He may not be from the mecca of NCAA wrestling, he may not even be from a state in the argument, but Campbell University freshman Domonic Baker is out to prove there’s a path to the top from Virginia.
“What’s the best wrestling state?” is more debated amongst the NCAA fanbases than “Who’s the greatest fighter in MMA history?” amongst MMA diehards. Every state feels they’re in the mix whether they’re “slept on” states or in the conversation, but it tends to boil down to Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey.
Virginia seemingly comes within inches of rubbing shoulders with both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and yet very little of the magic wrestling dust seems to make its way down to Old Dominion.
Domonic Baker of Campbell University knows firsthand the struggle of thriving in wrestling with Virginia roots.
“It’s definitely harder because you have to seek out the competition to get better,” Baker said. “I grew up going to Virginia Team Predator, which is the best club in Virginia, and they allowed me to get to that next level and get to college.”
In addition to the satisfaction of singlehandedly conquering opponents that wrestling brings, one of the driving forces behind Baker’s hard work is not necessarily a solo mission to put Virginia on the map, but to show the wrestling youth of the area it’s time they put a chip on their shoulder and ask, “Why not us?”
“I was dedicated to the sport and wanted to prove everybody wrong about Virginia and about where I grew up,” Baker said. “You can make it. You can do big things, and I’m still proving that today.”
Baker undoubtedly has the will to be great and the grit to excel in the most exposing and demanding sport out there. If a pitcher’s mound is known as “the loneliest place on the planet,” ask a wrestler to explain the center of the mat. Baker has proven just by being where he is today that he’s on the shortlist of top-tier wrestlers, but is that good enough for him?
“Starting in college as a freshman is a good goal, but I see it as more of a steppingstone,” Baker said. “I’ve got way bigger goals than just starting on a D-1 team. I would love to be Campbell’s first National Champion; I’d love to All-American this year. There’s a lot that goes into it and I’m just getting started.”
Baker is on track thus far to do just that, with a hefty amount of work still to go. A large amount of the workload has fallen directly on his shoulders, but in the early years of the journey, Baker wouldn’t have been where he is without the support of his family.
“Luckily for me, I’ve got a great family that supported me and allowed me to get to every tournament I needed to and get to practices and whatever else there was,” Baker said. “As much as the wrestler is wrestling that match, the parents are wrestling that match, too. I can come off the mat after a stressful match and see it on my mom’s face that she just wrestled a match. I know they’re feeling what I’m feeling right now. They’re going to back you up 100% and I think that’s something else that’s totally different from other sports.”
Baker is in arguably the toughest weight class in the NCAA, but he has the confidence, work ethic and support system to climb as high as he wants to. Graduation is a long way away, but it’ll be fun to see how far Baker makes it between now and then.
The journey begins on UFC FIGHT PASS.
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