“They’ve got it all.” “It was easy for them to get there.” “They don’t have to work as hard now.” “They’re athletes so they probably don’t focus much on school anyways.” Those are phrases often associated with student athletes. If you know Utah Valley University athletes, you’d know it’d be hard for those phrases to fit them — especially UVU wrestlers Koy Wilkinson, a junior, and Chase Trussell, a freshman.
Both Wilkinson and Trussell have a lot in common. They both came to UVU from local Utah high school’s, won two or more State Championships, are psychology majors and as most may not know because they are student athletes, are first generation college students.
Where it all Started
“I think it’s pretty cool. I was raised by my dad, he’s just a hard working dude and not a lot of school education,” said Wilkinson. “They always joke with me about it that they never thought I’d be the first one in our family to graduate from college but I think it’s cool.”
“Same thing with my dad, just a hard working guy who always set goals with me,” added Trussell. “He kind of used himself as an example he said, ‘you don’t want to be like me growing up having to work all day long, early in the morning all the way into night so you need to go to school and get your degree.’ It’s also kind of nice being a first-gen student because then you have younger siblings coming up and they’re able to look up to you.”
It was the father figures in both Wilkinson and Trussell’s lives that pushed them and gave them the motivation to strive for greatness, not only in athletics, but being the first one in the family to pursue an education and get a degree. Having athletics in both their lives has helped with a variety of things, from giving them the opportunity to continue with their education to wanting to excel in the classroom.
“Athletics helps a ton financially, along with just giving you a drive to be at school,” said Trussell. “I love to wrestle and I’ll do whatever it takes to wrestle as long as I can. So if that means I have to go to college and get a degree to do it, I’m down for it.”
“I think its mostly instilled a good work ethic. Especially wrestling, it’s pretty tough mentally. It’s instilled a good work ethic to stay in school,” said Wilkinson. “I’ll do anything to wrestle for five more years, and yeah it helps pay for school. It’s just been a good thing in my life.”
Though Wilkinson and Trussell are both highly motivated and driven by their schooling in order to wrestle, they each have other factors in their lives that keep them going.
“My wife, I wanna have a future family you know get a good job. Work for them and be able to provide … be able to provide financially, that’s my goal,” said Wilkinson.
“I don’t have a wife yet,” said Trussell as he laughed. “A big thing though, like I said, is my dad. He’s always been a huge factor in goals and stuff that I’ve set throughout my life up until now.”
Life at UVU
The UVU campus has a lot to offer that includes, the food vendors, the library views of the lake and mountains, the professors and especially not having to go outside of the building to get around campus once you’re in.
“My favorite thing at UVU is that it’s all indoors, that’s really nice in the winter time,” said Wilkinson. “The friendships that I’ve made here, I’ve made a lot of good friends here especially on the wrestling team.”
“I’d say the campus too, just the way it’s set up and everything,” added Trussell. “The friends here and being able to stay close to my family is really awesome, that’s probably a big thing for me.”
It seems there are two consensus’: the campus being all indoors is the ultimate favorite, and the friendships made at UVU are fantastic.
Advice and Wishes
With Wilkinson being the upper class-man between him and Trussell, he was asked what advice he could give that fits with both athletics and education.
“Just put your head down and go to work, go to class and do your homework,” said Wilkinson. “Hard work gets you to where you wanna go.”
Likewise, with Trussell being a freshman, he was asked if there was anything he wished he would’ve known before coming to UVU.
“The late nights and early mornings, especially with wrestling. But in the end it’ll all pay off so it’s something to look forward to,” said Trussell.
Both Wilkinson and Trussell have adapted seamlessly into UVU life, as both already have and continue to have a drive to do their best in athletics and the classroom.
Diversity at the University
Being at a diverse campus such as UVU, and being around others from all different walks of life means that something will definitely stand out to you. Whether it be someone you meet of a different ethnicity, being the first in a family to go to school or being much older in age, or even of different belief systems, UVU is a place for all and a place for you.
During their time here at UVU, both Wilkinson and Trussell have noticed a few things themselves about the diversity at the university.
“The main things I notice is the friends. If you’re just walking down the hallway, the main hallway into campus there’s so many friends,” said Trussell. “You could just pull up and talk to somebody random and everyone here is so friendly and nice. No matter what color or where you’re from, all of that stuff, it doesn’t matter here and I think that’s a really cool aspect of this university.”
“Making friends is super easy here. I’m not a super talkative guy but I’ve made a lot of friends in my classes over the years,” added Wilkinson. “There’s just so much you can do on the campus, so many activities that we have here that includes everybody.”
Friendship might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of diversity, but friendships are a major factor in what keeps the diversity strong at UVU. As both Trussell and Wilkinson pointed out, it’s easy to make friends at the university no matter the color, where you’re from or what your background may be. What matters is acceptance and hearing others stories.That coupled with friendship keeps the diversity strong.
Another aspect of diversity at UVU is the ‘commuter school’ reputation that it gets. A large portion of students commute from all over Utah, which means that UVU pride is spread out all across the state.
“It’s a little different, especially athletics. Coming to a commuter school, you obviously want to get a fanbase as if you play football at Utah or something like that,” said Trussell. “But a big thing that I like about a commuter school is no matter what you’re all kind of coming from the same beginnings, we’re all just trying to find our ways.”
“I think that UVU all kind of puts us in that situation and puts us all together. I think it’s really cool how supportive everyone is here like staff, President Tuminez and everyone,” Trussell continued.
What does it mean to be a Wolverine?
At UVU, there are many qualities that could be said when asking the question, “What does it mean to be a Wolverine?” Both Trussell and Wilkinson mention a few things common to that question.
“A big thing that I like about our team and Wolverine athletics, we’re all fighters,” said Trussell. “We don’t have to go to some big name school and whenever a team comes in to wrestle UVU, they either leave or know coming in that they’re going to have to fight no matter what. I at least know that they know I’m gonna come out there fighting.”
“I think that we’ve kind of put the country on notice that we’re something big coming up in the wrestling world and with our other sports too,” added Wilkinson. “I love to be a Wolverine and I like that it’s in our home state, we can represent Utah as well as Utah Valley.”
As you can see, Wolverines are fighters, Wolverines don’t need to be known as a big name and Wolverines are putting others on notice. The definitions given of being a Wolverine coupled with Wilkinson and Trussell being first generation students, shows that anything is possible and that hard work and dedication can get you to where you want to go.
Koy Wilkinson and Chase Trussell are standout student athletes, studious psychology majors, former State Champions, first generation students and most importantly, Wolverines.
Photo courtesy of Erik Flores, UVU Marketing