Levi Cooper could have quit. He could have simply hung up his wrestling shoes and continued his education. Under similar circumstances, that is exactly what most people would have done. Levi Cooper isn’t most people. Levi Cooper is one of the best Heavyweight wrestlers in the nation.
Levi wrestled at North Marion High School in Aurora, Ore., where he was a four-time letterman and member of the National Honor Society. His career was quite successful, but not to the level that would normally lead to national prominence. He posted an impressive record of 117-32, and was a three-time state placer, including runner-up finishes his junior and senior years, but never won a State Championship.
Upon completion of his high school career, Levi moved on to Portland State University to continue his education and athletic career. As a true freshman on the Viking wrestling team, Cooper posted an unspectacular record of 11 wins and 15 losses, finishing seventh at the Pac-10 tournament and failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Then disaster struck. PSU made the horrendous decision to discontinue their wrestling program at the end of the season.
Forced to look elsewhere for an opportunity to continue his wrestling career, Cooper transferred to Cal State Bakersfield to study Business Administration and join the Roadrunners wrestling team. Choosing to wrestle under redshirt status, to preserve one year of competition eligibility, Levi posted a 6-4 record wrestling unattached. Amazingly, at the conclusion of the season, CSUB also announced their intention to discontinue the wrestling program.
“I felt like there was a black cloud following me around,” said Cooper.
Once again faced with the need to find another school and wrestling program, Cooper turned his attention to the southwest. Having heard of a “lack of depth” in the heavyweight division at Arizona State, Levi packed his bags, enrolled at ASU and walked on to the wrestling team. Having never spoken with the coaching staff or any members of the team, Levi had faith in his ability to make it work. “Not a lot of people were really interested in me at all, actually… It was a big gamble.”
That gamble has paid off in a big way. After placing third at the Pac-10 tournament and earning a bid into the NCAA Championships, Cooper had an opportunity to achieve a personal goal. “Being a Division I All American is my dream,” Levi stated. Entering the tournament with a record of 24-9, and unseeded, Cooper was victorious in his first match, setting up a meeting with the fourth-ranked wrestler in the country, Dominick Russo of Rutgers. Levi won a hard fought 5-2 victory over Russo, which Flowrestling.com described as the “biggest upset of the first round.” After a loss in the semifinals, Cooper beat Brendan Barlow of Kent State in overtime, avenging a previous loss, assuring himself a Top eight finish, and qualifying for All American status. Levi finished the tournament in eighth place.
As a redshirt sophomore, Cooper will compete for two more years as a Sun Devil. With the amount of improvement he has shown this year, his work ethic, positive attitude, and his perseverance, the sky is the limit for this heavyweight. This will be an exciting athlete for wrestling fans to follow over the remainder of his career.
(On another note: Amazingly, and ironically considering Levi Cooper’s journey, on May 13, 2008, Arizona State University announced its intention to discontinue the wrestling program! However, ten days later “due to financial support from local civic leadership” the program was fully reinstated.)