HOUSTON, TEXAS — The 2019 NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship and a meal at Olive Garden helped seal the choice for Chris Wilson (sophomore, Houston, Texas, Cypress Ridge HS) to join the Central College wrestling team.
Wilson was planning to attend a community college and start the path towards becoming a nurse in the Houston area. His college wrestling recruitment ramped up after his senior season, including a message from Central’s assistant coach Daniel Page. One thing led to another and Wilson was on his first plane ride to visit campus.
“It was my first and only college visit because I was hooked,” Wilson said. “I liked how the campus looked and I was kind of starstruck when I first met Coach Page. I was pumped to be on a college visit and meeting with a college coach.”
His weekend at Central put the Texas native at ease.
“It was just really fun to be here,” Wilson said. “On the last night I was here, I went to a dance on campus and I really connected with (former Dutch wrestler) Jeremy Vester and some other wrestlers. It just felt like I was already here and I felt really comfortable.”
His decision became official in May after he got a visit at home from head coach Eric Van Kley. Also Central’s athletics director, Van Kley was in Houston for the Dutch women’s golf team’s national tournament appearance at Bay Oaks Country Club. Wilson and his mom went to Olive Garden with Van Kley, a dinner which ultimately finalized his decision.
“My mom really liked him,” Wilson said. “He was really enthusiastic and just nice in general. Afterwards, she said ‘Chris, you should go there. I want you to get an education and set an example for your siblings.’ I could tell he had my best interest at heart and for him to come see me in Texas said a lot.”
Last season, Wilson was the only wrestler from Texas. His roommate, Julian Rodriguez (sophomore, Escondido, Calif.), also found himself far away from home.
“Coming from Texas to Pella, my biggest concern was finding somebody who I could relate to,” Wilson said. “Julian and I share a lot of things in common. When I first met him, we didn’t really speak that much but we slowly started opening up to each other. I consider him a close friend now. We come from similar backgrounds and we can really communicate well with each other and understand each other.”
A roster full of student-athletes from all of the country with a variety of backgrounds has become one of Wilson’s favorite parts of being a Central wrestler.
“Different stories and different experiences make for a lot of great moments and great connections,” he said.
Academically, Wilson is a biology major and wants to work in the medical field. He has his sights on becoming a nurse practitioner.
“A lot of the women in my family work in the medical field,” he said. “I want to follow in their footsteps.”
Wilson was 11-8 on the mat as a freshman, earning a varsity letter. He placed third in the 165-pound bracket at two tournaments.
“College wrestling is definitely tougher,” he said. “I didn’t strive to become a champion and an All-American in the way I do now. That’s the thing about our brotherhood here, we always are pushing each other as hard as we want to them to push us.”
The Dutch are slated to open a pandemic-shortened season Jan. 23 with an American Rivers triangular featuring Coe College and Loras College at Cedar Rapids.