Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 12:21pm
The most durable defender on the USF men's soccer roster has a sturdy disposition to match. Whether he's on the back end of the pitch or a punchline, senior Wes Charpie can counter-attack with the best of them.
And rest assured, teammates have been known to rile him mercilessly over his whole-grain, wholly-unorthodox diet, from the all-wheat bagels to the natural granola to the fat-free, flavor-free yogurts.
"A lot of my friends call me a freak, but to be honest with you, I don't think I am," said Charpie, who was reared in Tarpon Springs and starred for the renowned Clearwater Chargers soccer club. "I just like to eat good foods and stay away from processed foods, stay away from refined sugars and all that kind of stuff."
The occasional barb notwithstanding, Charpie's rigid, round-the-clock self-discipline -- he also strives for eight hours of sleep nightly and knows when he's off by even 30 minutes -- has served him well.
Since stepping foot on campus in 2011, Charpie has started every Bulls contest, a streak of 70 matches entering tonight's American Athletic Conference matchup against Tulsa at Corbett Stadium. Since taking over the program in 2002, Coach George Kiefer says he can recall only one other Bull -- fellow Clearwater Chargers alum Ben Sweat -- starting every match of his career.
"(Charpie) has got a tough inner voice," Kiefer said.
Often, that voice prods Charpie (pronounced SHAR-pee) to press on, to ignore the pulled quad, throbbing knee or nagging thigh. Early last month at Old Dominion, his groin -- which he heard popping as he trained in the preceding days -- was really causing problems. Kiefer monitored his veteran closely during warm-ups, told him he'd be a game-time decision.
Charpie played 83 minutes in the 1-0 defeat, in which ODU scored after corralling a loose ball off a corner kick.
"I can't remember going out there for one game saying, 'Wow, I'm 100 percent,' said Charpie, the youngest of two boys born to a French mom (Caroline) and American dad (David).
"There's always a little nagging injury. You're playing every day, you're practicing; some days your knees are hurting real bad. I think just when you get out there, the adrenalin overrules that pain. You're so excited, that pain's gonna be gone when you play."
It would be one thing if Charpie (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) were being thrust onto the pitch to perpetuate a streak in the twilight of his career. But beyond being a lineup fixture, he's a force.
From his right-back spot, he has attacked effectively enough to record four assists this season -- second-most on the team. His five career goals include one of the greatest in USF lore, a header six minutes into overtime in a 2-1 win against UCF in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
He recently was named the conference's defender of the week, and has been named to its weekly honor roll twice this year already. In last week's shutouts of Georgia Southern and Temple, Charpie and his fellow defenders teamed to surrender one total shot on goal.
"He can get up and down for 90 minutes better than anyone I've ever seen," Kiefer said.
"He has the engine to go into attack and also to recover and get into spots defensively. ... Off the field, he has his own foam rollers (mostly for muscle recovery), and he eats better than anyone I've seen at his age. He's very disciplined with what he puts into his body and the amount of sleep he gets."
During those nocturnal eight hours, Charpie dreams the same dream -- about a pro career. Though set to graduate this semester with a degree in relational communications, he's bent on extending his soccer life, which began in Tarpon Springs at age 4. While peers digressed to American football or hoops, Charpie says he has focused exclusively on soccer the last 17 years.
"I've always had one plan in my life, and in my eyes having a Plan B sometimes will distract you from having a Plan A," he said. "That Plan A has always been to play professionally. ... Right now, my mind isn't too occupied on the work and business life that follows."
Mainly, it's locked in on the next multi-grain snack, the next mineral water, the next match.
"I can sit here and complain, but at the end of the day, I do pride myself on taking care of my body," Charpie said. "I like eating well, I get proper sleep, I stretch well. I do what I need to do."