WAVERLY — Devastating injuries don’t usually inspire life-long choices.
But for Wartburg College wrestler Lance Evans, blowing out his right knee preparing for a preseason tournament entering his junior year of high school was somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
That is when Evans meet Iowa City based orthopedic surgeon Mark Mysnyk.
The recovery time for the reconstructive surgery Mysnyk conducted on Evans for a typical patient is longer than nine months. For Evans, he made it back in time to wrestle sectionals four and half months later and eventually finished fifth at 195 pounds for Solon High School in Class 2A.
“It kind of sparked my interest in becoming an orthopedic surgeon,” Evans said.
Then, Evans talked to another friend who went through medical school.
“They told me four years of college, four years of medical school and five years of residency,” Evans said. “I was like heck with that. But the further I got along I realized spending a few extra years in college is not bad to be able to do something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Because of Mysnyk and how he helped him out, Evans wants to help other people out. That has been and continues to be the two-time Division III all-American wrestler’s life ambition.
It appears that Evans is on the cusp of that dream. In August, Evans scored in the 97th percentile, or top 3 percent, of the MCat exam, and has already interviewed with the University of Iowa medical school.
“I was a little surprised by my score,” Evans said. “Talking to professors here, people usually study about a year for it and I studied three weeks. I was hoping to do well on it. I knew I had the capability of it.
“It’s an eight-hour test and I really think wrestling helped me out with it. Wrestling and wrestling practices are grinds and that test, studying for it and then taking it is a grind.”
The wrestling program and Wartburg’s biology program are two reasons why Evans ended up in Waverly. Originally out of high school, Evans signed with the University of Iowa, choosing the Hawkeyes over the Knights, who had been one of his finalists after he captured the 220-pound 2A state title in 2014.
It didn’t take long for Evans to realize the U of I and Iowa City wasn’t a fit for him and he began looking for a school with a strong wrestling program and a good biology program. Wartburg’s won 13 Division III national titles and the school has been listed as one of the top 200 U.S. colleges and universities in Peterson’s Top Colleges for Science.
It also didn’t hurt that Evans had already established a pretty good relationship with Knight head coach Eric Keller and assistant coach Chris Ortner.
“I think he took a pretty strong look here the first time,” Keller said. “I think it was appealing to him. So him coming here, it made that decision easier. It is always hard when leaving a place =, but a lot easier when you got a place you feel comfortable going too.”
Evans arrived in a Wartburg room loaded with upper weight talent that included three-time heavyweight all-American Ryan Fank, future heavyweight all-American Ben Nagle and two-time 197-pound all-American Gerard Roman.
“I got my butt kicked a lot,” Evans said. “But without that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. It made me tougher, made me better. I had to up my game every day and that helped out.
“That is what is great about Wartburg. Everybody here is committed to being successful and what it takes to be successful.”
Academically, everybody knows Evans has been a great addition to Wartburg. On the mat, he’s also been good finishing third nationally two seasons ago and fourth a season ago, both performances part of team titles.
Evans was the favorite to win it last year before he tore every ligament in the semifinals losing to Augsburg’s Donny Longendyke, the defending champion he had already beaten twice. Evans finished the tournament on the bum ankle.
“Mentally and physically he was ready last year, and he hurts his ankle, which kind of changed everything,” Keller said. “And he didn’t let on how much he was hurt. Probably not smart, but shows how determined he is.”
Evans missed six months of being on the mat, but between physical therapy, lifting and conditioning, he was ready when the Knights got back into the room officially to being defense of two consecutive national titles.
Evans, undefeated, is ranked second at heavyweight behind Adarios Jones of Augustana College (Ill.).
“Last year I was close, it was within my grasp,” he said. “Then something happens that is out of your control. This year it has been different. I have made sure I’m doing everything right to I put myself in the best position to be successful at the end of the year.”
Keller says that is the telling trait on why Evans has been so successful in everything he does.
“Lance, being able to balance both, a wrestling program with expectations to be the best, and one of the top biology programs in the nation where expectations are to be the best ... being successful in both is a telling sign of what type of kid he is.”