Coug tackles adversity on and off the field

By Bridgette Larsen, Evergreen Football reporter

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Ioane “Junior” Gauta is proving himself on the field as nose tackle for the Washington State football team. At 6 feet 3 inches and 285 pounds, Gauta embodies the strength needed to perform on the field, but his road to success has not been easy.

Gauta transferred from junior college in 2012 and was a starter for all 12 games last season. He originally committed to Kansas State University, but a visit to WSU changed his decision.

“Everybody treated me well here,” Gauta said. “I came to (WSU), and my whole mind changed. I ended up committing here right on the spot.”

Gauta was a two-year letter winner at Valencia High School. As a senior he earned first-team all-California Interscholastic Federation and all-Empire League honors. He was also named Empire League Lineman of the Year. He was a team captain, and he was involved in several other sports including basketball, track and volleyball, according to Wsucougars.com.

Gauta was talented, but one of the biggest hurdles he had to overcome was his grades.

“I graduated (high school) with nearly all D’s. It was a big eye-opener for me,” Gauta said. “I went to junior college, and I realized how important school was, and that’s why I’m blessed to be where I’m at today.”

Gauta attributes his improvement in academics to “Insight,” a study hall program at Fullerton State College that helped him get back on track.

“I knew my talent was going to get me somewhere, and I didn’t care where, but I’m glad about where I’m at now,” Gauta said.

However, Gauta is a hot topic for more than just his skills on the field. His hair is a popular topic among his fans- when he tried to trim his long cut, he messed up and ended up shaving it all off.

“I wanted to start a new legacy with this new hair. I knew that (the Apple Cup) was a big game, and my dad called me up and said ‘I want to see my last name on your jersey’ and that hit me,” Gauta said. “When I cut it, my dad was proud, and we were proud after that win. Everything happens for a reason.”

Gauta jokingly said that the Cougars have been undefeated since he cut his hair. Superstitions aside, he is not backing down for the upcoming game against Southern Utah.

“It’s very exciting coming back for our fans, and if nothing else there’s no other feeling than being a Coug,” he said. “We’re excited for this home game. We don’t take Southern Utah lightly.”