Baker signs with Central Methodist Women’s Wrestling
It wasn’t enough for senior Rylee Baker to be one of the first, because she became the best.
Fulton’s all-time leader and three-time state medalist signed to wrestle for NAIA Central Methodist University in a ceremony Friday at the Fulton High School library. She is the first female wrestler to sign for the university in the brief history of Fulton’s program.
Baker is coming off a senior campaign where she finished fifth in the 120-pound weight class at the state championships and graduates with 156 wins, making her the all-girls wrestling program record holder.
Coach Tyler Payne says Fulton’s women’s wrestling program started four years ago and Baker was there from the start. Since then, she has been a “cornerstone” of the program and her leadership by example leaves the program in great shape as she embarks on its next chapter.
“She’s really helped the girls’ program,” Payne said. “She was definitely making history for us – a lot of things the girls are going to look up to.”
A great example of Baker’s courage and dedication can be found most recently in February at the state championships, when Baker was vying for a state medal on a healthy leg. Baker had injured her knee in practice to take her off the mat in the two weeks leading up to the state tournament.
It was a game-time decision whether Baker would be able to go, Payne said, but she was able to step onto the podium in her final season despite not having her full repertoire available. Baker lost her opener but has won four of her last five fights, including a 2:12 win over Liberty’s Julia Breeden in the fifth-place match.
“She really couldn’t do anything she wanted to because of that leg, but she was still able to place herself,” Payne said. “It’s a big problem.”
Now heading to Central Methodist, Payne said Baker should do well given what he’s seen from his work in training with trainer Clay Caswell and his competitive background.
“She’s very dedicated,” Payne said. “Wrestling is a blue collar sport, and you have to work at it. She definitely does it day in and day out. She has this killer instinct. That’s what really takes it to the next level.
Central Methodist’s wrestling program is three years old. The women’s program has had an All-American wrestler and an all-conference wrestler in the Heart of America Athletic Conference — both in 2021.
“The sport has really grown, especially at the college level,” Payne said. “The scholarships are there, so a lot of these women have the opportunity to go to the next level. We have someone coming out of our program and I hope that gives some life to our young girls in the program and if they want to do it they have a goal to achieve.