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Seven Minutes with Pat Downey

By Andy Hamilton, TrackWrestling, 10/28/16, 1:45PM CDT


This is the 21st installment of seven minutes. It's a series of interviews with college wrestling's top stars.

Most of the question-and-answer sessions last roughly seven minutes. Hence the name. Iowa State's Pat Downey earned All-America honors last season when he placed fifth at the NCAA Championships at 197 pounds, completing an 11-4 season in his first year with the Cyclones. 

Trackwrestling's Andy Hamilton recently caught up with Downey. 

Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?

I guess the main thing I’d want to change with wrestling, as a whole in this sport, is figuring out a way to get more coverage and attention. Other countries, geez, wrestling to them is like our football and basketball. Wrestling to them is everything. It would be neat to have that same type of comparison and let it be viewed in the same type of spectrum as these other sports and get ESPN coverage and all that neat stuff that comes along with the whole country watching you.

Take me through your pre-match preparation: What’s the typical size of a last-minute weight cut for you? What do you put in your body after you step on the scale? What do you have pumping through your headphones during your warm-up?

I like really being fully hydrated. On full feed, I’m probably 194, so that gives me enough energy and I’m super hydrated to get down to 184 if I have a good practice. But I don’t want to be doing that right before competing, so I’ll be down to ‘88 or ‘89 and get that last little, quick blow in and you’re going to get that weight off when you get warmed up. It’s good for you to lose a few pounds, whether it’s the night before or day of. Then you kind of fuel up. You want to get rehydrated. A lot of guys drink pedialyte and that stuff. I’m not really big on that stuff. I like water, Gatorade occasionally and just snacks.

After weighing in, you would think you’re so hungry, but right before you’re about to compete in an hour, maybe two or even three hours if you’re a bigger guy, even then your stomach’s in knots and you’ve got to be able to wrestle. I like to go back to an old analogy that my coach used to use when I was coming up back in Baltimore: A hungry lion eats. That’s one little theory I went back to. I’ll snack with multi-grain bars, string cheese, little things like that, nibbling just for energy.

I’m not a big warm-up song guy, but you’d probably catch me listening to some Eminem.

What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?

I just try re-pump myself up with little messages like: You’re the best. Just little small talk to myself — believing in my training. But the last thought I have right before I step on that line is: I can’t wait to put my hands on this guy.

What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?

Well, K.J.’s (coach Kevin Jackson) voice, I’ve trained my ear to hear his voice. He yells out things like: “Wrestle” or “sprawl.” You know when he’s screaming. He has these distinct positions where he expects certain actions to be done and if you’re not doing them you’re going to hear it.  

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?

Wrestling’s a really natural thing, so you wouldn’t be completely focused and your brain could go elsewhere and think of how things are going back at home and wondering how my sister’s day at school was or what my next meal’s going to be on the ride home. I don’t know that I’m thinking too many crazy things back there.

If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?

Let’s go back to NCAAs. That was a more-recent loss. I think it was the wrestleback semis against (Nathan) Burak to wrestle for third. I guess I’d want to re-wrestle that because he’s done with college and I’ll never see him again and just how things went in that match. We were out of challenges and I’d just like to re-wrestle that. It was important because I’d get a chance to go against (Brett) Pfarr again for third and I was 0-2 against him. That would’ve been a lot to finish the tournament the way I wanted to by beating Burak and getting another shot at Pfarr. That would’ve been a good match to re-wrestle if I could.  

What’s the most interesting about you that has nothing to do with wrestling?

I’m a little nerdy. I’m a chess and checkers fanatic. I spend a few hours a day with my head in my phone playing chess and checkers. That’s probably something nobody would know.

What’s your greatest fear?

Wild animals. Not that we’re necessarily ever in this predicament, but up in Colorado one time I came across a cougar late at night in a car and just the fear of being surrounded by, like a lion or a gorilla or something.

We’re trying something different with the last part of the series. We’re giving every wrestler the opportunity to ask a question to the next guy we interview. Zane Richards asked: What reality TV show would you want to live in?

I guess Jersey Shore would kind of be fun. I’m an East-coast kid. I could go down a little further south in Jersey. That’s a good question.

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