NORMAN, Okla. — Mark Cody, the reigning national college wrestling coach of the year, has been named the head wrestling coach at the University of Oklahoma. He succeeds Jack Spates, who retired from the position following the 2011 season, his 18th with the Sooners.
Cody, who comes to OU after nine years at American University, led the Eagles to a program-best fifth-place finish at the recently completed NCAA Championships. The team produced three All-Americans after qualifying six for the tournament, while also posting a school record 3.48 grade point average.
“The wrestling community has watched Mark Cody do remarkable things with his teams at American,” said Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Athletics Director. “He has maximized limited resources to take a program that was once struggling and transform it into one of the strongest in the country. Along the way, he has earned the respect of his peers as not only a great program builder, but an outstanding teacher and leader.
“We have watched Mark’s work and spoken with a number of people in the profession who are familiar with him. He is held in very high regard and has proven his ability to operate a program at an extremely high level.”
Cody said it was tradition and the people of the Sooner state that attracted him to the job.
“I think back on Tommy Evans, Stan Abel, Jack Spates and the other men who coached there and I really appreciate the tradition they established,” Cody said. “It’s a responsibility to take that over, but it’s also encouraging because it’s a school that appreciates and expects success.”
Two stints at Oklahoma State taught the New York native all he needed to know about Oklahomans.
“People make the place and I have always loved the people in Oklahoma,” he said. “I lived there twice and always felt they were some of the nicest people in the world.”
Recent improvements at OU’s wrestling facility caught Cody’s attention and said things like the upgrades at the Port Robertson Center send a strong message.
“The improvements to the facilities indicate a commitment to the sport and that’s something that has a great impact on recruiting,” he said. “The cupboard is full there in terms of the resources and I look forward to getting started.”
Cody’s work at American has been impressive. He took over the program just after it had been dropped and then resurrected. Just 4.5 scholarships were available for seven wrestlers. Finally, in 2005, the Eagles broke through with their first national qualifiers. It went on to post top 25 team finishes in the NCAA Tournament from 2006-2011. In 2008, American added wrestling as only its third fully-funded sport.
“People thought I was crazy when I took the job, but we always had a plan for recruiting, fund-raising and running the program,” said Cody.
Some $180,000 were raised in the programs first year and that total has risen to nearly $1 million over the length of Cody’s nine seasons.
Now he can look back on a tenure that included the school’s first national champion, 14 All-Americans and 16 NCAA qualifiers (all since 2005) and 21 academic All-Americans.
Cody came to American after spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. He helped OSU to a Big 12 Championship and a fifth-place finish at the 2002 NCAA Championships. In addition, the squad earned recognition from the NWCA as a top-25 academic team, and two were named Academic All-America by the NWCA. Nine were also named to the Academic All-Big 12 team.
Before joining Oklahoma State, Cody served as the upper-weights coach for 12 years at the University of Nebraska. During that time, he was responsible for bringing in some of the nation’s top recruiting classes, including national champions Tolly Thompson (Hwt.) and Brad Vering (197). Vering later became a two-time Olympian with Cody in his corner.
While Cody was at Nebraska, 23 Cornhuskers were named All-America, including Rulon Gardner, who later captured the heavyweight gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Cody spent the 1986-87 season as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. He was also an assistant at Bloomsburg University during the 1985-86 season and for the University of Missouri in 1984-85.
As a student-athlete, Cody was a three-time All-American. He spent two years at the State University of New York at Delhi before transferring to Missouri in 1983. His greatest success came during his senior season, 1984-85, when he earned All-America status and was named the team’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Cody still ranks in Missouri’s single season top-10 for falls (17) and winning percentage (.875). He graduated from Bellevue University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business.
A member of the New York Athletic Club, he was a 198 lbs. finalist at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials.
A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Cody and his wife, Holly, have three sons, George, Charlie and Henry.