Wruck adds another discus title to accomplished career
EUGENE, Ore. -- One can forgive Julian Wruck for feeling nervous.
The burly Australian from UCLA had the 25-best NCAA discus throws of 2013, including the collegiate record. So when he found himself in second place through the first four of six rounds Friday at the Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, it was a bit of an unfamiliar situation.
“It was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” he said.
Second-seeded Chad Wright of Nebraska had come into the meet with a season’s best that was nearly 16 feet shorter than Wruck’s record throw of 68.16m (223-7), but on his first throw he managed a personal best of 63.74m (209-1).
“That is the way to put pressure on someone,” said Wruck, who in turn got off to a slow start.
It wasn’t until the fifth throw that Wruck finally took the lead for good, with a toss of 64.94m (213-01), but the scare was a reminder to Wruck that despite being an NCAA champion, the collegiate record-holder and a 2012 Olympian, he still has a ways to go.
“I’m not used to being the guy to beat, but I’m finally getting used to it,” said Wruck, who also won the NCAA title in 2011 while at Texas Tech. “I’m finally learning how to relax during competition and take my time. In the last couple of rounds I was starting to get my rhythm back and just had enough to win.”
Nerves aren’t always a big deal for the Brisbane, Australia, native. The London Olympics, he says, “was probably the first time in a long time that put butterflies in my stomach.” But when competing in college meets, with the eyes of the UCLA fans watching him, he still feels the pressure.
“Learning to deal with nerves is something that I’m starting to learn over the years,” he said. “A couple of years ago I was terrible under pressure. Now I’m starting to get a little bit better under pressure. Another two years or so, and I think I will be able to completely relax from throw one to throw six.”
One can only imagine what he could accomplish then.
Wruck has already shown huge improvement since coming to the United States, going from All-American as a freshman to NCAA champion as a sophomore to collegiate record-holder as a junior.
That journey hasn’t always been an easy one, though.
Back in Australia, Wruck was an accomplished discus thrower looking into a future in personal training when he decided to look into the U.S. college route. The only school to offer him a scholarship, he said, was Texas Tech. And after two years in Lubbock, Texas, he was an undeniable success, highlighted by the NCAA title in 2011.
Something wasn’t quite right in West Texas, though.
“Texas Tech just wasn’t for me, very culturally different from Australia,” he said. “I thought, UCLA is only one flight from my hometown instead of three or four flights, so it was easier to get back to and from; [it had] better weather, people were just a little more similar culturally to back home. So I think it was a good choice.”
The results agree.
Working with head track coach and throws coach Mike Maynard, who allows Wruck a lot of freedom in his training, has proven to be a good fit. And the required 2012 redshirt season for transferring also was “exactly what I needed at the time,” he said.
“It was able to just clear my mind, work on the basics, and just mainly [work on] technical stuff,” he said. “And I think I made a lot of progress. I’m glad I had a year off.”
That showed in his return to NCAA competition this year, where he dominated his event as much as any athlete in the country. In May, he was named to the final watch list for the Bowerman Award, which is given to the most outstanding male and female NCAA track athlete each season.
If it seems like there is nothing more for Wruck to accomplish in college, there is.
“Next year hopefully I’ll get selected as a team captain or start getting more into the team aspect of competing,” he said. “I think the team is going to do some really great things.”
That would be a fitting final chapter to Wruck’s college career. Although he has had both ups and downs, Wruck said he would not be where he is today -- as a person or as a discus thrower -- had he not embarked on a U.S. college career.
“I’ve had some bad experiences, but I’ve also had some great, invaluable experiences,” Wruck said. “I’ve learned more than I ever expected to learn. Not so much from just schooling, but from meeting great people, meeting diverse people, meeting roommates, meeting some famous-like legendary athletes and stuff. I’ve learned more than I could have ever expected.”