Hawkeye grappler has flourished since moving up in weight


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Mike Evans walked into the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex the same way he always did and prepared the same way he always had. He put on the same wrestling shoes, practiced with mostly the same guys, and went through another grueling workout.

But despite the regularity before another Iowa wrestling practice, the expectations surrounding Evans have changed. The two words that used to describe the sophomore — “potential All-American” — have been replaced by three new words that indicate the strides he has made this season: national championship contender.

“That’s what everyone in this room works for,” Evans said, referencing the Iowa wrestling room. “Every name in this room gets thrown around with [those words].”

Evans wrestled last season at 165 pounds and began this year’s campaign at the same weight before bumping up to 174. He made his début at the heavier weight on Nov. 24 and won with a technical fall over Brent Hamm of Cornell College.

The Enola, Pa., native has since seized the lineup spot. He’s scored bonus-point victories in all but two of his matches since bumping up to 174-pounds. Of his nine wins since making the switch, four have been over wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally — most notably, a 9-4 overtime win over then-No. 2 ranked Nick Heflin of Ohio State on Jan. 4.

“Moving up this year certainly was well-received by him,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “And [it was] the right thing to do.”

Evans does have one loss that mars his record, but it’s one that most would say he shouldn’t be ashamed of. Evans, now ranked sixth in the country, dropped a 4-3 nail-biter to No. 1 Chris Perry of Oklahoma State on Jan. 13.

All of this has pushed the Hawkeye grappler into national championship conversations around the wrestling world. But to him, this recent success is not a goal, but a byproduct.

“The work is becoming accumulative,” Evans said on Tuesday. “Things are coming together a little bit. Everything is.”

That’s all Evans said on the matter when he spoke to the media on Tuesday, and Iowa’s head coach knew he wouldn’t say much — at least not until his season is over and his goals are met.

“He’s probably going to wait until to see how his season ends before he celebrates,” Brands said. “He’s put himself in position to be in talk of a national championship … It’s another opportunity for him.”

Evans’ flourishing season has had more results than just his own success. Many of his teammates have noticed how the sophomore trains and the results of his hard work. It serves as a tool of motivation.

One of his practice partners, 165-pounder Nick Moore, said it’s been a lot of fun to watch Evans dominate on the mat this season. Moore usually wrestles before Evans in the lineup, but is able to sneak a peek at his teammate’s matches while cooling down from his own.

“I think you can ask anybody, Hawkeye-fan-wise, that it’s been fun watching him wrestle,” Moore said. “He’s aggressive and fun to watch.”

Moore’s success has stemmed from taking beatings from Evans in the practice room each day. The effect of wrestling with a national title contender each day does more than just help the product on the mat — Moore boasts an 11-3 record and a top-20 national ranking.

The winning mindset seems to make the lasting imprint.

“He works hard all the time,” Moore said. “He’s not a lazy competitor, not a lazy trainer, and with me going with him, it teaches me to keep my intensity up for the whole session.”

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