2023-24 Virginia Tech Wrestling

Cooper Flynn Surging In College Wrestling Rankings After VT Change Of Plans

Cooper Flynn Surging In College Wrestling Rankings After VT Change Of Plans

Cooper Flynn planned to take an Olympic redshirt season this year, but plans changed and the late addition to the Virginia Tech lineup has made an impact.

Feb 7, 2024 by Jim Carlson
Cooper Flynn Surging In College Wrestling Rankings After VT Change Of Plans

Things can change quickly when you’re wrestling, and Virginia Tech’s Cooper Flynn learned that plans can be altered just as rapidly even when you’re not.

One week he was wearing a collegiate redshirt and participating at a USA Wrestling Senior team camp in Colorado Springs and the next week the Hokie redshirt sophomore 125-pounder, now ranked fifth nationally, was leading off the VT lineup.

“I got done with practice and I had a missed call from coach (Tony) Robie. He said, ‘Hey, when you get back, we're gonna get you certified,’” Flynn explained. “So I got back on a Saturday, certified that Thursday and wrestled Stanford that Sunday. And that was it.”

There was no adjustment period, the plan was to get down to weight and get ready to go. 

“Which is good for me,” Flynn said. “I tend to overthink and get real anxious so I didn't really have enough time to do that.”

His first match was against #1 Nico Provo of Stanford, and Flynn made the most of it, winning 5-2 and building a 10-2 record and top-five ranking since then. 

Sounds simple, but what many — probably most — people don’t realize is that there’s usually more to the story.

Flynn said the proposed redshirt season was to be used to develop all facets of his sport. 

“Last year I struggled a lot with, not the wrestling side of it, but I struggled a lot with the mental side of it,” he said. 

“I think the adjustment for me was really hard. I struggled with anxiety a lot and expectations and stuff. I had all these expectations I put on myself and, honestly, it was really overwhelming. I tried to take it on myself and deal with it and wrestle at the same time and it kind of blew up in my face.”

Flynn said he was hard on himself but was able to turn things around with the help of assistant coach Cody Brewer, All-America teammate Sam Latona and other supportive teammates.

“I’ve really figured out how to how to handle that and just making wrestling fun, not over-stressing about it,” he said. “And that's been a big thing for me this year. Those guys have kind of walked me through what made them successful. I have a lot of really good people who I look up to and invest a lot of time in me that has gotten me to this point.” 

Prior to the redshirt that wasn’t, Flynn won the U23 national freestyle event and qualified for the Olympic Trials in April. 

“It’s a dream come true. All these guys that I've grown up kind of idolizing and looking up to and saying I want to be like this guy when I'm older, and now I'm getting to compete with these guys and train alongside these guys,” Flynn said. 

“My goal is to make an Olympic team in however many years it takes after I graduate, but getting to do this as a sophomore in college is something that's really cool to just even be a part of.”

Flynn is enjoying the best of both worlds and says the freestyle circuit is extraordinary. 

“It’s the best thing ever. You get to train for three or four months and compete once and then train,” he said. “It's all first class, especially when you do it with Team USA. Oh, man, I love it. 

“I actually had never been out of country until Poland this summer. I traveled with some of the best on Team USA and those guys took me in and they shared all their experiences and things that helped them and kind of took me under their wing. So just being around those guys and seeing how they compete, traveling the world and wrestling … it was an experience like none other; it's really awesome,” Flynn said.

The Seymour, Tennessee, native said freestyle is the biggest benefit for his folkstyle.

“I think the defensive aspect has helped me jump leaps and bounds,” he said. “It’s so much different with freestyle. If a guy gets in on your legs, you don't really panic, and I think that I translated that over to folkstyle really well. 

“Working with coach (Jared) Frayer, too, the front headlock has kind of changed my wrestling a lot for me. I've scored some big points in freestyle matches with it, and I think I'm starting to translate it over to folkstyle really well.”

The Hokies host Duke Friday at the Moss Arts Center on campus and entertain in-state rival George Mason on Saturday at Cassell Coliseum. Tech closes out its season with ACC matches against Pitt and North Carolina State. 

Flynn has his eye on the top seed at 125 pounds in the ACC Championships but knows how wild the 125-pound weight class has been this season, with rankings switching virtually weekly. A former #1 at the weight class is now #20 and a former #3 is now #23.

“Already in the ACC, the rankings at 125 have switched twice. It’s wrestling like I know I’m capable of and wrestling smart matches, so I think if I do that, finishing the season undefeated through the ACC is really important to me. When we get to the ACC tournament, wherever I fall, that's where I'll wrestle,” he said.

Flynn left Tennessee and enrolled at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland. He won a tournament there as an eighth-grader and caught the eye of coaches Pete Welch and Joe Bakewell. 

“I never really thought of going to private school but I think the biggest thing that sold my parents was the education,” Flynn said. 

“It's a really great place and I absolutely think it was beneficial. We traveled to wrestle the best competition, and coach Bakewell and coach Welch are guys like my dad, they took care of me and are great men and great coaches.”

Flynn has two more years of eligibility in Blacksburg and is working on a building construction degree from Tech’s highly reputable College of Engineering. 

“I wanted to make my school worthwhile and get a degree that I could use,” he said. 

“It's a construction-focused, basically engineering degree with its main focus on project management from a construction level. There are four different paths you can take ... commercial, residential, environmental and heavy civil, and right now I'm on that heavy civil construction path.”

Ultimately, Flynn would like to own a construction company but until then he’s content to build onto his wrestling career before he commences with a professional one. He said he’d like to stay in Blacksburg and compete for the Southeast Regional Training Center there. 

And it’s not all wrestling, either. Between his classwork, wrestling and outdoor hobbies, Flynn has a good grip on his life.

“Coach Brewer told me I had to stop watching wrestling when I got out of the room. I was watching hours of wrestling a day and he's like, ‘You’ve got to get away from it,’” Flynn said. “I love pretty much anything outdoors. I'll hunt, fish, anything like that. 

“I've got a bird dog and my buddy and I have a little jon boat and we'll take it out to the rivers and we'll go fish for smallmouth bass. That's what we like to do.”

And if he catches a title or two along the way, all the better.