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|Junior National champion Gardner looking to continue success at Virginia Tech|
By Michelle Thilges USA Wrestling
Cody Gardner describes himself an ordinary kid.
The quiet, humble senior at Christianburg High in Christianburg, Va., has an after school job and a girlfriend. Like many seniors, Gardner doesn't know what he wants to major in yet in college, but will explore his options once he gets there.
But one thing is different about Gardner than from most high school seniors; he is a well decorated wrestler.
The top ranked high school student at 215 pounds has had success after success in his wrestling career. Gardner has joined the elite group of students who have won the state title all four years, each year at 215 pounds.
"He is a very dedicated kid," said Daryl Weber, wrestling coach at Christianburg High. "He is the type of kid that grabs you after practice to work out something or to just work longer. He never took the back seat to anybody."
Currently, Gardner's career record stands at 182-6, with 132 pins and 120 match win streak to end his high school career.
But when Gardner hears all of what he has done, he keeps his cool.
"I don't let it get to me. I'm still a normal high school student," he said.
Gardner's career started when he was in third grade in New Jersey. His buddies were involved with a wrestling program, and he was invited to attend.
"I thought it was cool and I kept doing it. I didn't think too much of it," Gardner said. "I liked it a lot. As time went on I got better and started to really have fun."
When Gardner still lived in New Jersey, he joined Jonathan Johnson's wrestling club, RAW 241. Johnson said Gardner would pick up one or two things at practice, but not everything.
"He rode those moves to success," Johnson said. "He got tougher mentally and physically. He went to the Virginia Duals in eighth grade and won the whole tournament by using one move."
Gardner and his father moved to Virginia right before he started high school. The trips to RAW 241 became less frequent, but Gardner still continued to go. During his winter breaks and summers off, Gardner would visit his mother in New Jersey and go work out with Johnson, where he was still part of the team.
Johnson said moving to Virginia helped Gardner in the long run.
"I see the type of kid he turned into and it wouldn't have happened if he was here in New Jersey. Cody is the number one ranked guy in the country because of the environment down there," Johnson said.
During his first three years at Christianburg, Gardner was coached by Kevin Dresser and Weber. Dresser won a national title at the University of Iowa, was a two-time All-American and a two-time Big 10 champion. Weber also won a national title at the University of Iowa.
Dresser became head coach at Virginia Tech University in 2006.
While in high school, Gardner took on many challenges including the Beast of the East, Ironman and Powerade tournaments. With each tournament, he was a multiple time winner.
Gardner has also been very active in USA Wrestling events, attending the Cadet and Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D. several years in a row. He won the Junior Nationals in 2006, at 215 pounds, defeating New Jersey star Jared Platt in the finals.
"He sought out the best competition in the country," said Weber. "He had to prove himself and he worked hard to do it."
Gardner will have to do the same when he attends Virginia Tech next year. Gardner attended a summer camp there, in which he said he got along with the heavyweight coach really well. Gardner's decision to attend Virginia Tech was also influenced by being close to home and previously working with Dresser.
Being close to home also means Gardner will be close to his biggest influence, his dad, Keith Gardner.
"Dad is always really positive. When I am stressed he can always point it out to me and tell me to think positive. I know if I have a problem, he is someone that I can talk to," Gardner said.
Weber said Gardner's decision to attend Virginia Tech was a good fit.
"Kevin (Dresser) knows how to motivate Cody and they have a good rapport," Weber said. "Cody is ready for the challenges that he will face in college."
Looking ahead, Gardner said he is focused on the near future.
"If I get to the level to try out for the Olympics I will. I'm going to worry about college first. We'll see what happens," said Gardner.
Past coaches see much success in the future of Gardner.
"There is an old quote that says 'Most people haven't trained in one day the way I've trained everyday.' I don't think people know how hard he is working for his goals," said Johnson.
Weber said he is ready to see Gardner compete at the college level.
"It will be a good experience for him. He will do his best and be successful," Weber said.