Wamego senior Cody Wanklyn uses sports to connect with community

WAMEGO, Kan. (WIBW) - "Cody's energetic and outgoing," SueAnn Wanklyn said. "And Cody doesn't know a stranger."

What Cody Wanklyn's mom left out is the Wamego High School senior also doesn't know how to say no to anything.

"Somewhere along the line, he's going to find his niche" SueAnn Wanklyn said. "And it seems like the more adventurous, the better."

Cody has played 12 different sports across his high school, Special Olympics and recreational career. They include all of the following: alpine skiing, baseball, basketball, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, powerlifting, snow shoe, swimming, track and field, and wrestling.

"I work hard at practice and I give my effort," Cody Wanklyn said.

But he gives much more than that.

"Cody just lifts the team up sometimes," SueAnn Wanklyn said.

"He's always willing to give something a try," Andrew Morrison, who assists Cody at Wamego football practices, said. "He's always everybody's friend. He's always happy."

"It's really hard to take yourself or really anything too seriously when he's around because he's a constant comedian," Wamego head wrestling coach Kevin Brown said.

"I've just appreciated his energy he brings to this team and he means a lot to this team," Wamego head football coach Weston Moody said. "He loves to get up there and talk to the guys."

That was clear before the last football practice before his football senior night. After it ended, Cody stepped up to give a speech to his teammates.

"I love you," Cody Wanklyn said. I'm going to (Kansas) State. I'm going to go to KSU. I'm going to play for Coach Snyder. I'll miss you when I'm gone."

He was met with thunderous applause, with his teammates asking him to break them down. Then on Senior Night, Wamego came back from being down 14 points to beat Holton by a touchdown.

But this special senior still deserved a send-off moment.

"I kind of...when I seen what was happening, figured out yeah, this might be happening," SueAnn Wanklyn said.

The Red Raiders' season, and Cody's high school football career, were about to come to an end in the playoffs against Perry-Lecompton. So the two teams worked together to make sure Cody's final play ended in the end zone with a 60-yard touchdown.

"I step back and can hear the crowd on both sides," SueAnn Wanklyn said.

"Cody, cody, cody," Cody Wanklyn recalls the crowd chanting, pumping his fists.

"The amount of people that have come up to him and have congratulated him on his touchdown, we'll walk away and I'll say, 'Cody, who was that? And he's like, I don't know.'"

He even impressed the team he's been a longtime fan of: Kansas State football. The Wildcats brought him in for an official visit before they beat Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown.

All of this just presented an end to football though. He still had to hit the mat for wrestling season.

"He expects to win just like anyone else," Brown said. "And he's disappointed when he doesn't."

On his wrestling senior night, that's clear after a quick defeat. But the only Red Raider grappling senior had to just wait a little more than week for what his mom calls the best wrestling win of his career.

Down big with time ticking down in the final period, Wanklyn reversed his opponent and scored the pin for the win with a single second remaining.

As satisfying as moments like those are though, they won't define Wanklyn's legacy at Wamego.

"If we sat in the house all the time and he just watched TV, I don't think he'd be nearly as social as he is," SueAnn Wanklyn said.

"It's more than wins and losses," Brown said."It's really about doing the right thing and instilling the right values in these young men. State champions, yeah they're great to have. But the most important thing is the lessons you learn and those are things that will stick with you for a lifetime. That's kind of what it's taught me."

"I think it just gives them new perspective to football and the experience we're trying to provide," Moody said. "It's not all about the glory of scoring touchdowns and all that."

"Anybody can overcome anything," SueAnn Wanklyn said. "And people just need to be treated on a level of respect."

Basically, treated like Cody and Wamego have treated each other. That's something he can take no matter where he goes."