by Ashleigh Wheeler, CBU Sports Information Intern
Jumping, twisting and back flipping into the water are things that most people would dread doing. But for Jeff Couto and Ben Wahlman it is what brought them together as teammates and then friends.
In 2004, Couto joined the diving team at California Baptist University and instantly became a leader on the diving board. A year later, Wahlman was added to the team and played a big role by bringing home some huge wins during competition, including an NAIA National Championship. The two teammates hit it off immediately and have had a lot in common from day one.
After deciding to come to school at CBU, Wahlman made a phone call to his soon-to-be teammate Couto to get some advice.
“The first time I talked to Ben was on the phone when he called to ask me some advice about his major,” said Couto. “I majored in Christian studies and Ben was interested in doing the same so he wanted to hear what I liked about it and what field I thought might be best.”
Besides having the same academic pursuits, Couto and Wahlman also have a passion and love for diving. Couto was introduced to the sport of diving at a very young age by his mother who was also a diver. In high school, he realized that diving was something he wanted to continue doing.
“One thing I love is that diving is not a well-known sport,” said Couto. “So it is nice because you get away from the crowds and are able to just perform and use your God-given talent.”
Wahlman started diving in middle school and fell in love with diving because of the opportunity it provided for him to stay fit and healthy and also the feeling it gave him every time he was on the board.
“I love being able to feel free in the air,” said Wahlman, who has won five of a possible six national titles on the board. “ You get that sense of flying.”
Couto and Wahlman hit it off outside of the pool as well, so much so that last year they created a rock band on X-Box, which they named “Rip and Smack,” referring to diving because you can either “rip” a dive or smack the water. Both found that being friends went deeper then their interest of diving.
“What I like about Jeff is his humorous lifestyle,” said Wahlman. “He is a fun guy to be around. He can always put a smile on your face.”
Last year, Couto graduated from CBU but decided to stay around and work on his master’s degree while also working as a graduate assistant for the Cottage living area on campus. Since the diving team was in need of a coach, he also became the head coach for his former teammates. Now, instead of competing alongside Wahlman, Couto is the one giving him advice on how to become a better diver.
Although the transition from teammate to coach can sometimes be rough it is just another facet in their relationship.
“It is natural that there is always going to be hard times because you make a transition from being a close friend to an authority figure,” said Couto. “But one quality I respect in Ben is that he is a hard worker and that is something any coach or friend really loves—someone who will be there and give 110 percent.”
One of the most important things that Couto and Wahlman have in common is their goal to help others and to bring the gospel to the world. After finishing his master’s in marriage and family therapy, Couto plans on working with churches counseling married couples and teaching them how to have a stronger relationship with each other and also how to become better parents. After he graduates this spring, Wahlman’s goal is to work overseas, teaching other youth pastors and helping them reach out to the youth.
No matter where life will take them or where God chooses to use these two friends they will always have the memories they shared together, the laughter they enjoyed and the encouragement they gave each other.
“With Jeff, one thing I will take away is just always remembering that he had my back and would be there to help me out no matter what was going on,” said Wahlman.
Help him pick a major, start a “rock” band or rip a dive.