It has been an eventful two weeks for senior wrestler Jake Evans—one of triumph, confusion, then triumph again. One thing is certain now, however: the standout heavyweight has rewritten the NCAA history books.
With a pin against Washington & Jefferson freshman Jake Walker in the PAC championship round this past Friday, Evans now has 175 career wins, putting him alone at the top of a win’s list that includes Division I, Division II and Division III wrestlers in the entire nation. The win allowed Evans to pass Wade Hughes, a 126-pounder from George Washington, who finished his career with a 174-17 record from 1982-85.
“I think it’s just outstanding to know that Waynesburg will be mentioned with the names of some of some pretty good people,” head coach Ron Headlee said. “One thing that is neat is that back in the 50’s Waynesburg was dominant…it was a thriving place back then…my whole goal of coming back [to Waynesburg] is that we would get back some of those glory days back a little bit, and to me that just means a lot when one record helps Waynesburg get back in the record books.”
The Elizabeth native was believed to initially have broken the record Feb. 2 at the John Summa Invitational. However, after some discrepancies in his wins which may have been counted twice by trackwrestling.com or didn’t count because of other NCAA rules, the Waynesburg coaching staff and NCAA worked together to figure out that Evans had 173 official wins going into the PAC tournament last Friday, where he formally accomplished his 175th win.
“The way his career has been, he has always just worked really hard and it’s great that he has this accomplishment because he’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” assistant coach Gennaro Bonaventura said. “He deserves all the accolades and recognition that he gets because he earns it …he works so hard.”
Evans’ overall record currently stands at 175-18 as of Feb. 12. Of those 175 wins, 89 are by pin-fall. This season he has 21 pins which leads the nation across all collegiate levels.
The No. 1 heavyweight in DIII has lost just one match this season, which was to University of Pittsburgh junior Demetrius Thomas, who is 22-4 overall and is ranked 16th in D1 at heavyweight.
At 29 years old, 6’4” and 235 pounds, there are a lot of things about Evans and his wrestling that are unique, especially at the DIII level. For Bonaventura, what’s stood out the most about Evans and has led to his success is his mentality day-in and day-out.
“The biggest thing is when he stepped in the room he always fought. He fought hard every day. You can’t teach that,” Bonaventura said. “[His] mentality is just so much better. He doesn’t think he is going to lose. He isn’t afraid of anyone…he’s going out there to dominate.”
As he has progressed through college, Headlee and Bonaventura both said Evans’ stamina sets him apart from other wrestlers, noting that he wins a lot of his matches in the third period because of his fitness level. Evans knows he has evolved a lot to get to this point since he first came to Waynesburg nearly four years ago.
“I would say I’ve developed, over time, my conditioning and my pace in the practice room,” Evans said. “I’ve also gotten a lot smarter with certain techniques and how to wrestle matches and stuff. I’ve improved the fundamentals too a lot more. I wasn’t pinning as many people earlier in my career, but now I do a lot more.”
Ever since Evans came in as a 26-year-old freshman, Headlee has seen him exceed his goals and aspirations nearly every time he sets them. Given that fact, he isn’t at all surprised to see him breaking a national record.
“From the very first day, he was driven. He wanted to make the lineup [as a freshman],” Headlee said. “Each time he sets his goals he gets there. He wanted to make nationals, he wanted to make the lineup—each time he’s done it. I’ve never doubted him or what he wants to do. It’s just fun watching him and to have someone in your room that has his goals and they work that hard to get to them.”
What’s even more impressive, according to Bonaventura, has been Evans’ ability to stay healthy and consistent with roughly 50 matches in each of his four years.
“The other thing is too, injuries, little things here and there and just taking time off—Jake doesn’t want to,” Bonaventura said. “He wants to wrestle every day. If we could compete every day in a tournament, he would. Even guys on our team, we have to manage them…Jake always goes.”
One goal that Evans said he had, but will not reach, is 200 career wins, because there are just not enough matches left in his senior campaign. With, as of Feb. 12, a dual meet, the regional tournament and the national tournament still left to go this season, Evans can max out around 184 wins if he remains undefeated the rest of the way and wins the national title.
Despite breaking the NCAA wins record across all divisions and looking to extend his new record, Evans remains locked into his main goal: repeating as the DIII heavyweight champion.
“I think it’s kind of cool, but I don’t feel that much emotion towards it yet [because] I’m more focused on nationals and repeating. I’m nervous about that. I’m excited…I’ll probably look back on it later,” Evans said. “I’m pretty confident. I train pretty much to my capabilities. It’s out of my control how good the other people are, but I’m pretty confident that I can repeat again at this level.”