HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Coker College has named Michael Baxter as its head wrestling coach, Dr. Lynn Griffin, vice president of athletics and athletic facilities, announced today. Baxter becomes the second coach in program history.
“We are very excited to have Michael join the Coker family,” said Griffin. “He brings a wealth of experience, passion and a proven record of success to Coker. We look forward to watching Michael build on the academic and athletic success that our wrestling program has earned over the last three years.”
Baxter comes to Coker after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Mercyhurst University. During the 2016 season, Baxter helped guide the Lakers to an 11-4 record, including going 6-1 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play. Nine wrestlers earned All-American status, with 125-pound Willie Bohince finishing second at the NCAA Division II National Championship. Off the mat, Mercyhurst had nine wrestlers named National Wrestling Coaches Assocaition (NWCA) Scholar All-Americans and as a team the Lakers had the second highest grade-point average in the nation, with a 3.350 team GPA. There were also two wrestlers, Bohince and Augusta Mizia, named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District at-large team.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead and coach at Coker College,” Baxter said. “I want to thank Dr. Wyatt and Dr. Griffin for giving the me the chance to take the helm of the Coker wrestling team. Coker has done a fantastic job of building a program that is competitive athletically, as well as academically. I am confident with the group of student-athletes we have here, along with the vision of our leadership and administration, that Coker wrestling will continue to improve and compete at the highest level on and off the mat.”
Baxter, a native of Sandusky, Ohio, wrestled for the Lakers for two seasons before injuries derailed his athletic career. Over his two seasons, he compiled a 41-23 record, including a stellar 29-14 mark as a freshman.
The 29 victories he recorded as a freshman are tied for fifth in program history by a rookie. He also led the Lakers with ten victories by fall as a freshman, which is also tied for fifth in program history in a single season. He missed qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Championship by one place after finishing fifth at the NCAA Super Region 1 Tournament.
After having his wrestling career cut short due to injuries, Baxter stayed on with the program as a student assistant coach during his junior and senior seasons. Over his two seasons on the Laker bench, Mercyhurst has posted a 28-9 record in duals, including a program-best 15-3 mark in 2012-13. The Lakers also won the first-ever Division II PSAC Championship in 2013-14.
Baxter wrestled at Perkins High School in Sandusky, earning third- and seventh-place finishes at the State Championships during his career.
A 2013 graduate of Mercyhurst with a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, he also earned a master’s degree in exercise science from Mercyhurst in 2014.
He assumes command of a Cobra wrestling team that has produced three national qualifiers, seven NWCA Scholar All-Americans and the program’s first-ever All-American in 2016, Austin Akins, in just three seasons.