Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa wrestler Perez Perez is what athletics are really about

Ogden column: Senior rarely made lineup, but played important role

Iowa’s Perez Perez (left) wrestles Purdue’s Devin Shroder in the 125-pound match on Nov. 24 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Perez hasn’t wrestled a lot for the Hawkeyes, but has been a very valuable member of the team. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette
Iowa’s Perez Perez (left) wrestles Purdue’s Devin Shroder in the 125-pound match on Nov. 24 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Perez hasn’t wrestled a lot for the Hawkeyes, but has been a very valuable member of the team. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette

The third-ranked Iowa wrestling team wrapped up its regular season Sunday afternoon at No. 2 Oklahoma State, the biggest dual meet of this campaign.

Perez Perez was not in the lineup.

If your first response was “who?” you’re not alone.

Perez was rarely in the Hawkeye lineup. The senior from Windsor, Calif., wrestled a total of 28 matches in four seasons. He wrestled in two duals in his career, both this season and both losses.

But Perez played a role in Iowa wrestling, a huge role Coach Tom Brands said a couple of weeks ago while talking about his three seniors.

“You look at Perez Perez, who has been unbelievable — (a) staunch pillar of what this program’s about when you’re not necessarily in the role you want to be in,” Brands said. “He has done nothing but make this place better, done nothing but make his teammates better.”

Athletes like Perez often are forgotten in the grand scheme of a season. There are duals or games to win. There are championship to chase.

But every team has a Perez Perez, an athlete who works hard behind the scenes and, even when their dreams are dashed, keep fighting, keep challenging.

“I wanted to be the starter and be the national champ,” Perez said. “I had all the chances.”

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But he couldn’t make the lineup. He wasn’t the best. Not in the country or the Iowa wrestling room.

But he didn’t quit.

“I got the next best thing,” he said.

He questioned his decision “a lot” early in his career, but quitting wasn’t an option. His father taught him “you don’t quit things.”

“A lot of people transfer when they don’t get what they want,” Perez said. “I’m not that kind of person.

“Things aren’t always going to go your way. You’re not always going to get what you want. You stick to the person you are.”

Perez said he is better because of his time in the Iowa wrestling room. He’s a better wrestler, but more importantly a better man. He will head back to California and coach at his high school.

“I will always take the lessons I learned here and be better at whatever I do,” he said.

Like all coaches — at any level — Brands sees this every year. You do your best to coach everyone the same, trying to get everybody to reach their potential, to be the best they can be.

Perez may not have been the best wrestler in that room, but he reached that level because of that room.

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“You talk about being proud and you talk about being happy for him or whatever,” Brands said. “He met his future here. He got educated here for his future. He learned the ropes ... he probably met his future wife.

“What a story, but there’s a lot of those stories. And that’s what it’s all about.”

That truly is what it’s all about. But it’s also something we — the fans and scribes who tell these stories — forget at times.

l Comments: (319) 386-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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