Jan 12, 2024 1:08 AM

C.J. Walrath Finds Success Wrestling for UNI

Posted Jan 12, 2024 1:08 AM

By Chris Faulkner               

C.J. Walrath of West Burlington is continuing his wrestling career at the University of Northern Iowa after capping off his high school wrestling career last year with a Class 2A state championship at 182.

Walrath is taking a redshirt year, allowing him a fifth season of eligibility but he is still allowed to compete in five dates as an attached wrestler. He wrestles at 184, but he is behind Parker Keckeisen, the No. 1 wrestler in the country at that weight.

As an unattached wrestler, Walrath won the Grandview Open in Des Moines, took second at the Daktronics Open at South Dakota State University, and won the Jim Koch Open in Kenosha, Wis. At 11-1, Walrath last weekend in the Soldiers Salute tournament at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

So what is it like to go from high school to collegiate wrestling?

“It’s good,” Walrath said. “It’s tough, though. The hardest part is getting a good schedule — between practice, lifting, classes, and stuff like that.

“After the first couple weeks, it got a lot easier once I got a consistent schedule,” Walrath said.

In terms of increasing his skill level on the mat, “I’m trying to wrestle Parker as much as I can, trying to learn as much from him because he’s the top guy in the country, Division I.

“I’m trying to learn as much from him and be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge I can,” Walrath said.

Keckeisen is a senior, but he has an extra COVID year if he chooses to use it.

Practices are a lot more intense, Walrath said.

“Once you get to that level, they expect you to know a lot of stuff already, and they’re perfecting everything that you already know for the most part,” he said.

“They’re just trying to clean up the minor mistakes. It’s a game of inches for the most part.”

Walrath is majoring in kinesiology/exercise science and posted a 3.5 GPA after his first semester.

One of the things Walrath likes about the UNI itself is, “I like the small feel. It’s a Division I college, but it also has the feel of a smaller school.”