The conversation might be blunt, succinct and unfit for print in a family newspaper.

But if 23-year-old Mike Evans could step back in time and advise his 19-year-old rambunctious self, he figures he could get his message across in three words: "Stop (bleeping) around."

Evans is nearing the end of what's turned out to be a remarkably steady career at Iowa, especially given the wobbly nature of his start with the Hawkeyes.

He's one of 41 wrestlers in Iowa history to top the 100-victory plateau. He's a two-time all-American and Midlands champion, a three-time Big Ten finalist and he enters this week's NCAA Championships as the No. 3 seed at 174 pounds.

Evans arrived at Iowa in 2010 as the crown jewel of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class. Yet there was a point four years ago when he feared he squandered his opportunity with the Hawkeyes, a point when he seemed headed for the program's exit door rather than future wrestling fame at Iowa.

A series of off-mat transgressions — including a drunken driving arrest — landed Evans a two-month suspension during his first year at Iowa. He had to meet a set of terms to earn his way back on to the roster and Evans checked off every box except one.

"I remember thinking I can drink and party when I want to and still get away with being a good wrestler and still getting what I need to done," Evans said. "I didn't realize it at the time, but I was lying to myself thinking I could."

Evans wouldn't budge and neither would Iowa coach Tom Brands. When they came to an impasse, Brands smacked his desk.

"I said, 'We've got our answer. You're leaving and I'm good with that,' " Brands said. "He looked at me and (said), 'I don't want to leave.'

"There are coaches around the country in other programs that would let that fly because they've just got to have a guy like that. But that's not helping him any. Forget about our program. That's the ultimate thing he has bought into: We are truly about his development. When he saw we weren't selfish and it wasn't about him contributing to the (team) point total, I think he started to get it."


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Looking back, though, Evans said the most pivotal period in his development may have been his second year on campus. That's when Brands paired him up in a housing arrangement with national champion Matt McDonough.

"McDonough's not about a popularity contest," Brands said. "He's not going to hold back because you might not like (what he has to say)."

Said Evans: "It was almost like living with Tom. You expect a coach to hold you accountable when you're trying to run the coop. But when you get a teammate in there who's doing the exact same thing, you realize this is what I'm supposed to be doing."

Evans has gradually crafted a leadership role of his own — on the mat and inside the practice room.

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"It doesn't matter how tired the guy is, he won't put his head down," Iowa assistant Ryan Morningstar said. "His heart will explode before he quits on you."

Brands said Evans has taken on a role as a mouthpiece for the program. He's the type who gets in the ear of teammates to voice his opinions.

"I'm less self-centered. It's not about Mike Evans all the time," Evans said. "The program has definitely given me a lot of respect for myself and what I'm capable of and also respect for others. The program's held me accountable because that's the standard we live by here. The great thing about that is the program was holding me accountable even when I didn't want to. It definitely got me swinging the other way."