You may recognize Chase Pami as the 157-pound-weight-class wrestler with a 22-5 record. You might know he’s a National Collegiate Athletic Association All-American and two-time Pacific-10 champion. But mention that his intimidating record matches the no-nonsense, cross-armed figure on the wrestling posters plastered around campus, and his face assumes the “Oh no!” look.
“I hope I don’t look intimidating,” he said. “They just tell me to stand there and do different poses. And there were some funny ones, too! Why don’t you use some of the funny ones?”
While Pami’s awards and recognitions prove his athletic success, wrestling does not consume his life.
“I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the most important thing, as far as things on my priority list go,” Pami said. “It’s pretty far down there compared to my family, my faith, my friends, but it definitely is a tool that I’ve been able to use. I think God’s given me a lot of talent, so I always like to make sure I keep Him centered and not let the sport override that, keep Him the focal point.”
Pami’s faith was an important factor in his decision to attend Cal Poly. His shared beliefs with head coach John Azevedo, who watched Pami wrestle as he was growing up in Las Vegas, made choosing a college easier.
“It’s rare that you find a Christian coach,” Pami said. “It’s rare that you find someone you can share that commonality with (in the wrestling community).”
Azevedo said he has a connection with Pami because of their faith and that he has enjoyed watching him grow as a wrestler and person.
“There is definitely a bond there because of our faith,” Azevedo said. “He trusts me and I trust him. Spiritually speaking, I can be a leader for him and that helps.”
Pami has also developed lasting friendships with other members of the team because most of his friends and all of his roommates are wrestlers. He considers his team its own family.
“You’re with the guys on trips,” he said. “You’re with the guys wrestling. You’ve got a couple centimeters of clothing between you at any time during practice. You sweat on each other. You grunt and breathe on each other. So, you kind of grow close through all of that.”
The team captain’s relationships have grown on and off the mat. Co-captain, roommate and best friend of five years, Eric Maldonado, has watched Pami grow as a wrestler, leader and man of faith.
“He’s selfless,” Maldonado said. “He cares about other people. He wants to reach his goals but in the process wants others to reach theirs’ as well.”
Pami entered this past weekend ranked No. 11 in the nation.
Against Oregon State this past weekend, Pami locked horns with No. 13 senior Keegan Davis. In a battle between two nationally-ranked wrestlers, Pami defeated Davis 14-5.
Away from the mat, Pami and Maldonado take advantage of living on the Central Coast exploring the outdoors, going to the beach, surfing, bodyboarding and hiking.
Within San Luis Obispo, Pami and his friends like to participate in normal college life activities: going downtown, to the movies, to Farmers’ Market as well as getting coffee and especially going out for dinner.
“We do a lot of eating out,” Maldonado said. “We like to try new things, new experiences.”
Pami is in his last season of collegiate wrestling and is set to graduate in June as a communication studies major. He does not intend to stop wrestling after graduation but finds the end of his collegiate career bittersweet. As a senior, he has more independence in his training schedule, knowing how his body reacts, when he needs to take time off and therefore needs less coaching. But while his experience has granted him certain privileges, Pami is looking forward to the end.
“The closeness and things you share with your teammates, and being a college athlete in general has been a great experience, but it’s sweet because (I’ll be) kind of done with it,” he said. “I’ll have a little bit more freedom.”
Pami’s life after graduation in June will initially be centered around the 2012 Olympics — a personal goal several years old and something his parents have always encouraged him toward. Pami also received support from a pastor in high school who believed he would be an Olympic champion. Pami tucked away this hope, storing it in the back of his mind.
“I always held on to it,” Pami said. “I kind of always thought that this is something God wants me to do. I have all these talents, I have this ability. Why not use it for God’s glory? Just use what I’ve been given and not let it sit there.”
After the Olympics, his future is undecided, but he enjoys helping people and hopes to coach or do ministry work.
Among the skills Pami has developed and mastered through 13 years of wrestling — impeccable self-discipline, organization, determination, steadfastness — is his ability to stay focused and true to the beliefs that define his character. One Bible scripture in particular he said summarizes what he has learned from his experiences as a wrestler: Philippians 4:12.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Faith remains as Pami’s priority.
“Regardless of winning or losing, I’ve learned to become satisfied in whatever state or situation I’m in,” Pami said. “That happens because at the end of the day, I know God still loves me.”