WAKE FOREST — Jakeitha Baker paces back and forth behind the Broughton wrestling teams bench, stepping from side to side, hands on hips.
Dressed in all black, except for a pink Nike swoosh emblazoned across the front of her sweatshirt, Baker stands focused, eyes straight ahead, sweatshirt hood up, before the match. Once on the mat, its all business, pinning the opponent in a minute, 50 seconds.
Im just a wrestler, she said after the 145-pound weight class victory.
In the stands, spectators from other schools take notice, pointing out to other onlookers that there is a girl, over there, wrestling for Broughton High.
Baker, 17, is not the only high school girl to wrestle in North Carolina, the Triangle, Raleigh, Cap Eight Conference, or even on her team. She is, however, one of the best. Pound-for-pound, she was ranked the the second-best female high school wrestler in the state by retrorankings.com.
Baker said she began wrestling at age 7, and has won 11 national titles 10 in girls competitions and one in boys.
When I first started, boys didnt really want to wrestle me, I guess because they didnt really know that I could really wrestle, she said. When I got more into it, it was like they had to come with their A game because Im a pretty good wrestler.
Baker, a senior, hopes to compete in the Olympics. She finished 5-0, her season cut short by eligibility issues during the first semester. She wrestles against boys in high school, but will join a womens team at the next level.
She has signed to wrestle for Campbellsville University, a Kentucky school which finished sixth among 18 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics teams in the Womens College Wrestling Association championship last month.
Also a boxer and cross-country and track competitor, Baker said she has always been aggressive. She began wrestling under the tutelage of her father, Keith Baker, who wrestled at Murray State.
Personality-wise, shes got a lot of energy, Broughton coach Andrew Redfern said. Shes a funny girl, charismatic. In the mat room, she probably has the best technique out of any of my wrestlers, which says a lot. That goes back to her dad coaching her.
Shes been wrestling a long time. As far as physicalness, shes not strong, but she has heart and shes mean. Shes just as mean as any boy or young man that Ive ever seen on the mat, and she doesnt quit.
Baker was the first girl Redfern coached, but her presence has helped him and other wrestlers male and female grow in the program.
Thank goodness she was already where she was at when I got her, Redfern said. Ive had more girls come out now and its getting easier, especially having her in the mat room with them and its kind of like they learn from each other.
Jakeitha is probably one of the main reasons in this area that girls are starting to come out and see that its OK if we try this.