Ambition & pushups lead future Sooner to dominance on the mat

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– KJ Evans finished his high school wrestling career when he competed in his fourth straight championship bout at the OSSAA State Championship. The final match for the Heritage Hall senior was a decisive 6-2 victory over Tuttle’s Shawn Rounsaville in the 150-pound division.

Evans finished his senior campaign with a 32-1 record and a third consecutive state championship after losing in the finals as a freshman.

“My first thought was to go out there and dominate,” Evans said. “I think that’s what I did. I wasn’t letting people score on me, I was just going in there trying to finish my matches. People come at me and so I got to come at them the same way they come at me. I treat everybody the same. You go at them.”

When Evans walked off the mat after having his hand raised in a Chargers singlet for the last time, it almost came as a surprise to him that his prep career was officially over.

“It’s crazy. Now that I think about it, it was my last time ever wrestling in high school,” Evans said. “I feel happy about it. I feel good about it. It was a pretty good career I think. Only lost two or three matches my whole high school career. I went out there and I just did what my coaches taught me and all my hard work paid off. So, it feels good.

“Evans is more impressed with the journey he has been on since he started wrestling. In his own words, he says he was not very good when he first started.

“When I first started, I sucked,” Evans said. “I just put in the work and I believe what people around me were telling me and it got me to where I’m at.”

However, Evans admits there were times early on when the thought of quitting the sport did creep into his mind. But the encouragement of those around him kept him focused.

“My friends, my coaches, especially people like Josh Powell. He’s always been around me. He’s kept me in this, and I wanted to be good,” Evans said. “I don’t like losing too much, so I decided to get better.”

Yet, it took more than just belief to transform Evans into a dominant grappler. He said his father told him the key to getting better was a simple exercise that he could do anywhere.

“The flip switched probably when I started doing pushups with my dad,” Evans said. “When I told him I wanted to be nationally ranked, and he was like, well, you going to have to work for it. So I started doing pushups every day and I just got bigger and I got stronger and it helped me a lot.”

Evans started doing up to 500 pushups every day. That grew to more than a 1,000 by his senior season.

It’s that type of dedication that made Evans a highly prized wrestling recruit for college programs around the country. However, he chose to stay home and wrestle in his backyard at the University of Oklahoma.

“I just like the program,” Evans said. “I like the people there. There are A lot of people from here that go there and they got some good coaches and good facilities. I really like it. And they, they wanted me there.”

Evans signed his National Letter of Intent to wrestle at Oklahoma in November as his senior campaign was beginning. He is the only member of the Sooners five man recruiting class that hails from inside the state.

“He is a great in-state recruit,” Sooners coach Lou Rosselli said. “He has won two state titles and is very gifted. His talent fits our program and we are excited for KJ to be a Sooner.”

Evans was one of four seniors from Heritage Hall to sign D-I scholarships. That includes two other wrestlers in E.J. Beloncik (Air force) and Davis Park (Navy).

Before he leaves Heritage Hall for OU, Evans still has a little business to take care of. He will be competing at several big tournaments, including nationals in Fargo (N.D).

But when Evans looks back on his prep career, he said it’s going to be the dedication that stands out to him the most.

“I’m going to tell them the dedication stood out to me the most,” Evans said. “All that hard work that people around me put into me. The hard work that I put in myself. That dedication really helped me. It really, really helped me. And I wouldn’t be there without them.”

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Photos: Michael Kinney

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