I found Carl Evans where he often is these days — in the bleachers watching one of his 11 grandkids compete.
We talked about our offspring, especially his grandson Malachi. He is a three-sport athlete as a freshman at Penn High School..
“Oh, he’s pretty good,” says Carl, now 72.
I asked it he could he be as good as Carl and Malachi’s dad, Philip, were at South Bend Washington High School.
“Maybe better,” Carl admits.
That’s saying something. Carl was a wrestling state champion at Washington High School in 1968 and son Philip, a captain on the last team that Carl coached at Washington, was an undefeated wrestler in 1997 before suffering a one-point loss in the state championship semifinals. He eventually finished third.
Wrestling obviously is in the Evans’s blood. Philip’s older brother Isaac was also a wrestler for his dad and the Panthers.
But Carl — who coached for 25 years and taught in the South Bend schools for 42 — never made wrestling a necessity in his boys’ lives. When they were youngsters, Carl took Isaac and Philip to a wrestling camp. Isaac got roughed up in one of his matches and cried in his father’s arm.
“Daddy, I never want to wrestle again,” he said.
Carl said he didn’t have to. But both Isaac and Philip decided they wanted to wrestle for their dad and make him proud. They did.
Yet after Philip finished his career with a school-record 144 wins and was just a takedown away from a probable state title, his dad said to him, “You wrestle for only part of your life, but you live as a man the rest of it.”
They had a good example to follow.
Carl’s adult life has been about fatherhood … faith … and feeling forever fortunate that he found the right woman to marry. The latter point is quite a story.
“After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t planning to go to college,” he says. “I had a full-time job at Kaiser Jeep and my dad had been laid off so I wanted to help out at home. But then my wrestling coach, Bob Million, said I was going to college and he didn’t take no for an answer. He drove me down to Ball State.”
On his first day there, Carl felt overwhelmed and all alone. “I was sitting on the curb and crying. I was so homesick,” he remembers.
Then a car pulled up and a beautiful young lady named Mary got out with her parents. Carl brightened up and helped with her luggage. He thought maybe college might not be so bad after all.
Four years later, they were married. Carl and Mary will celebrate their 50th anniversary on Aug. 19.
Mary had a lot to do with Carl finding his faith, too. “I went to church when I was a kid,” he continues. “My dad would say if you put your feet under his table, then you were going to church. It was his way or no way.”
Carl says he would pray before his wrestling matches and that was about it. But at Ball State when he wasn’t sure how his relationship with Mary was going, he prayed to God that if He would help him win her over, then he would give the rest of his life to Him.
And that’s what he has done. Carl is an Elder at Deer Run Church of Christ where he will occasionally give a sermon. He also sings in the Praise Team with his son Philip. God is always in his life.
A few Sundays ago, son Philip preached from the pulpit at Deer Run while son Isaac worked the sound system and video feed. They are handy guys. Philip owns his own construction company and Isaac is an electrician.
Carl also has an older son Marco and a daughter Joy, who just earned her Master’s in Education and is a first grade teacher in Indianapolis.
“I’m a proud papa,” Carl says.
He has been retired from teaching since 2014. “My life is mainly about family and the church, although Mary and I try to do some traveling,” he adds.
They also walk and exercise while Carl deals with diabetes. “I never drank or smoke but I have a sweet tooth.”
Life is pretty sweet for him, too. “God has blessed me,” he says. “He really has.”