Linton returns to coach WHS wrestling team

Zach Linton, right, gets words of wisdom from his brother and coach, Cody Linton, before competing on the wrestling mat at a 2018 NAIA National Championship Tournament. (Rory Linton/Courtesy photo)

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Winters’ own Cody Linton is returning to his hometown to take the reins as the Winters High School wrestling coach. The wrestling program itself took a hiatus due to the pandemic, but this former NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) national wrestling champion is ready to kickstart it back to life and show the world what Winters wrestling is all about.

A hometown kid through and through, Linton wrestled all the way through high school. After ample amounts of blood, sweat and tears shed on the mat as a Winters Warrior, Linton ascended to wrestle at the collegiate level at Cumberland University in Tennessee for four years. There, he was a two-time all-American and was ranked fourth and then second in the nation before getting injured in his fourth year.

Linton opted to redshirt the following year and transfer to Doane University in Nebraska to finish his collegiate wrestling. After knee surgery from the aforementioned injury, it was back to the mat with fellow Winters Warrior Jesse Hellinger as his coach for his final year. The finals tournament resulted in Linton being crowned the NAIA national champion for the 197-pound division — a title he won on a broken ankle.

Winters High School graduate Cody Linton won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship in Topeka Kansas. Linton is the son of former Winters residents Rory and Theresa Linton, now living in Tennessee. He got his start wrestling in the Winters Wrestling program. (Rory Linton/Courtesy photo)

“I had a lot of offers for full-ride scholarships from around the country, but when I got an offer from Jesse, I asked myself, ‘why would I go anywhere else,’” Linton said explaining how his roots in Winters wrestling paid off. “We grew up wrestling together in a chicken coop out there on Allendale Road. Fifteen years later, we’re in the national finals and he’s coaching me. The whole thing was surreal. I’d say wrestling at WHS helped build a strong, resilient character that carried me through my successes.”

When Linton was done competing, he delved into coaching his younger brother for the next four years where he’d also fight his way to becoming a two-time all-American.

In 2021, Linton moved back West and worked in construction for a bit. His passion for competition, however, was far from dormant.

“I asked myself, ‘what am I doing?’ I missed wrestling and fighting. And I’m buddies with Urijah Faber (a well-known UFC fighter from Sacramento), so I got into coaching at his gym with Team Alpha Male,” said Linton. “I was actually supposed to go coach at Jesuit High School when Daniel Ward called me and asked if I could coach at Winters. I just figured it out and accepted because I also want to be a teacher here in Winters, too.”

Beyond having a national champion as the head coach, the WHS wrestling program is coming back in a big way. Linton is excited for his 11 fresh, young athletes with half trying their hand in wrestling for the first time. Regardless of the relative skill levels, Linton is already impressed by the work ethic and effort his squad has displayed so far in their workouts.

For now, Linton’s focus is re-establishing the WHS wrestling program and culture. That means taking December to train his squad hard and get them ready for league competition in mid-late January rather than going to numerous tournaments beforehand. Daniel Ward, WHS athletic director, is more than happy to have Linton back to revitalize the program.

“COVID hit our wrestling team harder than any other program and I am beyond excited to be bringing it back after a three-year hiatus. None of this would be possible without the hard work of Cody Linton and Andy Gomez,” said Ward. “I am thrilled to have someone of Cody’s knowledge and expertise to lead our wrestling team. It is even more special that he is an alumni of WHS and loves this school and the Winters community. I can’t wait to see what he is able to do with this program not just this year, but in the years to come.”

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