Wrestling program draws Vegas athletes

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BU wrestlers prepare for NAIA National Championships

The saying goes “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but there is an exception to that, even in Baldwin City.

Thirteen of the 52 wrestlers on the Wildcats’ roster reside from the state of Nevada, with seven of the 13 wrestlers coming from Las Vegas and five of the remaining six from Henderson, Nev., which is about 20 miles away from Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas area, and the state of Nevada in general, is well-known for Mixed Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting Championships, and that has helped increase the talent level of high school wrestling in the state.

“Wrestling in Vegas is really special because it is one of the main places where all of the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts go down and a lot of guys that do stuff like that start off with wrestling and then try to go into fighting,” junior Jarid Price said. “They have to learn how to wrestle to be good at fighting, so there is a lot of wrestling in Las Vegas because of that. The reason a lot of people leave Vegas is because there is no actual wrestling program for college, like, for us. There is just (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) and (College of Southern Nevada) and they are those old-time wrestling programs, so it was really good for (head) coach (Jimmy) May to open that window of opportunity.”

May is one of the most renowned high school wrestling coaches in the history of high school wrestling in Nevada. He won 18 4A regional championships and 10 state titles while coaching at El Dorado High School and in 2008, May was named to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his accomplishments during what many Nevadians refer to as the “Dynasty in the Desert.”

May started the Baker wrestling program three years ago and has led the team to a No. 7 ranking in the nation going into the national tournament March 1-3.

Part of what has helped the Baker wrestling program rise as quickly as it has is because of the recruits from Nevada that May has been able to bring to BU because of his connections.

“Once you recruit kids from a certain area that does well, obviously it makes it easier to recruit from that region,” May said.

Junior Brandon Gebhardt, who resides from Sparks, Nev., is the only BU wrestler from Nevada who is not from Henderson or Las Vegas. Gebhardt has carried over his success as a two-time state champion in high school by qualifying for the national tournament the past three seasons.

With recruits such as Gebhardt and Dylan Berg in 2009 and Jarell, Jarid and Cole Price in 2010, May has been able to firmly establish his Nevada recruiting connections.

“I first heard about (May) my freshman year of high school, and I heard of his accolades and what he had done with El Dorado way back in the day,” Berg said. “My sophomore year of college, I heard that he had started a program and that he had left, and I decided that I wanted to transfer from the school I went to first. The first thing that popped into my head was Coach May.”

As May and BU wrestlers from Nevada continue to help the Baker wrestling program compete with the top-ranked teams in the nation, there is one thing that is for certain.

What happens in the Baker wrestling room, transpires partially from what has happened in Vegas.

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