I met Cody Downing as a Senior in high school. It was at the state wrestling tournament and I was competing in the consolation semifinal round, for things did not go well for me in the semifinal round against Cole Pape from Maquoketa. Pape had a Russian Tie that I was able to make about as much sense of as the Russian language. Anyways, when I exited the building after the semifinal round, I glanced at the mat in which I would be wrestling the guy who won. It appeared as if the guy I pinned first round was winning big, so all night and all morning the next day, I was mentally prepared to wrestle that guy…all the way until I stepped on the mat for my consolation semifinal match… The opponent I was expecting did not step on the mat with me. For a second I wondered if I had gone to the wrong mat. “What happened? I swear the guy I beat first round was winning big…how did he lose?” I thought to myself. Well…I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was about to find out via experience what happened there….
I scored the first takedown. Rode him out the rest of the period. Almost landed a cradle. I felt pretty good. My first impression was that I was going to be ok in this match. My opponent obviously knew what he was doing (this was a placing round) and had a good sense for it, but it just seemed like he couldn’t match my strength, for I was a Senior and the difference between my opponent and I seemed to be a physical maturity thing. He just seemed younger than me (and he was). Only difference. 2nd period began and I almost had another takedown that went out of bounds. After that, I remember thinking to myself, “damn Josh…learn to hit these shots in the center.” 2 seconds later, I was staring at the lights, fighting for dear life to get off my back…My attempt was unsuccessful. The ref called the pin and I remember looking to the bleachers and seeing this sea of red fans just going crazy. Jumping up and down in an excitement-induced frenzy. This mystery opponent pinned me with a left-sided headlock that he was so notorious for being good at, that many people who knew him, coined the headlock, “ol’ Lefty.” I had never been thrown in a headlock in my entire life. Never in a match, never in practice. Never. And it happened to me in my last ever high school tournament…state. The irony was that it was a left-sided headlock, a move I was notorious for using a lot myself. In fact, I made it to the semifinals with two pins, both from left-sided headlocks. This guy beat me with my own move.
It wasn’t until after that round that I found out that I had wrestled a guy named Cody Downing, from Creston.
He and I lined up next to each other at the Grand March… .” He talked to me about his wrestling journey to that point. As sour as I was about losing to him earlier, this guy was literally so nice that it’s kind of unfathomable to harbor any sort of a grudge about the loss. Nice as hell. I talked to him the entire Grand March and awards ceremony. Very nice person.
Fast forward 2 years and I saw Downing wrestling at a D3 tournament and he was STILL hitting guys with “ol’ Lefty.” He was amazing with that move.
As much of a difficult loss as that was for me, I am very happy to have the opportunity to provide this article on him. Not only is he a nice guy, but he has been very good to my youngest brothers who attend college near the town where he coaches wrestling (Creston) and has had them in his wrestling room and what-not…something I am very appreciative of. Not to mention, Creston is an awesome wrestling community.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My older brother Kasey wrestled and my dad was the head coach at Creston for a few years so it just kind of happened.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My dad Rich was one of Creston’s first state qualifiers back in the early 60s and was a D2 NCAA qualifier at Northwest Missouri State when they had wrestling.
I had 2 brothers who wrestled: Chris placed 3rd at 189 in 2004 and Kasey placed 5th at 189 in 1994.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I made it AAU state several times but never placed: SW Iowa was really good when I was growing up, but anybody from Winterset and Lewis Central were always tough.
What was your record in HS?
I honestly have no idea: I think I had around 120 career wins.
How did you place at state every year?
Placed 4th at 152 my junior year, was upset at Districts my senior year, I was ranked #2 that year for a while but my guess is I would have placed somewhere in the top 6.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Losing at Districts my senior year was hard to get over, but looking back I think it has made me a better coach and has helped me prepare wrestlers better. I was 15-28 my freshman year at Simpson and somehow stuck it out and was able to help the team the next 3 years.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I was a defensive wrestler but also would throw. Seems like when I was more offensive is when I had success.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I went back and forth with several guys in high school but had opportunities to wrestle great guys like Trent and Travis Paulson, Clint Manny, Kirk Artist.
Who was your most influential coach?
They all were and they all deserve a shoutout as I still use something from all of them:
Youth: Mark Loudon
Jr High: Gary Veitz
High School: Rich Downing for 1 year Darrell Frain for 3
College: Ron Peterson
They were all special to me and I appreciate all of them because I know the sacrifices they made for me. Now that I am a coach I know it even more.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Our teams in Creston were always tough and Top 10 teams. My senior year was first team to go to State Duals. We were a Top 10 NCAA D3 team every year Simpson.
As a fellow left-sided headlock thrower, isn’t that move the most clutch one to have in your arsenal when you set it up right? Who taught you your left sided headlock? Did you set it up a certain way?
You’re memory is much better than mine, what I remember about the state tournament was being beaten first round in a throw and it kind of woke me up and I started getting after it. Most of my losses that year were to state finalists so I thought I was underrated that year. I was close or ahead in most of the matches on the backside. I know I hit 2 headlocks for pins and in the 3rd and 4th place match I tried a desperation throw at the end of the match and it didn’t work. Some days I wish I wouldn’t have known the headlock as it became something I knew I had and didn’t prepare correctly for my matches in case I couldn’t use it, but I had some fun moments with it. Dylan Long taught me how to use it at one of Creston’s freestyle practices.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
When my dad was coaching it was Ryan Kinsella, he was a 2 state finalist with a great work ethic, then when I got to high school I got to witness Dylan Long train, that was incredible.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
My last match at college, couldn’t believe it was over.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
I was 174 lb. NCAA D3 qualifier in 2006 and placing at state in high school.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
Wrestled with and against several guys who are now coaches so it is fun to get together with them.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
I would say seasonal, we went to camps and did Freestyle and Greco but I was involved in a lot of other things also.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think the guys from today would be just fine against the guys from my era, a good wrestler is a good wrestler.
What other sports did you play?
What are your favorite sports teams?
Cubs and Vikings.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Chasing around my 3 boys and anything agriculture related.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Wrestling has shaped my work ethic and ability to bounce back from adversity.
What do you do now?
I am Territory Seed Manager for Wilbur-Ellis Company.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes I am the Head Coach at Creston/Orient-Macksburg
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Believe in what you are being taught and keep trying it, sometimes it takes a while for things to click.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
My one shoutout goes to my wife, we have 3 kids and I have a demanding job and then add the coaching on top of it. No way I could get it done without here.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
Family: Wife Jenni, 3 sons Henry 7, Rex 4 and Ian 4 months.
Thanks for promoting our great sport and asking me to be a part of it.