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Seven Minutes with Eric Montoya

By Andy Hamilton, Trackwrestling, 06/23/17, 1:00PM CDT


This is the 31st installment of seven minutes. It's a series of interviews with college wrestling's top stars.

Nebraska senior Eric Montoya finished his career with the Huskers as a two-time All-American after placing sixth at 133 pounds as a senior.

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

There’s a lot, but I think if I could change one thing it would probably be, I don’t want to say eliminating but limiting the way people scramble because I feel like all these rules are good, but a lot of people are pulling the foot out when they roll, and you see a lot of people getting their knees hurt. I think that’s something that needs to be touched up a little bit. I feel the more this scramble evolves it’s going to get a little bit worse, and I think it also takes away a little bit from the guy who’s attacking. I love the rules and it’s something I utilized a lot throughout my career, but I think it needs to be tweaked a little bit. I’ve always felt like the person who’s attacking should be rewarded and you see a bunch of guys who sit back and don’t shoot a lot and kind of wait for someone else to go, that way they can work their rolls. I think I would put a rule in there where you limit the movement of the joints, or I think the rule they’re talking about where you’re on your back — whether the other guy has control or not as far, as a takedown goes, they’re going to start counting — I think that’s the direction I would head.

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?

The typical amount of weight I get off is usually about — if it’s a dual — about a pound and a half, maybe sometimes two. As long as it’s not over two it’s easy for me to get that off. For a tournament, usually the first day I might come in half a pound or a pound (over) before weigh-ins and the second day I might come in a couple pounds just because I have more water getting through me.

For me, (the pre-match warmup) is just getting loose, jogging around, stretching out a little bit and then working into light drilling and as the time increases, the intensity increases and I’m really trying to pick it up and put people down hard and finishing quick. Usually, after that I do a few sprints.

I never really believed in listening to music. I think that’s kind of ridiculous. When you’re wrestling, you’re not hearing music, you just hear the crowd. I’ve always felt you should get yourself accustomed to the environment you’re wrestling in, and the best way to do that is to listen to what’s going on out there or the sounds you’re going to be wrestling in. I’ve never been big on wrestling before I’m competing. Before a match, I have this thing where I usually go to coach (Jason) Powell, whoever’s in my corner, sometimes it’s coach (Mark) Manning, but Powell did it most of the time — I’ll go to him, slap his hand and tell him to slap me. That’s the last thing I do before I go out there — I get slapped a couple times. It wakes me up a little bit and gets me ready for that whistle to blow.

What do you fuel your body with after you step on the scale?

I usually drink one bottle of water and then after that it’s half a bagel with peanut butter, raspberries and blackberries on it. After that, I’ll keep drinking water. I used to drink Gatorade, but I kind of got away from that. With all that sugar, I’d feel like I’d gas out a little bit quicker than normal. I stayed away from that, or I’ll drink G2 instead, but I try to wait until after my first match to get that in.

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

I don’t really tell myself anything. It’s moreso what I do to my body. It’s usually that slap across by sides of my face by coach Powell. That’s the last thing I do. I don’t think anything in my head. It’s kind of a silent mind, I guess.

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

I always hear Manning say: ‘Move your feet, move your feet.’ That’s something that everybody on the team could relate to. That’s the big one. A lot of times I’ll hear Powell say: ‘Get on his elbow’ or ‘Get his left wrist.’

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

I say things to people that I wrestle and that’s probably more strange than what’s going through my mind. In the moment, I’m just in the heat of the moment and I’m talking smack or whatever, but after I kind of think about it’s kind of funny or weird that I said that, and usually, they’re not nice things. A lot of times it’s when I’m on top or if we’re in a scramble and I’m close to the guy’s ear, I’ll usually say something that’s maybe derogatory. That’s just how I am. You can ask guys I’ve wrestled before. It’s always been me. I like to talk crap, especially when I’m wrestling. It’s just fun.

One of the other weird things I do is when we go to shake hands at the end — it’s kind of a mental battle — I’ll shake hands and I won’t let go. The ref will be like, ‘OK guys, let go,’ and I always look at the other guy and be like, ‘He’s not letting go’ and the ref will get mad at them. That’s something I do that’s a little bit strange. For me, it’s kind of a mental battle to get these guys thinking, ‘What the hell is this guy’s problem?'

Who’s one guy you’ve wrestled in college that you enjoy scrapping against and why?

I’d have to say it’s a two-way tie between Zane Richards and Cory Clark. The reason behind that is it’s always been person. I respect both guys. I think the world of them. They’re incredible wrestlers and I can say that now that my competitive career, as far as wrestling, is over. But in the middle of it, those were two guys I remember we always said a lot to each other. We talked a lot of smack and it was always personal every time I stepped on the mat. I never needed to get myself up to wrestle those guys. Anytime those guys were in the vicinity of me and they showed up, automatically the hair stood up on my back. Those two guys for sure were guys who got me going.

I saw your tweet to Clark after NCAAs, which showed there’s a pretty high level of respect there.

Of course. At the end of the day, from the beginning of the season until that last day, I’m not a guy who likes to talk to my adversaries. I think that’s ridiculous, because this guy’s going to go out there and try to put it on you. For me, I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness. Everybody has their own opinion about it. I’m not physically very gifted, so the mental side is something I always tried to use to my advantage, and I think it worked for me. I think there were guys who went out there who were intimidated and that either squeezed that gap score-wise closer or it tipped it into my favor. I said some things to (Clark). You know, the thing about Cory — and Zane Richards same thing — I’d always have a few words after the tournament. This year, for example, Cory was in the finals and I was on the backside, there was nothing left to say. I’m not a guy who’s going to sit here and talk smack to you when you’re about to wrestle for a title. We kind of had our moment where I put my arm around him and we were like, ‘It’s all good.’ I would consider Zane a friend. We don’t talk a lot, but we get along. I’ve got a ton of respect for them. But every time I put my foot on the line against those guys I was not friendly and I’d say a lot of things and there was a lot of emotion.

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

I’m not a very interesting man. My life over the past five years has revolved around wrestling. I guess the most interesting thing about me is how uninteresting. If you asked people on the team they’d probably tell you I’m a weirdo just because my days revolve around that sport. I wake up and I’m watching film. I get to practice an hour early. I’m just a wrestling junkie. I’m not too interesting of a human being. I wouldn’t say normal, but when it comes to wrestling, that’s everything to me.

What’s your greatest fear?

I’d say my greatest fear is cancer, man. I hate that. It freaks me out. When people start talking about it, I’m like, ‘Let’s change the subject’ or I’ll get away from it.

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