Interviews with Wrestling Coach Joel Gibson and Student-Athlete Evan Potter

Southern Oregon University Athletics

Recently, the Siskiyou had a great opportunity to talk with head wrestling coach Joel Gibson and interview freshman Evan Potter

Gibson is a Southern Oregon native. He graduated from North Medford High School and then wrestled at Oregon State University. There, he completed a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in history. He took a year break to be an assistant coach at Clackamas Community College, and while he was there he says, “I had a blast and realized this is gonna be what I want to for a career.” He continued on to compete at SOU for a time, earning a seventh-place finish at the NAIA National Championships in 2007.

Naturally, following his time as an athlete at SOU, Gibson moved into a coaching career under the head wrestling coach Mike Ritchey. He spent five seasons under Ritchey before moving on to coach at Phoenix High School for a while. Gibson then came back in 2017 as an assistant for two more years before taking over the women’s program in 2019. Going into the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, Gibson was the head coach for both the women’s and men’s programs. 

As the head coach for both programs, Gibson creates practice plans, puts together recruiting profiles and manages both teams alongside his assistant coaches to make sure that the athletes are ready for the season. In the wrestling world, training becomes different as wrestlers go from lightweight to heavyweight. On that note, Gibson said, “we mainly try to cover things that can work for everybody. Then, we give time for athletes to work on stuff individually… [we] give them a wide variety of stuff like techniques to work on or use because what one thing will work for one athlete won’t for another.”

One of Gibson’s favorite moments as a coach at SOU comes from watching one Sienna Ramirez compete at the NAIA National Championships to become a national champion. He said, “the first women’s national champ… we didn’t even know if we were gonna end up at the national tournament at all. And she came through, won the tournament, and made history here at SOU.”

Another athlete that placed in the top ten nationally just this year was newcomer Evan Potter. Potter was a freshman from Junction City, OR. this 2021-22 season. In the Cascade Conference Championships, he finished fourth, but in the NAIA National Championships for the 133 weight class Potter placed 6th nationally.

The Siskiyou had the opportunity to interview Potter and ask about his season, what he looks forward to in his career at SOU, about himself, and his studies: “my thoughts on the first season at SOU are great. [And] I’m looking forward to keep doing great things in my wrestling career.” His favorite moment is “when [he] wrestled at the NAIA [National Championships] wrestling and placed sixth being an All American.” Potter is studying biology at SOU and emphasized the challenge he faced in maintaining a good GPA while wrestling. In his free time, Potter enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, riding bikes, and kayaking. Some general advice he gives to younger athletes is “always be the best you as possible and always stay true to what’s best for you.” Lastly, one of Potter’s favorite food places in Ashland is Sammich.

Reflecting on the season, Gibson remarked, “well, we got one more step to take for the women to win a national title… and for the men, we hadn’t had an All-American since 2018. So, it’s good. That’s gonna keep us going in the right direction.” 

On advice, Gibson advocates and stresses the importance of accountability and discipline for future coaches. He also says, “surround yourself with people that are like-minded and have the same goals. I think that makes a difference…[and] just set standards and stick with them. Provide a good path and insight for athletes and make sure that they’re doing the right thing. “

As head coach, Gibson’s goals for the program are to, he says, “have good students. We want to have good athletes and we want good people… we have a great school… and we’re searching for national titles, regional titles, and as many All-Americans we can get every year.” But part of the winning process is about creating a culture for success. On creating this environment, Gibson comments, “high standards for everybody academically and athletically and making sure to adhere to it too… discipline within [the athletes] carries over to the wrestling mat as well… to change it to that winning culture, we want [athletes] that are buying in and them being here to be students first and good athletes.”

looking forward, the wrestling program is excited to gain some new commits for the men’s and women’s teams. Gibson highlighted a few incoming athletes and their potential at SOU, but his top remark was “we’ve got all sorts of diversity on our team” regarding the additions to the core group of athletes in the program now.

Currently, the wrestling program is spending time both in the weight room and on the wrestling mat a few times every week. This last weekend the program competed in the Vegas for the US Open Juniors. The student-athletes for the wrestling teams are staying both active and looking forward to this next season.

Fish, Flight, and Fun?

M: if you could be a bird or fish for a day, which would you choose and why?
J: I’m a big-time fisherman, and the fish go through so much adversity every day. I just think it would be easier to be a bird, and to fly and soar around would be a lot cooler.

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