Mark Cody may have come from a university that's almost four times bigger than the town of Clinton, S.C. itself, but he feels right at home.
Cody moved to Clinton to become director of Presbyterian College's new men's and women's wrestling programs. He had made quite a name for himself in the world of college wrestling before deciding to leave coaching a couple of years ago. The opportunity at PC was the right one for him to make his return to college wrestling.
"If I were going to get back into coaching, I wanted to be affiliated with a college that has the kinds of values that Presbyterian College has," Cody said. "You only have five years to mentor these young men and women, so I want to be able to maximize their potential. Having a supportive administration backing the program and the process is a big plus.
"My goals are still the same here as anywhere I've been. I want to build an elite program from top to bottom."
A proven track record
Build elite programs is what Cody does.
At American University, he resurrected a wrestling program that was almost down for the count. He led American to five top-25 finishes and produced 14 All-Americans and the school's first-ever national champion. Before that, Cody led the University of Oklahoma to four top-13 finishes, produced 10 All-Americans, three national finalists, and two national champions.
Building elite programs also means building programs that emphasize academics. PC's academic reputation is one reason Cody came to Clinton.
"I like to recruit kids who are very motivated in the classroom," Cody said. "I tell them you're not coming just to wrestle. Your education is #1."
Cody's American University team earned the highest GPA in Division 1 wrestling two straight years. They had the second-highest GPA another year. Six Oklahoma wrestlers earned Academic All-American honors one year Cody was there. That was the most in the nation.
PC's emphasis on developing the total student-athlete is a perfect fit for Cody's philosophy.
"If there's a kid who comes in who's a bit of a risk, he'll jump on board with the guys who are doing well academically," Cody said. "It's just like wrestling. If there's a guy working hard in the wrestling room, the other guys will pick up on that.
"The classroom is the same way. You have to keep that environment."
Serving the Community
Cody does more than produce athletes who excel on the mat and in the classroom. He serves as a good example for them by serving the community too.
When he was at Oklahoma, Cody and his team visited elementary schools to talk to students about bullying. Cody noticed that it was happening in Norman and was shocked at how often he saw stories about bullying on the news. Cody has four sons in elementary and junior high and wanted to help raise awareness of the issue.
"The guys on my wrestling teams would talk about how tough the sport of wrestling is," Cody said. "It's a very tough sport, and they're very tough guys. But they're nice guys and nice people when they come off the mat. They respect their opponent.
"We wanted to send the message across that these are the toughest guys walking on our campus, but they're also the nicest guys."
The wrestlers spoke to the elementary school students about being a kid and being considerate. They gave students "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" bracelets as part of the anti-bullying campaign. Cody plans to do the same at elementary schools in Clinton.
Big-time college wrestling in South Carolina
Cody is excited to bring men's and women's wrestling programs to Clinton and to South Carolina. The Blue Hose women's team will be the first in the state. The men's team will be only the second Division 1 team in South Carolina. The Citadel is the only other school with a D1 wrestling team.
"Folks in the community and the high school coaches are really excited to have another D1 program in the state," Cody said. "I think we'll get a really good following pretty quickly."
The Blue Hose grapplers will compete in the Southern Conference.
"We're facing schools with great wrestling traditions like Appalachian State, Campbell, Tennessee-Chattanooga, VMI, and The Citadel," Cody said. "There are some really solid schools. We're excited about getting in there and competing against them."
The first match
The men's and women's teams will begin competing in the 2019-2020 season. The Blue Hose wrestling program will find a home in downtown Clinton until a facility is built on the PC campus.
Cody is looking to build the PC program the same way he built the national-contending program at American University.
"At first I just wanted to get us at least recognized," he said. "I really pushed the quality of education you could get. Because we didn't have a lot of tradition, I had to push my experience as a coach."
The first Blue Hose wrestlers
Cody is currently recruiting his first PC wrestlers. He's looking for wrestlers at PC the same way he recruited those at American.
"We got kids who were hard-working kids in the classroom and hard-working kids on the mat," Cody said. "We got good people too. We wanted to make sure that we got the right kind of people in the room that everybody could relate to. When you're on the mat, I want you to destroy your opponent. When you get off the mat, I want you to be a kind, considerate person.
"It'll be like American University times two. We're excited about building men's and women's programs here in Clinton."
Presbyterian College is located on a 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take an individual interest in their students' well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit www.presby.edu.