in the sport, we’ll win matches. If we win matches, we’ll win championships,” Baker said.
Baker has greatly increased the intensity and energy of the wrestlers. His team now wrestles at a higher speed with many more decisive attacks. Under his leadership, the team aspires to have multiple state place winners and be invited to the District Duels tournament for the first time.
“Walking into our wrestling room will look no different than walking into a Division I college wrestling room,” Baker said, “But our goal is to make sure we finish our takedowns… if we do that everything else will take care of itself.”
Eshan Singh can be reached at [email protected]
Alex Carder can be reached at [email protected]
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