Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Burbank, Ohio (Norwayne H.S.)
Major: Business operations management, business logistics
Question: As I write these questions, you are in Bucharest, Romania, for the under-23 world championships. So let’s start there: How was the experience?
Answer: It was a really fun time. I went with (assistant coach) Tervel (Dlagnev) and (teammate) Myles (Martin), and it was nice to have someone to suffer through that traveling with you. It’s a difficult trip because you have to adjust to a seven-hour time difference then compete against the world. But I always like going to different countries and experience how life is lived on the other side of the globe.
Q: You came home with a silver medal at 97kg; can I assume you were pleased with your results?
A: Yeah, I was pretty satisfied with silver! You never want to end on a loss, especially with a world title on the line, but I still have a lot of takeaways from my wins and losses.
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Q: Was this your first time participating in a senior world event? Was there a different feel to it than other tournaments?
A: Yes, I have competed at junior world championships the past two years and this was a different challenge. You start to run into guys with a lot of experience and skill at the senior level; the competition is much harder.
Q: From grade school to high school to college to now world events, does the intensity ramp up at each step? Which one, for you, was the biggest leap in potency?
A: The intensity definitely has increased through the years, whether it was in practice or discipline outside the room with things like nutrition and sleep. The biggest intensity jump was from high school to college. College wrestling is five planets away from high school.
Q: Of all the matches you’ve wrestled in your life, is there one that sticks with you more than others?
A: The match I’m proudest of is my (2017) Big Ten finals win over Brett Pfarr of Minnesota. He had beaten my twice that year and each time I improved and eventually got the win to win a Big Ten team and individual title.
Q: What is the most exciting venue you’ve ever wrestled? Is there a place that’s near and dear to your heart?
A: My favorite place to compete is the Schottenstein Center. Growing up watching the state tournament every year and finally competing in it was a dream come true. It makes me nostalgic every time we have a home dual there because it’s where I grew up competing. Also, any time you get 15,000-plus Buckeye fans under one roof, it’s going to be amazing.
Q: Let’s talk about your time at Norwayne. Besides wrestling, you also were on the football, soccer and track teams, right? What was your role on those teams?
A: I was a kicker for our football team my last three years of high school and enjoyed being with my friends on Friday nights. In soccer, my brother was an all-star player my first two years so I played defender, which I enjoyed. My last two years, I moved into a captain role and got more involved in the offense. In track, when I was a skinny freshman and weighed about 150 pounds, I ran the mile and 800 and filled in on some relay races. In my sophomore and junior years, I focused only on the 800 and 400 and was on a 4x400 relay that made it to state. My senior year, I was a lot bigger and moved to the 400 and 4x200 races and my 4x4 team took seventh in the Division II state track meet.
Q: How did you get involved in kicking? You must have been a heck of a soccer player.
A: It was a tradition at Norwayne to have a soccer player as the kicker. My brother and my best friend both went out for the team two years before I did. It looked like a lot of fun so I decided to give it a try.
Q: Was wrestling always your favorite sport, or did you entertain thoughts of a different athletic path?
A: I loved playing soccer and it was probably my main focus until my sophomore year in high school. I remember leaving wrestling practice, grabbing a small dinner and then going to an hour indoor soccer practice that night. I had a choice sophomore year where my coach told me he would stay to help me get recruited in soccer or he was going to move on to a different coaching job. I thought about it and figured I would have more success in wrestling.
Q: Besides Ohio State, who else recruited you? And what made you decide to become a Buckeye?
A: I had schools like Kent State, Ohio U., Virginia and Minnesota recruiting me a lot. Growing up, I had always been a huge Ohio State fan and when I got a call from Coach (Tom) Ryan saying he wanted to visit me to talk, I knew I was coming here. The training partners in the OSU room couldn’t be matched anywhere in the country along with an amazing coaching staff, which I knew would push me to be better every day.
Q: A successful program like OSU’s, what goes through your head the first time you walk into the Steelwood facility as a freshman? Is it intimidating?
A: It was very intimidating because most of the guys there I idolized in high school — the Jordan brothers, Kyle (Snyder), Nate (Tomasello), the Stiebers. But I came in knowing I probably wasn’t going to do well at first, so it wasn’t a shock.
Q: What are the dynamics in a place like that, where you have guys like world and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder working with college freshmen?
A: Kyle is an extremely humble champion and will work out with anyone. He really enjoys wrestling the younger guys and giving them pointers.
Q: I’m assuming you and Snyder worked out a lot in his OSU days; did that ever get tiring because he’s so good?
A: I always try to go with him as much as I can, but it did get a little overwhelming sometimes if he was the only one available to wrestle.
Q: Not to bring up a sore subject, but you entered the NCAAs last year as a No. 1 seed and finished fourth. How quickly were you able to put that disappointment aside?
A: I was bummed out after the NCAAs, mostly because I felt like I let my teammates down for a chance to win a (team) title. But I realized they didn’t think any less of me and it was really easy to move on.
Q: Wrestlers are so good at turning defeats into motivation for success; how do you plan to do that this year?
A: Using defeat for motivation is a good thing only in moderation. I don’t want last year to be in my head a lot when I am out there on the mat. My main focus every day is on a certain position I need to get better at or how high my effort is in a match or practice.
Q: Does wrestling season ever end? When you go from college to nationals, do you ever have a chance to get fully healthy?
A: Wrestling season ends for about a week after nationals, and then a week in August. Besides that, not really. The coaches do a good job of giving us some time off after nationals and most of the time it’s us athletes who want to get back on the mats. You do feel worn down a lot of the time but the coaches are understanding.
Q: Based on a quick glance of your Twitter page, I know you’re a fan of “The Office,” movies, MMA and music of all kinds. What sort of music are you into at the moment?
A: Right now I am getting back into a lot of blues-based alternative music with heavy blues guitar riffs playing in the background. A lot of bands like the Black Keys (my favorite), Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr.
Q: What’s your favorite movie that you’ve seen recently?
A: “Bohemian Rhaspody,” the movie about Queen and Freddy Mercury. I am always so interested in how the artists get the ideas for the songs I jam to in the car. I started playing guitar in high school and have always wanted to write a song but after watching that movie I realized I’ll never be as creative as those guys.
Q: Lastly, Neil Young once famously sang, “Live music is better; bumper stickers should be issued.” Agree or disagree?
A: Absolutely agree. One of my favorite things is a live concert of my favorite artist. I love all the little changes made in the songs that make it seem more real and in the moment. I try to see a couple shows a year. Columbus has a great music scene and I even went to a three-day music festival on the beach two years ago, which was amazing.