This is the 22nd 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. Rutgers 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault earned All-America honors for the second time last season when he placed fourth at the NCAA Championships, completing an 32-4 season. He takes a 61-12 career mark into his junior year with the Scarlet Knights.
Trackwrestling's Andy Hamilton recently caught up with Ashnault.
If I was the world wrestling leader, I’d try to make it all one style in every country, so it would be easier to teach techniques at a level where you could manipulate it where if some areas weren’t as technical of coaching it would be easier to set a base and set a foundation for the youth and it was easier to teach basics. With international being freestyle and Greco and in America it’s folkstyle and not freestyle and Greco-based, it’s tough for kids to see a goal at a young age to be an Olympian because that’s just not the style you wrestle as a kid.
I rarely listen to music before I wrestle, but some thoughts I think about are attacking and keep moving my feet and where I’m going to put my hands and where I’m going to put my head. I used to try to visualize moves I was going to hit, but in college that’s not really realistic because everybody’s so good and you never know how the other guy’s going to react and you never know what your opponent is going to do. I focus on really minor details and going out there and wrestling extremely hard. I know I’m always going to be in great shape and I know I’m going to manage my weight really well. I’m always prepared and I’m thinking about wrestling my hardest match and in the first minutes getting my feet moving.
Usually, (after weigh-in I drink) a little bit of pedialyte and a little bit of water. If it’s a dual meet, food-wise, it’s usually not that much because it’s only an hour weigh-in and I’m the third weight class, so it’s maybe a peanut butter honey banana sandwich. Sometimes if I’m craving a little bit bigger meal I’ll have a ham sandwich or some type of lunch-meat sandwich, but nothing too much for a dual meet. Maybe in a tournament it’ll be a little bit more, especially in the morning. I like to go with oatmeal or some type of breakfast like oatmeal or yogurt or some type of smoothie.
Last year, I never liked to be two pounds over with that last weight cut. For us, with Rutgers wrestling, we usually work out one last time anywhere from two hours to one hour before the weigh-in. Depending on how my weight cut goes, usually I’m at 142.5 going into that and I sweat pretty easily. I go pretty hard for about 20, 30 minutes and that’s all it takes. I like to do that as close to weigh-in as possible, but you can’t really wait until the last minute because you never really know how it’s going to go and you don’t want to leave that to chance, so I do it a little earlier than I probably have to, but I don’t like to be any more than two pounds over.
The last thing I tell myself is: I work too hard not to put my best effort out there. I’m not really telling myself anything, just more really trusting in my training. I do get a little nervous, but I remind myself that it’s a good nervous. If you’re not having butterflies, you might not care about the sport as much. If I’m having a little butterflies, I tell myself that I just want to win and that’s why I train so hard and I do so much for the sport that it makes me a little more relaxed, so I think about the hard work I put into the sport.
I can hear coach (Scott) Goodale yelling: “Move your feet, Ashnault,” no matter what.
Most of the time I can’t really think, but the craziest thing that’s gone through my mind was my freshman year. I was wrestling the Hofstra match my redshirt freshman year and I heard my grandma yelling. When I first started at Rutgers there weren’t as many fans as there are now and I heard someone yelling, ‘Kill him. Kill him.’ In my head, I was like, ‘Is that grandma?’ Other than that, I never have crazy thoughts. I was never the kind of guy who ever got a song stuck in my head. I’m usually into the match. I get lost in it and that’s when I wrestle my best.
I’d go back to last year’s semifinals and wrestle Dean Heil again. My goal is to win an NCAA title and he derailed it. I didn’t wrestle my best match. I went out there and I thought I got lost a little bit in the moment and it took me out of my zone early. I wish I could go back in time and focus my mind a little bit more on the match and not the crowd. Being in Madison Square, a little bit closer to home, I let the factors outside wrestling creep into my mind. I wish I could go back in time and re-focus myself and tell myself a couple different thoughts.
I’m pretty into wrestling. I don’t know. Not much, man.
Probably having a career-ending injury that wouldn’t allow me to wrestle anymore.
I’m going to get my national title this year for sure in 2017. I remember playing and I stunk. I stink at basketball every time. That was a great trip. I remember it being spring break of my junior year of high school. … I thought he was a tremendous athlete. Even watching him play basketball, I thought he was a crazy athlete and I thought he could do amazing things in the future.