WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Parker Filius is growing at Purdue.
Though his weight tells a different story — Filius wrestled at 152 pounds as a junior at Havre High School in 2016 and is now at 141 as a redshirt sophomore with the Boilermakers — the former four-time state champion is finding himself on the plains of Indiana. He isn’t just a better wrestler than he was when he left Montana — he’s a better student, more comfortable in his social life and starting to find his confidence.
That growth was never more evident than it was in late January when Filius and the Boilermakers were on an East Coast road trip that included a stop at 22nd-ranked Rutgers. In the final match of the dual at the Rutgers Athletic Center, Filius scored a 4-2 overtime decision to help lift his team to a 20-18 victory.
“You’re at The RAC at Rutgers, they got some pretty wild fans. Those Jersey fans kind of can rub you the wrong way sometimes. It’s fun to get one at Rutgers, it’s a great environment,” Filius recalled. “The team win’s on the line. You look over, your team’s pumped, you’re excited, so I just got excited for my team. I got excited to come out of there with a win. I was just excited to be able to wrestle in that environment and have an opportunity to go out and show people what I can do.”
“That was awesome. He’s a pretty even-keeled kid, and that’s the most emotion I’ve seen out of Parker after a match. I love it,” Purdue wrestling coach Tony Ersland said of Filius letting out a show of emotion unfamiliar to even those who see him every day.
“I tell these guys, it should mean something to you,” Ersland continued. “He really embraced that moment, that was the great thing. He was relaxed the whole time, you could see he was focused … focused on the job at hand. Never worried about a result or what was going on, he just always looked like he was excited to wrestle, so I thought that was something he could really take a big step forward from.”
Filius has taken incremental steps since first stepping foot on the campus at Purdue. It didn’t come without its challenges, though. Purdue has an enrollment of 41,000-plus students, which is more than four times Havre’s population of less than 10,000. Admittedly, the transition from the Hi-Line to West Lafayette, Indiana, didn’t come easily for Filius.
But he did the same thing he’s done on the wrestling mats since he was little. He put in the work, and now he’s seeing the rewards.
“Just really embracing what our coaches preach with just being aggressive all the time and taking risks in your wrestling and really pushing yourself to work harder than you think you can. I think just this year that’s kind of translated to my school more than other years. I kind of had a rough academic first year and since have embraced that, and that’s been going a lot better,” Filius said. “Just really attacking all aspects of your life, I think I’m starting to embrace that now, and it’s really showing in my wrestling, my social life and my academics.”
After a high school career that saw him earn a 169-13 overall record and four Class A state championships with the Blue Ponies, Filius redshirted his first year at Purdue at 141 pounds. He jumped up to 149 pounds as a redshirt freshman for the 2018-19 season and struggled at the heavier weight, compiling just a 9-20 record.
He’s back at 141 pounds this year, though, and is much more comfortable at that weight.
“I feel great at the weight, making weight’s not a big deal. Just living the right lifestyle, being on my details, making sure I’m doing everything right,” Filius said. “And weight comes off easy, that’s not an issue, have plenty of energy at the weight, feel good.”
It’s showing on the mat, too. Filius has quietly put together a solid 15-7 campaign. Of his losses, five have come against ranked opponents.
"He’s been beating the kids like he should beat, right? Now you want to beat some of those highly ranked kids that he’s capable of beating,” Ersland said. “He’s in shape, he does everything right, he gets his sleep, he’s on top of his nutrition, so starting to knock off some of those more highly ranked kids. Because, really, he’s having a very quiet (15-7) season from a rankings standpoint, so I’d really like to see him kind of start making a move on some of these guys.”
That’s another area Filius has grown since arriving at Purdue — making moves. He’s become a bit of a board game enthusiast and regularly plays the strategy game Catan with his roommates at a local restaurant or with teammates and coaches on long road trips.
Filius, a construction management major, is also active in on-campus clubs like Mechanical Contractors of America. All the while, he’s improving in the classroom just as he’s improving on the mat.
“First year was crazy. I got to class the first week and we were going over a computer coding class, and I had never even heard of what that was. I was like, ‘What is going on?’ Looking over at my classmates, ‘Have you guys seen this before?’ And some of those guys were like, ‘Oh yeah, we did this in high school.’ So that was a big adjustment,” Filius said. “Just the amount of people that are here, the quality of students that come to school to here. Everybody that you're sitting next to in class is like the smartest kid from Havre High, so that was a big adjustment. Getting used to what the professors expect and how to do quality work in the classroom and how to study — I didn’t have good study habits in high school, so getting that down, that was a little bit of an adjustment.”
“It’s going great,” he added. “I’m enjoying it.”
Simply put, Parker Filius is growing at Purdue.