Staying in SLO is a series by Mustang News sports reporter Miles Berman highlighting current Cal Poly coaches that previously played for the Mustangs.
In the summer of 2021, Evan Wick was coming off a year spent away from school at the University of Wisconsin as an Olympic redshirt.
Wick decided to head out west for his final year of eligibility and wrestle at Cal Poly, the up-and-coming wrestling powerhouse in Central California.
A half a year later, Wick finished his college career with a 23-1 record and third place at the 2022 NCAA National Championships.
But he decided his time in San Luis Obispo was not done.
In October, Wick officially became the assistant coach for Cal Poly Wrestling.
“I knew I wanted to be a coach here as soon as I came here,” Wick said. “It’d be a waste to leave wrestling and leave the guys I love here so much.”
Wick has had connections to the Mustangs even before he transferred here in 2021, as his high school coach, John Azevedo, is a former Cal Poly head coach.
As a coach himself, what Wick thinks he brings to the table most is his experience.
“I did six years of college wrestling and I felt like I was in a great position to offer a great deal of knowledge to guys who are just starting out their college careers,” Wick said.
In his first season on the staff, Wick is finding himself as one of the more hands-on coaches.
“I am basically another training partner in the room during practices, but I do a lot of private lessons with the guys where I’ll either talk through mindset or I’ll talk through technique,” Wick said.
There are two Mustang wrestlers that have a special connection with Wick, and the first is his brother, Luka, a 157-pound redshirt freshman.
Evan transferred to Cal Poly as Luka was coming in so the brothers could be together.
“I’m his brother first, but I am also his coach,” Evan said. “I’m right there after his matches, I gotta tell him what he’s doing wrong, what he’s doing right.”
The other wrestler is Bernie Truax, as both Evan and Truax are All-Americans.
“For me as a coach, I get to make sure [Truax] is being challenged in the room,” Evan said. “I will wrestle live with him. When I watch technique with Bernie we are almost both learning off of each other.”
While maintaining his role as a coach, Evan is still competing professionally in wrestling. Being both a coach and competitor at the same time has helped Evan grow in all facets.
“[Coaching] has certainly made me a better competitor, it puts a lot of things in perspective,” Evan said. “ A lot of the guys who I am coaching, it’s life or death for them when they go out on the mat, I went through that exact same process.”
As a coach now, Evan said that he has a newfound perspective when he competes. The young coach said he dealt with a fear of losing for most of his career up until this point. Now, things have changed.
“I just got back from France and I feel like I just had one of the best performances in years,” Evan said.
Evan earned gold for the 79 kg weight class on January 21 in France at the Henri Deglane Challenge. Many miles away from France, Evan is settling into the Central Coast.
“I was homesick for a long time, but now I feel like I am finally in a stable place where I want to be,” Evan said. “I feel like I can be in SLO for the rest of my life.”
Part of the reason Evan is finding comfort in San Luis Obispo is that he entered the wrestling program at a great time. Last year, Cal Poly had six individuals who were nationally ranked in the top 10 for the first time in nearly 40 years.
The team was ranked in the top 25 for the first time in over a decade, and as a result, half of the Mustang lineup qualified for the NCAA National Championships in 2022.
“I think we haven’t seen so much potential in a program like ours in any school, but especially in a long time at Cal Poly,” Evan said. “I really see great things happening in this program and I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful to be a part of that.”