Evan Stanley says his friends don’t always quite understand why at just 11 years old he’s already so obsessed with wrestling.
Most of them, Evan said, play stick-and-ball sports. Evan prefers wrestling mats for one reason in particular.
“You get to beat people up without getting in trouble,” Evan said.
He’s good at it, too. Just ask his competition.
Evan, a Lowell native, claimed his third Indiana State Wrestling Association Folkstyle championship at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis on Sunday. He took the crown in the 12U 86-pound weight class. He went 5-0 in the tournament — including four pins — to improve to 55-0 in the Midwest this year.
He’s got five losses overall, which came in a tournament in New Jersey when he wrestled kids 2 or 3 years older than him.
“When you wrestle Evan, you know you’ve wrestled him,” said Jose Escobedo, Evan’s coach at the Gary-based Region Wrestling Academy. “He’s really a hard-nosed kind of wrestler. He’s in your face, real aggressive, real physical. He’s going to get what he wants when he goes up against you.”
It’s the physicality that Evan said made him fall in love with the sport enough to commit to practicing four days each week. Wrestling is addicting, he said, and it’s hard for him to explain why.
“It gets your adrenaline going,” he said.
Already an accomplished youth wrestler, Evan is about to enter middle school with clearly defined goals laid out in front of him.
In the short-term, he wants to continue to get stronger and develop his technical skills and he thinks being around high schoolers at Lowell will help him do that. Like some of his coaches before him, Evan said he wants to be a four-time state champion and hopes to keep wrestling as long as he can, perhaps even in college.
Joe Stanley said his son Evan’s wrestling career essentially developed organically. Joe himself played baseball, basketball and football but it became clear early on that Evan was drawn to the physical nature of wrestling. Physically, he was gifted enough to have immediate success.
The rest, Joe said, comes down to Evan.
“You get out of this sport what you put into it, and he’s put a lot into it,” Joe said. “He stays extra after practices to do pushups or rope climb or whatever. It’s a credit to him. He’s the one that does it all because he likes it so much.”
Rianne Murphy, a state champion in her own right in both the boys and girls divisions at 13, is friends and trains with Evan at the RWA. She called him “self-motivated” and said he challenges her, which has helped her own career.
“He’s very friendly but when it comes to wrestling, he becomes very focused and gets into the right mindset,” Murphy said. “He can go from being very friendly and laid back to being determined and focused when he needs to be. He’s very strong in the mental part of wrestling.”
Combine that mental attitude with his physical prowess and Escobedo said Evan is well on his way to accomplishing the goals he has set out for himself. Joe said he’ll support him any way he can.
As for Evan, he’s just waiting for the next match.
“I just really love doing it,” he said.