Focused From the Cradle, A Bulldog Locks On to Success

KHS junior Bailey Martin earns Class 1-District 4 Wrestler of the Year honors

Kearney, Mo., March 15, 2024: Bailey Martin isn’t worried about what comes next.

Ms. Martin is a junior at Kearney High School and a member of a Bulldog Girls Wrestling team that is steadily building a formidable legacy of success. The girls earned a repeat state championship last month. Martin tore through the competition, pinning every opponent at the district and state tournaments on her way to the Missouri Class 1 title at 105 pounds.

This week, Martin learned that she was named the Missouri Class 1-District 4 Wrestler of the Year by the Missouri Wrestling Coaches Association. She was also invited to compete in the Rogue Border War, an all-star dual between the best girls in Missouri and Kansas on April 19 at Avila University.

During an interview this week in a sunlit meeting room at the high school’s central office, Martin just shook her head when she tried to explain her success. She credits the expertise and guidance of her coaches and the innumerable hours of learning skills and physical training to reach her peak.

Ultimately, Martin tries to let that all go when she’s facing an opponent on the mat.

“I don’t really think about what my opponent might do next,” she said. “That just sets you up to make the wrong move and get pulled into a cradle. I train a lot and trust my instincts. Coach Ward will say something after a match about how I made a good move and I’m like, ‘Wait, I did that?’ I don’t even know.”

Martin has put in the proverbial 10,000 hours to reach that level of Zen-like focus. She started wrestling in first grade and eventually realized it was the activity that she truly loved.

“I mean, I did dancing and other sports, and none of it stuck,” she said, chuckling. “Wrestling was the one thing I really wanted to do.”

KHS Girls Wrestling Head Coach Nick Ward – who earned the state coach of the year recognition last year – described Martin as humble, focused and the “centerpiece of our program.” She exemplifies what can happen when a young person finds their passion and has the support to grow.

“I’ve witnessed the transformation of a girl with a ton of determination and guts who didn’t think she was worthy to becoming a highly decorated dominant force in Missouri Girls Wrestling,” Coach Ward said. “I won’t heap too much praise on her as she does not enjoy the spotlight or extra attention. What Bailey has accomplished in her three years at KHS is remarkable. Her state tournament run was one of the most dominant complete performances I have witnessed in my coaching career.”

Even though wrestling is considered an individual sport, it takes real teamwork to build the kind of record and reputation that KHS has accrued, according to Martin. She spoke highly of the winning attitude every teammate brought to the district and state tournaments.

“We need every girl to wrestle at their very best every time to win a state title,” Martin said. “Even keeping yourself from being pinned can make that one-point difference that we needed this year. That attitude becomes infectious and we all start working harder.”

Martin is looking forward to taking a leadership role on the team as a senior next year. She’s also taking care of business in the classroom. Every afternoon, Martin tutors third-graders at Dogwood Elementary to earn A+ program credits that will eventually cover the cost of a community college education. She plans to major in occupational therapy, which was inspired by her experience with her father, who is a quadriplegic.

“I want to help people like my dad have lives and careers that they love,” she said. “That’s what’s next for me after high school.”