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Baker named coach at Minnesota West

Paden Moore hugs his coach Randy Baker after winning a state championship (Photo/The Guillotine)

One year after announcing his retirement from a 35-year high school coaching career, Randy Baker has accepted the head coaching position of the wrestling program at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, the two-year school in Worthington, Minn. announced this week.

The 64-year-old Baker had retired as head coach at Jackson County Central High School in July 2018, but had served as the program's assistant coach this past season. Baker will be replacing Bryan Cowdin, who stepped down at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

InterMat once referred to Baker as being "one of the brightest wrestling minds around."

Washington Globe sportswriter Doug Wolter wrote that Baker is "one of the most well-known and most decorated high school coaches in the state."

Baker's new boss, Minnesota West men's athletic director Bob Purcell, described his new wrestling coach as "an ambassador to the sport of wrestling."

Baker launched his coaching career in 1984, serving at a number of prep programs in southwest Minnesota, culminating at Jackson County Central. In that time, Baker guided 14 teams to Minnesota state tournaments, resulting in seven state team titles. In addition, Baker coached 39 individual state champs.

For all his accomplishments as coach, Baker earned many honors, including the Augustana (University) Hall of Fame (his college alma mater in South Dakota), Jackson County Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota chapter. He was Man of the Year for USA Wrestler Magazine, National Developmental Coach of the Year USA Wrestling, MN USA Coach of the Year and USA Region Coach of the Year.

"The hire of Baker brings to Worthington a molder of state high school team and individual champions who now hopes to rejuvenate a local college program that has seen better days," Wolter wrote in his announcement of Baker taking the helm at Minnesota West.

"At first, I wasn't very interested (in the MW position). I was really ingrained in the program at JCC," Baker said upon accepting the position at Minnesota West. "The thing that concerned me most was the possibility of losing the West program. That's what really motivated me, to start with."

"If you're teaching things that help 'em get better, they're going to buy in," Baker said Thursday. "I've had kids that wanted to work because of that internal drive -- they wanted to get better. And I think sometimes in this world you get some who want it to be easy. They want a re-set button. But they never get a re-set button on their opportunities. Sometimes, too, a lot of people don't know what they're capable of doing until they're committed to something."

"I haven't been this excited in a while. The challenge is to get kids in here who you can work with," he said. "I've learned some stuff over a long career."

Minnesota West -- formally known as Minnesota West Community and Technical College -- is a two-year public community and technical college with five campuses, including one in Worthington, home to the Bluejays wrestling program which competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

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