Mark Perry Jr. spent 45 hours hauling his belongings across the country last month, moving out of his apartment near Penn State's campus, lugging everything back home to Oklahoma and packing up again for the next stop on the journey to his ultimate goal as a wrestling coach.
The trip could have been considerably less time consuming for the former Iowa star had he traded in the U-Haul and hopped on one of the sport's established bandwagons in the Big Ten or Big 12 instead. But the two-time NCAA champion thinks the route he's taking could be the best path to becoming a college head coach.
Perry was officially hired Friday as the top assistant to John Azevedo at Cal Poly.
"I don't think jumping on whoever's bandwagon and trying to shoot for the top right now is going to develop me as a coach as much, "Perry said. "I'd play a role, but just not the same type of role I'll play here."
Perry, 25, had just completed his first year in coaching at Penn State when the Nittany Lions fired coach Troy Sunderland in April and replaced him with Iowa State's Cael Sanderson. Perry turned down a chance to stay at Penn State in a diminished role, saying in April that he wanted an opportunity to recruit, coach from the matside corner and continue his development as a coach.
Azevedo offered Perry those responsibilities plus work with administrators and boosters, the chance to coordinate recruiting and fund raise for the Mustangs, who operate with 6.5 of the NCAA-max 9.9 scholarships.
"I'm really going to have the opportunity to learn every aspect of coaching here, which is going to be a lot harder than most positions and most coaches have to deal with, "Perry said. "But I want to be a head coach, and it's good to get that knowledge. If anything, it's going to develop your work ethic outside of the wrestling room to be successful. There are a lot of things that need to happen outside the wrestling room and outside of time with the athletes to help the program build toward where John and I envision it."
Cal Poly finished sixth in the Pac 10 last season. The Mustangs return one All-American -- Chase Pami, who placed seventh at 157 pounds. The biggest recent splash for the program came in 2008 when Chad Mendes reached the 141-pound NCAA finals. Perry wrapped up his career with the Hawkeyes later that evening with his second national title.
"He's definitely relevant and I think, for recruiting, he's got a big name -- Mark Perry from Iowa is huge for us in recruiting, "Azevedo said. "He's going to be able to bring enthusiasm and belief in the coaching staff and what we're doing.
"I talked to a lot of people about him and everybody had a lot of positive remarks about Mark and his love for wrestling and coaching. Obviously, he has a tremendous pedigree of wrestling. He brings a lot to the table."