When Belton athletic director Brady Hammond needed a new wrestling coach, he knew he wouldn’t have to look high and low for the right candidate.
The search began and ended in the Pirates’ wrestling room.
Belton announced last week that Jeremy Baker, an assistant wrestling coach the last two seasons, has been promoted to head coach. Baker replaces Cody Newman, who is stepping down after two seasons of coaching both the wrestling and baseball teams.
Belton also announced the hiring of Chandler Wilson to coach boys’ and girls’ cross country.
Baker, a native of Blue Springs, was an assistant coach for seven years at Blue Springs High School, where he was a four-year letterman and part of the 1999 Class 4A state championship team his senior year. A three-year letterman at Nebraska, Baker has also worked with the Missouri USA Wrestling Cadet and Jr. National teams since 2005 and has coached on the USA National team.
“His fellow coaches respect him so much,” Hammond said. “Coach Newman saw how great he was and said, ‘Man, I would love for him to be the head coach eventually.’ His credentials and everything he represents just fits what we were looking for perfectly.”
Baker and Newman, in fact, were both finalists for the head wrestling coach job when Dustin Brewer left to coach at Liberty in 2016.
Newman led Belton to a fifth-place finish in the Class 3 state tournament last season and a sixth-place finish in 2017. Andrew Gamble (160 pounds) and Robert Weber (170) became the first two-time state champions in Pirates history last season, while Joe Biondo (152) also won a state title.
Newman has coached wrestling and baseball since 2009 at Belton, and he’s been the Pirates’ head baseball coach since 2014. While he still plans on helping with the wrestling program, Newman said he wanted to focus on coaching baseball.
He also hoped that Baker, or one of the other assistant coaches, would get a shot at running the wrestling program.
“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to lead this program the past two years but I also knew that I could not stay in the role long-term,” Newman said. “I am very happy with this hire by the school district and I know Coach Baker will be a great leader for our kids and our program.”
Belton will be the first coaching job for Wilson — a Trenton, Mo., native, who is currently a senior at Pittsburg State University. Wilson competes in the heptathlon and pentathlon for the Gorillas track and field team.
“We really liked her passion and her enthusiasm for working within the school system and developing a relationship with kids,” Hammond said. “She’s going to be a great fit as well.”