PAHS grad Young earns spot at D-II Nationals
ERIE — One-hundred-and-forty-four wins. Four-time District IX champion. Sixth-most wins in D-IX history. Most wins in Punxsutawney history by more than 30.
During his wrestling career at PAHS, Kody Young put together a laundry list of achievements, and he recently added another at the next level: Qualifying for the NCAA Division II Wrestling National Championships as a freshman at Mercyhurst University.
The National Championships will take place Friday and Saturday at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Young said one of the things that motivated him this season was one of the few goals he had set but never reached at PAHS: Placing at States.
"It was a goal of mine from the start to qualify for this tournament," he said. "Especially since through high school, I made it to states but never placed. That made it even more of a goal of mine and gave me more determination to make it on this level."
Young is one of the products of a wrestling program that has seen much growth over the past decades, but his training started at an early age, as his father is Buddy Young, one of Punxsy's wrestling coaches.
"It was definitely nice having my dad as one of my coaches," Kody said. "But the whole way up through the program, from Bill Burke at the junior high level, I had good body coaches, who really helped push me."
Another thing that Young points to as a reason for his successes beyond the high school level is the fact that his coaches were more than wrestling coaches to him. They were life coaches, as well.
"In high school, coach (Chris) Albright and coach (Eric) Eddy were always there for me, wrestling-wise, and as far as life in general goes," he said. "Even my freshman year, when I didn't make it to states, they were both there to help me understand and deal with it and to push me in the room. They taught me I needed to work even harder to reach that level."
Now, Young will be wrestling on the highest level of Division II competition, and he has plenty to prove. But he said that doesn't change the way he approaches his preparation.
"It's pretty much the same routine," he said. "I work out a few times a day to stay in shape, but you do have to be careful not to push it too hard to risk any injuries."
As a freshman, Young finished with a 32-11 overall record to lead the Lakers in individual victories.
Young will join a pair of Mercyhurst teammates, senior Fred Hale and sophomore Ryan Bohince.
Hale is making his second appearance at the national tournament, but Bohince is in the same boat as Young, taking this in for the first time.
Young has high hopes going into the tournament and expects a lot out of himself, as any wrestler at this level must enter the tournament with hopes of being crowned All-American, but he did admit that just reaching this level was an achievement to be proud of.
"It feels pretty good to get it off my back and reach this level," Young said. "But I'm looking to place this year and then that'll motivate me to make it back the next few years, too."
Young placed third in the 133-pound bracket at the Super Regional I tournament to qualify for the National Championships after falling via 5-3 decision to the king seed, Newberry's Matt Oliver in the semi-finals.
Young then won a pair of contests in the wrestle-backs, including a fall over the tournament's No. 3 seed, Shippensburg's Cody Myers, to cement his place at nationals.
While he hopes for good results, Young said he'll do what he can on this trip to take it all in, as he hopes the experience will benefit him in the future, as well.
"It'll definitely make me appreciate it and want it even more," he said. "It makes me think I should make it in the years to follow, and that will push me to work harder to prepare."
In Friday's opening round, Young is slated to face Tiffin freshman Stephen Pastor, who is 9-11 on the season and qualified out of the Super Regional II.
The tournament opens at 9 a.m. EST with the first session, and the second session, which includes first and second round consolation bouts will begin at 4 p.m. Friday.
Saturday, action begins at 8 a.m. with the consolation brackets concluding, and the championship finals are set for a 5 p.m. start Saturday night.
For anyone interested in cheering Young on — along with his parents Buddy and Amy and brother Kaleb, who is currently a member of the Punxsy junior high wrestling squad — and following his progress at the tournament, live video feeds and live statistical updates will be available both days on NCAA.com, according to Mercyhurst's Web site.