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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Cal Poly's Hidden Gem

    Cal Poly's two-time All-American Bernie Truax (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Last season, Bernie Truax lived up to expectations, earning All-American status for the second time in his collegiate career. However, Truax was not always a favorite for a national title. In 2018, Cal Poly's head coach Jon Sioredas struck gold in the small-named wrestler.

    "The term hidden gem doesn't happen a lot, but this is one of those scenarios where it did happen," Sioredas said. "I just got the job here and I got a call from one of our major donors. He said, 'Hey, I'm friends with this kid's dad. His name is Bernie.' I said, 'I remember Bernie. He's that super skinny dude, right?'

    Truax struggled at the state championships at the beginning of his high school career, finishing 0-2 in his sophomore season. As an upperclassman, Truax returned with the mindset to reach college radars. Although he never won state, he received interest from a few schools, including Cal Poly.

    When Truax first arrived at Cal Poly, he faced many challenges.

    "When I first arrived in the summer, I hurt my hips during one of the runs," Truax said. It looked like I'm a soft kid who was already hurt. Some of my teammates let me know to stop being soft and quit making excuses."

    Once Truax returned to the mat, the results failed to fall in his favor. As a redshirt, he won 14 of 21 matches in smaller tournaments. Plus, he failed to capture any gold in his first season. Besides struggling in matches, Truax could not compete with his teammates.

    "When I first got here. I was ticked off because I'm getting beat up in the practice room," Truax said.

    Since Truax failed to win early and often, he began questioning his future in the wrestling world. The training was extremely hard and the team had little success. During the season, Truax would call his father and discuss his future within the sport. After considering all options, Truax returned for his second season and improved tremendously.

    Although Truax improved at practice, his results did not show. Truax discussed how his mindset was not ready for the limelight.

    "I was growing pretty fast in the practice room, but couldn't make the flip when it was time to compete," Truax said. "When it's time to compete, I would just crumble, I would freeze out there."

    What went into Truax's mindset before matchday?

    "I made wrestling everything," Truax said. It was like seven days a week, and I did 4 hours of film a day. But, I learned that wrestling is just a part of my life, it's not my entire life. Whether I win or lose, my family is still going to love me, my friends are still going to love me. It doesn't matter. That has allowed me to just like perform really free."

    Once Truax freed his mindset, the success began to shine. Sioredas recalls when Truax defeated a nationally ranked opponent easily, he saw Truax smile for the first time after a match.

    When Truax began to move up the national rankings, the world stopped. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic set several wrestlers and coaches back, it was the perfect step to get Truax ready for the aftermath.

    "The Covid stoppage was the best thing that has ever happened wrestling-wise," Truax said. "I was still struggling mentally with wrestling and putting too much pressure on myself. So, I got a break and started lifting a lot of weights. When I came back from that break, I was extremely excited to start getting out there again."

    After losing his first match in the 2021 season, Truax won every match before the NCAA Championships. When Truax traveled to the 2021 NCAAs, he was the 12th seed. After winning his first three matches, Truax earned All-American honors for the first time.

    "When I won my quarterfinals match and I knew I was an All-American, the amount of love I felt and gratitude for being in that moment, it was just amazing," Truax said.

    When he became an All-American, he fulfilled a once-in-a-lifetime offer.

    "During my recruiting trip, [my father, Sioredas, and I] sat down in the office. Coach said, 'If you All-American, it's a full ride.' When he said that, I knew that was happening."

    Last season, Truax added to his accomplishments, becoming a two-time All-American.

    Plus, Truax became one of the largest factors in Cal Poly's rise to notoriety. According to Sioredas, one of the main reasons Evan Wick chose Cal Poly was because Truax can be a perfect leader and workout partner.

    In addition, Truax's early beliefs in the program led to larger recruits, larger transfers, and an RTC program in San Luis Obispo.

    With Cal Poly rising in the ranks, Sioredas recognizes Truax as a potential legend.

    "We got a diamond in the rough," Sioredas said. "Bernie's in the conversation with being one of the greatest ever to put on a Cal Poly singlet."
    Cal Poly's two-time All-American Bernie Truax (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

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