OHIO CITY, Oh - Head Rowing Coach Connor Walters ’09 embodies what it means to be a Man for Others. Since stepping on the Saint Ignatius campus as a freshman in 2005, Walters always found a way to be involved in the Ohio City community and go above and beyond what was asked of him. After seven years at Saint Ignatius, Walters is moving on to Syracuse University to become an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the men’s rowing program.
“Yes, we are bummed to be losing Connor, but he has been a great leader and has done wonderful things for our rowing program. I am super excited for him getting this opportunity,” explains Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick ’88. “This speaks volumes about our program. One of the main reasons Connor was brought into Syracuse was because of his ability to communicate his culture and set a tone. Connor will bring a positive culture to their rowing program and is a great statement to who he is as not only a coach but as a person.”
When Walters was hired as the Assistant Director of Communications in 2014, he became an assistant coach for the Wildcat Navy. After four years as an assistant, Walters was named the head coach in 2020. In just three years as head coach, Walters grew the program to a national powerhouse. That was even more evident this past season in 2022 when the program made history with its 2nd Varsity 8 and Freshman 8, each earning bronze at the National Championships and the Varsity 8 finishing 4th.
“Coach Walters truly was the program's backbone these past three years. Whether it was showing up early to every practice or putting in countless hours behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smooth,” says Pat Miklus, ’22. “I appreciate everything he did and has done for the team and I hope we made this past season one to remember. Best of luck to him at his amazing new job. He has the whole team behind him in support and we all know he will do great things at Syracuse.”
Walters’ first season as the head coach was arguably the most difficult. Walters had to navigate his team through a pandemic in 2020. Although the whole spring season was canceled, the team continued to train to be ready for the chance to hit the water again. Through Zoom training and working with his staff, Walters’ group of kids came out of the pandemic even stronger.
“Coach Walters has helped me grow as a person and a leader because he has been my leader the past three years and made me learn that being a leader, there will be hard times, but you always need to stay true to yourself,” says Jack Petrus ’22. “He was a loving, compassionate, and caring person. He has been a great coach and mentor for me and I wish him the best.”
Walters led the Wildcat Navy back to the top in the Midwest in 2022 as the program claimed its 11th Scholastic Rowing Championship.
“Coach Walters did so much for the team on the water but especially off the water. The way he operated, always making sure everyone on the team was treated equally and no boat was valued over another made for an exceptional team environment and led us to have our most successful season of all time,” explains Ben Sommer ’22. “If I had any trouble, whether, with boat lineups or talks about college rowing, he was always there to support me and give me some words of advice. Without him, the team and I would have never reached the accomplishments we did. I’ll never forget what coach Walters taught me and I wish him well in Syracuse, where I know he’ll do amazing things."
In just a short time at the helm as a head rowing coach, Walters has left an everlasting impression on his student-athletes, many of whom are continuing their academic and athletic careers at the collegiate level.
“It’s hard to put coach Walters's impact on me throughout my four years at Saint Ignatius. He has always been an amazing friend, role model and coach,” explains Matthew Sullivan ’22. “Without him, I never would have gotten involved in CAT and all of the service initiatives Ignatius offers and he has taught me lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have experienced firsthand his amazing coaching, as he led us to a fourth-place finish at the National Championship and I wish him the absolute best of luck at Syracuse.”
Walters was instrumental in growing Saint Ignatius's mission outside of the Wildcat Navy. Walters was the moderator for the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless. Every Sunday night, Walters and the Christian Action Team would feed and donate clothes to the homeless. Walters was a part of the 1,000th Labre Mission in February of this year.
“To me, Coach Walters was more than just a head coach. He was a great leader and role model on the team but an even better role model outside Crew. He introduced me to the service aspect of Saint Ignatius. I became a Labre student leader, which never would have happened without him introducing me to the program my sophomore year,” Will Howe ’22 says. “Coach Walters truly lived out Ignatius’ goal of being a Man For and With others and made me feel welcome into the Crew and Service Community. He has made his mark on me and many others and I am forever thankful for all he has taught me these past four years.”
Working alongside coach Walters in the communications and marketing department, I saw firsthand the hard work Walters put in for the community and his love for his students. During the off-season, Walters was up well before the sun-rise at 5 a.m. and would go on to work an eight-hour day. Despite the long days, Walters never frayed; he maintained a positive and uplifting attitude.
Walters had an open door policy; his office was always available for faculty, staff and students to come and talk. As a coach, Walters’ Navy had tremendous respect for him and responded well to his coaching style. Walters has left his mark on the Saint Ignatius community.
“He has left this program in a great position, there will be big shoes to fill, but he has left it in an excellent position for whoever takes over as the next head coach,” Fitzpatrick says. “Connor has grown this program in a way in which the young rowers understand their responsibility, which is a huge win for us.”
The whole community is behind coach Walters as he moves on to his next chapter in life, joining a Division I college program at Syracuse. Although he may be living in New York, Saint Ignatius High School will forever be a home to coach Walters. Congratulations, Connor, you are going to accomplish great things at Syracuse!