In the University of Indianapolis wrestling room, there are mats on the floor and the air smells of hard work and dedication from a number of college athletes. And hanging on the wall is a picture of former UIndy wrestler Bryce Givens.
Givens, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in English, is standing on a mat with his back to the camera and his hand in the air, held by an official. The words “Attitude, Strength, and Passion” are printed on the picture as well. Head wrestling coach Jason Warthan said these are words that described Givens perfectly.
“He would not give up. [He was] persistent and had a lot of heart and passion,” Warthan said. “He also had a lot of attitude when he wrestled. He would have a lot of comebacks, [and] he would put it together at the end.”
Givens, who passed away unexpectedly in November of last year, wrestled at UIndy for five years and was a two- time National Qualifier and a one-time Placer at the Midwest Classic. One of Warthan’s favorite memories of Givens is the amount of work he put in at the Midwest tournament.
“His sophomore year at Midwest, a prestigious tournament that we host and has about 25 teams. . . . He [Givens] lost in the first round and wrestled all the way back to get third [place in the tournament],” Warthan said. “That doesn’t happen a lot.”
UIndy alumnus Alex Johns, Givens’ former teammate and graduate assistant to the wrestling program, said his favorite memory of Givens is from when he and Givens went to nationals together.
“When we went to nationals one year together, that was both of our first trips there,” Johns said. “The whole trip brought us much closer as friends and teammates.”
While Givens was a wrestler, he also was known off the mats as a well-rounded and overall good guy. Assistant Wrestling Coach and Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities and Game Day Operations Robert Brubeck said that he and the other coaches noticed growth in Givens during his time with the team.
“There was a shift in ‘he came here to wrestle’ and he was not necessarily committed to doing things ‘the right way,’” Warthan said. “By the end of it, he was an example for everyone else, and he fully committed to doing things the right way.”
Besides wrestling, Givens also was known as being ‘grammatically correct’ every time he spoke, something that made him stand out as a person. Warthan also mentioned a time when Givens even helped out his aunt with her papers.
“When we went to the service, there was his aunt that was talking about how he [Bryce] helped her—correct her paper,” Warthan said. “He was always eager to talk. He took pride in how he talked and the language he used.”
Even though Givens graduated in 2013, he is still a part of UIndy. Warthan decided to dedicate the 2014-2015 wrestling season to Givens. Warthan also explained the meaning behind the T-shirts that were given to the wrestlers. The T-shirt features Given’s signature thumbs-up.
“He [Bryce] always did a thumbs- up after a win or loss. Only if his mom was there, he would give her a thumbs up no matter what,” Warthan said. “It was always like an ‘I’m okay, Mom’ type of thing . . . like a ‘Hey, I’m okay; this is what I love to do.’”
Warthan went on to explain to the wrestlers why this shirt was so important.
“We handed out the shirts just to say to the guys that it does not have to be pretty, it does not have to come down to wins or losses, it comes down to the effort and the attitude and doing the best you can,” he said.
Givens’ legacy also lives on in others around the country as well. Brubeck explained how Givens was a giver until the very end.
“He [Givens] was an organ donor, and they kept him alive longer so that they could harvest his organs for other people,” Brubeck said.
Givens also was known for being funny and witty. Brubeck explained how much Givens enjoyed orange soda.
“He loved his orange soda,” Brubeck said. “He always drank it after wins or practices. . . . That is not something that normal wrestlers drink after a match or practice, but Bryce did it anyway.”
Warthan said that he was at ease with who he was as a person.
“Some people may want to conform to what is cool, and he was so comfortable with who he was,” Warthan said.
After Givens graduated, he returned to his hometown to teach wrestling at Hononegah High School, where he graduated from in 2008. He is survived by his mother, father and a younger brother.