By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Perez Perez. The name so nice, you have to say it twice. In fact, in Windsor California, you have to say it 14 times.
Perez Emilio Perez, the soon-to-be 2019 graduate of the University of Iowa, is the son of Perez and Angela Perez. He is one of six boys; a brother to Perez Perez, Jr., Perez David Perez, Perez Leo Perez, Perez Eli Perez, and Perez Silas Perez.
Inside the Perez household, you go by your middle name. Outside the home, you go by Perez Perez, a name not-soon-forgotten inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex.
“Perez Perez has been an unbelievable staunch pillar of what this program is about when you’re not necessarily in the role that you want to be in,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. “He has done nothing but make this place better. He has done nothing but make his teammates better.”
You need an ear? Perez is your guy. You need a kick in the butt? Perez. You need a smile? Just look at him. For some reason, even after four years of grinding out every day against the likes of Thomas Gilman and Spencer Lee, the man never stops grinning.
“I love that guy,” said Lee, a 2018 NCAA champion. “Perez has been an amazing teammate, training partner, and friend. We lean on each other to improve every day.”
Perez is very cognizant of his role inside the program. It is a role familiar to many Hawkeyes before him; a long list of wrestling names not on display inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex.
“My role is to help them be ready,” Perez said. “I lost the wrestle-offs, fair and square, so I play my role today as well as I possibly can. It is hard to do, but they coach you through it. I came here expecting to wrestle and start. That didn’t happen, but when you do what you have to do and you see your team succeed, you know you’re part of it too. You don’t get all of the fame, but you know you are a part of it.”
It is a selfless act with little public reward. Work out. Make weight. Get another guy ready to compete at his highest level. And then step back and cheer like hell.
“You can’t say enough good things about Perez Perez,” said Gilman, a three-time All-American and World silver medalist. “We can’t do the things we do without him. It is not easy being in a position like that, but it shows what kind of person he is and what kind of man he is.”
The people inside the room know it, and the people close to those people know it. When Spencer Lee won his NCAA title in March, Larry Lee, Spencer’s father, was able to celebrate matside with his son. When Larry returned to his seat in the stands, he hugged Perez, knowing full well the impact Perez had on Spencer.
“All I can really say is I’m going to miss him and I wish him all the luck in the world,” Spencer Lee said. “Hawkeye fans may never understand the impact he has had in the room.”
Before he leaves, Perez has one more postseason to prepare for. And even if it doesn’t end up being his postseason, he will leave the program with a very personal piece of history. Already the first person in his family to earn a high school diploma, he is weeks away from earning a college degree from the University of Iowa.
“Being a Hawkeye has been awesome,” Perez said. “I’ve learned so much that has made me a better person and I have made so many friends here. It is an opportunity I knew I wasn’t going to waste.”
The Hawkeyes will recognize Perez and seniors Mitch Bowman and Sam Stoll following Friday’s dual against Indiana. The dual starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at hawkeyesports.com.