'He was a champion'

The water polo community and others mourn the death of Newport Beach resident Jon Walters, 19.

January 09, 2014|By Matt Szabo
  • Jon Walters of Newport Beach was a water polo standout at USC. He played at Newport Harbor High as a freshman before transferring to Mater Dei.
Jon Walters of Newport Beach was a water polo standout… (Courtesy of USC…)

The close-knit water polo community has continued to grieve the loss of USC freshman Jon Walters, a Newport Beach resident who died Wednesday afternoon at Santa Ana's Western Medical Center at the age of 19.

Bill Walters told the Orange County Register that his son died of a heart attack. Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said Thursday that an unresponsive Jon Walters was admitted to Chapman Medical Center in Orange on Jan. 1.

Walters was moved to Western Medical Center a few days later. He died there at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, according to records from the sheriff's Orange County Coroner Division.

No official cause of death had been released as of Thursday evening.

"We're still waiting for the doctor to sign the death certificate," Hallock said Thursday. "Hypothetically, if the doctor doesn't feel comfortable signing it, they'd do an autopsy."

The OC Coroner Division is investigating the death and an autopsy will be scheduled to help determine the cause of death, according to the organization’s website.


A memorial service for Walters is planned for 11 a.m. Jan. 18 in the community center of Mariners Church in Irvine.

Walters, a center, played at Newport Harbor High his freshman year before transferring to Mater Dei. The CIF ruled him ineligible for his sophomore season, but he came back to help the Monarchs win two CIF Southern Section 1 titles. Mater Dei went undefeated both years, part of a CIF record 105-game winning streak that ended in November.

Walters was one of the best and most well-known boys' water polo players to come out of Orange County in recent years. In his senior year, 2012-13, he was named the Division 1 and Orange County Player of the Year after the Monarchs won their third straight Division 1 title. In his freshman year at USC, he overcame an elbow injury to score 17 goals, helping the Trojans win their sixth straight national title.

Paul Fink, whose son Curtis grew up playing club water polo with Jon Walters and later against him in high school for Newport Harbor, knew Walters well from a young age.

"He was a champion," Paul Fink said. "What's so sad is that he had such a bright future, not only in academics, but he was a future Olympian. He was a contributor [for USC as a freshman]. He wasn't just a kid on the team. He had an impact for them, made a difference for them. But he's been that way everywhere he went, since 10-and-under and 12-and-under water polo.

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