Get accustomed to using plenty of identifiers if you plan to write a profile on Latter-day Saint student-athlete Casey Cobb: Returned missionary. Division 1 college wrestler. Navy midshipman. Mechanical engineering major. Future U.S. Marine Corps officer.
Now the U.S. Naval Academy junior has added another defining element to his bio: Priesthood leader.
Last month, a branch was created for the first time at the Annapolis-based service academy to meet the unique needs of Latter-day Saint midshipmen and other young single adults living in the area.
Joe DuPaix, an assistant coach on Navy’s football squad, was called as branch president. President DuPaix called Elder Lyn Loyd Creswell, a retired Marine Corps colonel and a full-time military relations missionary, to be his first counselor. And Navy’s veteran wrestler was assigned as second counselor.
For Cobb, the unexpected Church calling in the new branch came smack in the middle of Navy’s ongoing wrestling season. The three-time Idaho high school state champ is the Midshipmen’s starter in the 133-pound weight division. And as an upperclassman, he is looked to as a team leader.
Meanwhile, his STEM-centric engineering class load demands frequent late night cram sessions. And finally, he’s active-duty military. Navy Midshipman 2/C Cobb fulfills the same duties as any other student at the Academy.
But accepting the Church calling to serve as a counselor in the branch presidency was an easy decision for the lifelong (and likely sleep-deprived) Latter-day Saint.
“There was really no question in my mind,” he told the Church News. “I’ve always been taught to accept callings and then do the best that you can.”
Cobb was uplifted by the wise counsel received at the time of his recent call from Annapolis Maryland Stake President Ken Niumatalolo.
“The president took a piece of paper and wrote ‘Christ’ at the center and drew a circle around it. Then, outside the circle, he wrote things like wrestling and family and school and military. He told me that as long as I always placed the Savior at the center of my life, everything else would work out.”
Joy in missionary and military service
The Kuna, Idaho, native grew up in a wrestling family. When he and his brother, Zac, were little kids they began learning the basics of takedowns, escape techniques and holds. Initially, the sport offered the Cobb boys a fun way to burn off some energy.
“But we were good at it and we liked it, so we just kept on doing it,” he said. “It’s been part of our family experience for a long time.”
Wrestling is one of the world’s oldest sports. It’s an honest contest. Two opponents compete alone on the mat — and no teammate can share the load. At the end of the match, the most skilled and prepared man (or woman) typically walks away the winner.
“But I really love the grind and the battle,” said Cobb. “Just being able to strap on the laces and go out on the mat and compete is my favorite part of the sport.”
Eastern Maryland is a long way from Western Idaho, and Cobb didn’t grow up with dreams of wrestling for the Midshipmen. “But when I made a [recruiting] visit here, I loved it and decided this was where I wanted to go. … I felt like this was where the Lord had directed me, and I knew I could do a lot of good here.”
Cobb’s patriotism and desire to wear his country’s uniform also fueled his decision to continue his education in Annapolis. “It’s kind of a cliche to say, but the Academy represents something bigger than yourself. You don’t come here just to go to school, you come here to serve.”
But before being inducted into the Navy, Cobb accepted another form of service: fulfilling a mission call to the Chile Viña del Mar Mission.
“It was always something I had planned to do. I never had a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a missionary,” he said.
Like tens of thousands of other young men and young women who serve full-time missions, Cobb’s experience sharing the gospel “was incredible — and that’s an understatement,” he said.
“It was a refining experience that deepened my relationship with the Savior. Just being able to teach and serve every day and study my scriptures deepened my conversion and taught me how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
After returning home from Chile, Cobb spent a year studying at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island for the 2016-17 academic year before reporting to Annapolis.
In his first season as Navy’s starter last year at 133 pounds, Cobb compiled a 25-11 record and claimed the coveted All-Academy Championship — a title he successfully defended last month.
Navy wrestling coach Joel Sharratt calls Cobb an integral element of his squad who makes his teammates better wrestlers and midshipmen.
“It’s great to have such a mature young man on the team that is steadfast, dedicated and resilient. … He knows what he wants, and he goes after it. He’s 100-percent committed to what he does,” Sharratt said.
March is the biggest month of the year for a collegiate wrestler, and Cobb hopes it’s defined by big wins and great memories. The Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championship begins on March 6, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, followed later in the month by the NCAA Championship in Minneapolis.
“My goal is to be a conference champion and get on the podium at NCAAs and be an All-American,” he said.
Leading fellow Latter-day Saint Mids
As a member of the new branch presidency and a Navy midshipman, Cobb is in a unique spot to lead his fellow Latter-day Saints at the Academy. His own priesthood leader notes that his counselor brings invaluable insight to his calling.
“Casey is a man of integrity, and he’s a student-leader,” said President DuPaix. “He has a great spirit about him and genuinely fits into that [mentoring] role. … He shows the other midshipmen that they can load up on a lot of things in their lives and know that the Lord will take care of them.”
Elder Creswell and his wife and missionary companion, Sister Rachel Creswell, call their young friend an example and inspiration to branch members of all ages.
“We love and respect Casey,” they wrote in an email. “The Naval Academy is a rigorous place, with nationally-ranked academics and a passion for our nation and its defense. To these rigors, Casey Cobb adds a drive to excel in wrestling — and he always stays close to his Heavenly Father.”
Now Cobb’s grateful to be part of Latter-day Saint history at the storied, 175-year-old institution located just off Chesapeake Bay and at the edge of the Severn River. Each Sunday, the new branch welcomes about 40 people to Sabbath services.
“Things are going well,” he said. “Everyone is excited, and there’s a lot of energy. A lot of people are being placed in callings and having opportunities to grow and push themselves. We’re all learning a lot.”
Cobb will finish school in a little over a year and plans to become a U.S. Marine (a sizable percentage of the Academy’s graduates become commissioned officers in the Marine Corps).
“I’ve always liked being outside and getting in the dirt,” he said, laughing. “The Marines are a good fit.”