The Shavings staff was heartbroken to learn of the death of our former staff member, Tyler McCoy (right). We published this feature about Tyler in 2016. It will give you a small glimpse into the very special person he was. He will be greatly missed. We’ve reprinted it today in his memory.
Tyler Wayne McCoy is a senior CCSJ wrestler majoring in business with a minor in philosophy preparing to graduate with a 3.9 GPA after qualifying for nationals for the first time this year. However, life wasn’t always so promising for Tyler.
At age eleven, McCoy was adopted by his grandmother and relocated to the family farm in rural Indiana, near Westpoint. Located in low-level plains, the family’s primary cash crop was hay. During an extended drought in the mid-2000’s, they became one of the top hay farms in the entire U.S. This meant a lot of long days of hard work, as the family struggled to meet the rising national demand for hay. While tough, McCoy remembers these times fondly, saying “Those days taught me to be strong and endure. They made me who I am.”
Those years working the farm had also helped provide Tyler with a strong, athlete’s body, which he employed in numerous sports including football, boxing and wrestling. Once he reached high school, McCoy decided to focus on wrestling full-time, achieving success both on the state and national levels. Soon recruiters took notice and McCoy had offers to wrestle at most of the colleges in Indiana, as well as Ivy League school Bucknell University.
After verbally committing to Bucknell, located in Pennsylvania, family issues forced Tyler to consider a school closer to home, so he accepted a scholarship from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he spent two years excelling in academics as well as athletics.
After completing his sophmore year, McCoy, like many college students, went home for summer break. During that vacation, however, his life would change forever.
After reconnecting with an old, childhood friend, Tyler’s unflinching loyalty to his friends would lead to him getting mixed up in the life of crime his old buddy was now leading. Soon after, both were caught and arrested, and a life that had seemed so promising was now going off the rails.
In 2011, which should have been his junior year in college, McCoy pled guilty to a number of state and federal crimes and was sentenced to thirteen months in prison in the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Despite this, those that knew McCoy best didn’t give up on him. Throughout his incarceration, Tyler maintained a strong relationship with his former professors and peers from Wabash, who assured him his life wasn’t ruined, that his incarceration was just a detour.
During this time, one of Tyler’s closest friends would visit him often, telling him about the school, CCSJ, that he had transferred to from Wabash. The friend assured McCoy that CCSJ could be his second chance, that he would even be able to wrestle again.
Filled with the hope of possibly returning to a semblance of the life he had had, McCoy grasped at the idea of attending CCSJ as if it were a lifeline. Freshly released, Tyler was determined not to make the same mistakes again. As he said, “I knew once I got my foot in the door, I wouldn’t let myself be bested in my second ‘old college try’.”
Despite the strict restrictions placed on him by the court, Tyler immersed himself in college life and wrestling again. Tyler said, “One way that I combatted my desire to break my imposed shackles was to overload myself with course work and responsibilities.”
As part of his release, McCoy was sentenced to two years of house arrest, which would require him wearing a GPS ankle-monitor. Weighing around a pound, this presented more difficulties than simply having to explain why he had to wear it, particularly as a wrestler where cutting weight for a meet is a way of life. McCoy said, “Wrestling with the ankle bracelet was awful, It weighed close to a pound, so it was just another pound I would have to lose to make weight. One memory that stands out to me was two years ago at the Knox College wrestling tournament. The referee made a big show of my circumstances by making a wisecrack. Everyone else decided to point and laugh, so I decided to destroy everyone at the tournament. We won our first team dual that day. I may still have a chip on my shoulder from all that laughter.”
McCoy is a man driven by pride. He could have become yet another of the 75% of offenders who wind up back in prison within a year of their release, but his pride wouldn’t allow it. He had goals and he was determined to achieve them, and despite having to navigate a treacherous labyrinth along the way, he’s done just that.
In March, he finally realized his athletic dream and competed in the NAIA National Wrestling Tournament, and on May 16, 2016 he’ll walk across that stage, receive his degree, and become a college graduate, something that seemed somewhere between highly unlikely and impossible just 5 years ago when he was sitting in his cell at the Westville Correctional Institute.
This piece originally appeared on April 23, 2016.
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