By Vic Milani Author of our Vic’s Corner blog articles
For Ohio University senior wrestler Cody Walters, every match is an opportunity to prove what he’s made of. Walters has been proving what he is made of since he was 6 years old. The journey to greatness began under the guidance of the legendary St Peter Chanel High School wrestling Coach Graham Coghill’s Firebird Youth wrestling program at Chanel.
“The best part about wrestling is it’s all on me,” said Walters, a senior in The Patton College Physical Education Teacher Education Program, at Ohio University. “If I lose, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. But when I win, it’s all on me. I love squaring off against another opponent and battling to see who wants it more, who put in the most work, and who’s willing to give it all to win.”
Walters has certainly won more than his share of matches throughout his career. The Macedonia, Ohio, native had a tremendous high school career at St. Peter Chanel, where he was a Division III state champion in the 160-pound division in 2011. A three-time All-American and a Junior National runner-up, he graduated with 171 wins and just 21 losses.
Walters enrolled at Ohio University and discovered that collegiate wrestling wasn’t the same as wrestling at St. Peter Chanel. He had to wake up at 5:40 a.m., run, lift weights, and hit the mats.
“It felt like my body was hurting 24 hours a day,” said Walters, who wasn’t accustomed to the aggressive, sometimes brutal, nature of college wrestling. He redshirted as a freshman and credited head coach Joel Greenlee, ex- assistant coach Kyle Hansen, and former assistant coach Quincy Osborn for working with him and helping him develop collegiate mat skills all his own.
“Without them,” said Walters, “I wouldn’t have had near the success I’ve had in college.”
Walters has had plenty of success! Walters, whose nickname is Junk Yard Dog, is a self-described “funky wrestler” – has become one of the top wrestlers in the country. He has won three MAC Championships in the 174-pound division, was an All-American as a freshman, and – despite being injured – wrestled at nationals as a sophomore and junior. He is 87-11 overall, going into his redshirt senior year.
Cody’s father Jason Walters, a former assistant coach at St. Peter Chanel, and now an assistant coach at Nordonia High School, gave his son some great advice. “If you can avoid being taken down, escape from the bottom, and ride everyone on top, you’ll be very hard to beat,” Walters said. “I took to that advice, and that’s exactly how I wrestle.”
Said Greenlee, “Cody has been a joy to coach since arriving at Ohio University. He is a kid that just wants to win. It doesn’t matter how.
Greenlee said Walters’ training used to be “run of the mill” but that he’s now “one of the hardest workers on the team, if not the hardest worker.”
That work ethic hasn’t been limited to the mat. As a teacher candidate within the PETE program, Walters maintains a 3.42 GPA and usually spends between six and nine hours a day going to classes, teaching, and doing homework – in addition to the four to five hours a day he spends training during the season. He has also taught wrestling camps at Appalachian State, Aurora High School, and Brecksville High School, showing moves to wrestlers ages 5 to 18.
“It can be a bit overwhelming,” said Walters, “but I just try to manage my time, and not overload my schedule”. Cody’s father Jason, who is the Service Department Director for the Village of Northfield, is his son’s biggest fan, and biggest critic. The father and son talk frequently about what went right, and wrong, after matches. The elder Walters pull no punches with his son, but the bonding of the two is amazing. The pride that Jason Walters has in his son is apparent when talking to him. Jason marvels at Cody’s intelligence and GPA of 4.0. Kiddingly, he says that the intelligence part of his son didn’t come from him. Anyone that has known Jason Walters, as I do, knows exactly where the grit, toughness and determination do come from. The elder Walters at 6 feet, 300lb (before lunch,) is a monster of a man, with a 62 inch chest. Jason to this day, gets on the mat with his Nordonia High School heavy weight wrestlers and gives them fits. Cody’s mother and #1 cheerleader, Michelle, and Sister Amanda, a champion equestrian rider in her own right, are equally just as proud of Cody. The family attends as many matches as time and travel allow. Jason has missed only ONE of Cody’s collegiate matches ever. A communications and travel glitch prohibited Jason from attending a tournament in Reno Nevada. Quite a remarkable feat for the close knit Walters family!
With one more season of eligibility remaining, Walters hopes to win a fourth MAC title and a national championship.” I have desired to be a NCAA national champion since the first day that I arrived at Ohio University”.
“As an incoming freshman, it was very challenging for me to adjust, but once I got it down, I loved every second of it,” said Walters. “I knew if I didn’t learn to love the grind that it would eventually beat me down until I couldn’t get back up. That’s why I feel so blessed to have an amazing family, friends, and coaches supporting me. They’re always there for me and pushing me to be the best I can be.”
Walters, who enjoys fishing and hunting, would like to make a run at the 2016 Olympics. He also hopes to pursue a master’s degree in sports administration and one day becomes an athletic director.
But for now, Walters is looking forward to this senior year and making the most of it, hopefully free of the injuries that have sometime plagued him in college.
On December 30th, Walters, now a redshirt senior and returning All American, added to what is already a very impressive resume. The Bobcat was the first ever athlete from Ohio University to win the prestigious Midlands Title. Walters defeated the top seeded Alex Mayer from Iowa, 7-0, to advance to the finals against a familiar foe, Jonathan Schlefer from Princeton, who had beaten Walters earlier this year at the Navy Classic Tournament. Walters soundly defeated Schlefer 1-0. Walters was on the offensive attack all match long, not allowing Schlefer to score a point. Walters improved his record to 13-2 on the year so far, and is currently ranked seventh in the country in the 174 pound division!
“If Cody continues on the path he is on,” said Greenlee, “there is no doubt he will win his fourth MAC title and become an NCAA champion.” Cody would like to follow in the footsteps of another St. Peter Chanel graduate, Ohio State All American and former NCAA Champion, J. Jaggers. Jaggers is now an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Walters and Jaggers, close family friends, spent many years exchanging moves and techniques in NE Ohio gyms growing up. All the years spent in the gym, weight room, and sacrifices that have been made, have paid big dividends for Macedonia resident Cody Walters, our HOMETOWN HERO!!
By Vic Milani Author of our Vic’s Corner Blog Articles
Thanks to Ohio U Compass for assistance in the story