The journey of a champion: Fort Worth All Saint’s Kody Tanimoto is making history

Kody Tanimoto keeps adding big accomplishments to add to his resume.

The Fort Worth All Saints Episcopal High School senior repeated as the Texas Prep State boys champion during an event held on Feb. 3 in San Antonio.

On Feb. 7, he signed his letter of intent to wrestle at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

“It was cool to see everyone that was a part of my journey there to support me and they’re still part of my journey,” Tanimoto said of signing with the Bison, a member of the Big 12 Conference in wrestling.

He is the first-ever wrestler in All Saints history to sign to wrestle at the Division I level.

At the TAPPS Wrestling Championships on Feb. 17 in Argyle, Tanimoto went 3-0 and won a state championship there, though bumping up a weight class to 126 pounds. He beat Dallas Christian School’s Jett Webster in the finals by an 18-1 tech fall.

“He is definitely one our leaders, he definitely sets the tone for the room and holds people accountable,” first-year coach Travis Rodenbaugh said. “He has all the good stuff you look for in a captain and honestly we’ve improved a lot this year. He’s even upped his game to where it was. He’s kind of taken on a new identity as was a wrestler. Around Texas, he hasn’t really lost a whole lot. It’s really just the top guys in the country are the only ones he’s lost.”

Tanimoto competed at the 88th Annual National Prep Wrestling Tournament at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. He won his opening match, but lost via decision in the round of 16.

D-I wrestler

Tanimoto will head to North Dakota State officially in July for offseason workouts before competing in the Fargo Nationals. He will get a chance to come home for a bit before school starts.

They started recruiting him last summer as he competed in the Fargo Nationals. He even took an unofficial visit between the Greco and freestyle tournaments.

He went back to Fargo in October for an official visit and that is when he committed to the program.

“I would say North Dakota State was the main school I was talking to when I was going through the process,” he said.

A 120-pound wrestler for the Saints, he expects to wrestle in the 125-pound weight class at North Dakota State.

He is well aware he will be starting over and will have to prove himself again — especially being the first Texans on the Bisons’ roster dating back the past 40 years.

“I know I’m not going to be at the top of my room, I’m hanging at the bottom,” Tanimoto said. “A college-level room is so much different than a high school room. I think I will be able to bring myself up. It will be tough for sure, but I will figure out a way to make myself accelerate and thrive in the wrestling room.”

The leader of the Saints

He was an all-state wrestler at Keller Central in the 2021-22 season — taking fourth at 106 pounds in Class 6A. As a freshman, he was a district champion for the Chargers.

He moved over to the private school last year and won the Boys Prep State finals.

Tanimoto repeated as the Prep State champion with a 3-0 mark. He beat Bishop Lynch’s Maddox Preskitt in the finals by a 3-1 decision.

“I knew my final match was going to be competitive because I knew I had Preskitt,” said Tanimoto, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. “So I was just mentally preparing myself the whole week for that match. And then I got the job done from doing that.”

Freshman Hunter Avalos (132), senior Larry Layman (144) and sophomore Brodie Bedford (157) were other state champions for All Saints in San Antonio. At TAPPS, Layman (144), Kenneth Riley (157) and Bedford (165) won titles as well.

“He’s definitely taken some pressure off of me as far as holding people accountable and setting the expectations in the room,” Rodenbaugh said. “Along with setting the expectations he is setting goals for as a team as well”. Wrestling is an individual sport, but you need teammates to elevate everybody. He’s one that is like, ‘Hey, I want to leave a legacy but I want to make sure our teammates are getting better with me.’”

The lead-by-example wrestling of Tanimoto will be felt long after he is gone, his coach said. When Tanimoto goes out in the finals and wins early, the coach says the other wrestlers want to follow and win one too.

“This sets the tone for the future guys coming in and the expectations for them,” Rodenbaugh said of the team’s postseason success. “Hopefully we keep moving up the ladder and keep developing your guys.

Becoming Better

Tanimoto said the move to a private school played a big role for him in terms of his development. He said the academic education level has been stellar yet challenging. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to have great training partners on the mat.

Tanimoto calls the changes and the results have been the ‘best-case scenario’ for him on multiple levels.

He also pointed out being at Spartan Mat Club, run by Ray and Leslie Bedford, in Fort Worth as a big part of his development. Ray Bedford is the former head coach at Texas Wesleyan and has been a coach for Texas USA Wrestling for numerous years.

“I think it all starts with what your practice is like, who’s your coach and who you’re surrounding yourself with,” Tanimoto said.

What pushes him more than anything is losing. Tanimoto hates losing and it was in those early years of wrestling that he developed that drive.

His dad got him into judo at a young age and he transitioned over to wrestling when his sister competed in the sport. He was in seventh grade when he started — late compared to many of his contemporaries — and It took him a while to improve.

He found his niche by learning from the losses.

“At first I didn’t like it because I wasn’t good at it,” Tanimoto said. “I was better at judo but after time, I fell more in love with wrestling and I really didn’t care for judo as much because I loved wrestling so much more.”

His family moved from Hawaii to Texas and he substantially got many lessons when it came to competing in tournaments.

“I would go to Tulsa Nationals and go 0-2 and I hate losing,” he said. “I always do everything in my power to not lose. Whether running or going to workout as suggested by my dad. After that, it was me telling him, can you take me to the gym before school? Can you take me here?” My dad being a supportive parent took me everywhere I needed to go. My dad and my mom are a big part of helping me excel in wrestling and life.”

Rodenbaugh praised the work ethic of Tanimoto, who would show up at 6 a.m. to get in work in before school. He would practice after school and then go to Spartan Mat Club after high school practices to get even more work. Rodenbaugh said Tanimoto is the epitome of eating, sleeping, and breathing wrestling.

“Wrestling is pretty much a pure sport, you get what you earn and the work you put in is what you get out.”

Tanimoto said the drive to be the best and the hatred of losing has been what has changed him from a wrestler who would be two-and-done in youth tournaments to become one of the best in the state and the nation.

“There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed and I would always remember going 0-2, I felt like a loser,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I didn’t want to be a loser.’ I would push myself as hard as I could to be at the top. I would do anything in my power to get up there.”