This is the 39th 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.
Michigan 133-pounder Stevan Micic enters his sophomore season with the Wolverines with a 29-7 career record after placing fourth at the NCAA Championships last season.
Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?
If wrestling was one body internationally, I think I’d try to gear it toward what everyone is wrestling internationally. I love folkstyle and everything. I’m more of a freestyle guy myself, but I’m starting to like folkstyle just because the college season is super fun and I like folkstyle top and bottom and everything like that, but I feel, in general, I’d probably try to gear it to where we’re combining styles or somehow maybe make folkstyle where we’re getting closer to freestyle or something along those lines. The closer we are to wrestling like that, it won’t be a hard transition for anybody. In the United States, I think that would be a big help.
I’d keep everything closer to freestyle. And I think they’re doing that already with the scramble rule — at least that’s what it seems like. You’re not just hanging on your back. It’s encouraging wrestling, and I like that. There’s a lot of positions where you could say ‘What’s control and what isn’t?’ and those guys who are laying on their backs when the other guy is hanging on in a position where you’re putting them on their back but they haven’t called two yet, I think this rule will allow for more wrestling and it will pan out a lot better than just calling stalemates.
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 try to keep my weight pretty (close). It’s not like I’m cutting too hard or anything, but it’s important for me — especially last year as a freshman, the first year doing this consistently and going to dual meets every week, especially during the Big Ten season — I had to make sure I was using a regimented system of putting the same things in my body after every weigh-in. I started cutting weight more wrestling-wise and that started to help me more toward the latter part of the season, where in the beginning I didn’t feel like I could start matches the way I wanted because I would workout before my weigh-ins — run on a treadmill or something like that — but now I’m starting to wrestle before and get my weight off that way. That way after I weigh in I’m just putting food in my body and I’m already warmed up and my body’s good to go and now maybe I’ll just stretch a little bit.
Before the match, I try to keep a blank mind and a positive attitude. I usually don’t listen to music — sometimes I will — but I kind of like to enjoy the atmosphere. I’m a pretty happy kid. I’m always in a good, positive mood, so I try to stay that way — the least stress there can be. That way I know I’ll have fun. I’m still working on that. I’m trying to constantly improve the way I’m thinking and that’s something that’s hard for anyone to master.
I put good carbs in my body first of all — something I can digest easily, like a bagel with honey or peanut butter. I try to get some simple sugars in, too, when I get closer to matches. That way I have something for explosion. And I always drink Pedialyte. It’s a little bit better than Gatorade, more sustainable. Gatorade is more just sugar water and Pedialyte has a lot more electrolytes and it’s concentrated. I always drink Pedialyte after I weigh in.
What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?
I have to go out there and do what I do every day in practice and I try to go out there and tell myself to give all the effort I have. That’s something I’m working toward right now. Last year reminded me of my high school career — getting myself acquainted and I think I wasn’t fully confident in how I’d approach the whole season. I almost had to get a grasp on how I did. I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I wish I would’ve been like, ‘Hey, go out there and give 100-percent effort and have 100-percent confidence.’ I think I did for the most part, but there were sometimes in bigger matches that I kind of backed down a little bit. Now I know what to expect, I know how everything goes and now the last thing I say before I step on the mat is: I’m going to challenge myself and give 100-percent effort in all positions. Plain and simple.
What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?
I always hear: ‘Move your feet’ from coach (Sean) Bormet all the time. I hear that and ‘Motion’ and ‘Tempo.’
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?
I’m one of those kids who’s focused on the mat and all that. We practice wrestling every single day and I think your mind can wonder like that, especially when you’re in the moment and your body takes over and your mind is thinking about something else. I’ve had something like that where a song has popped into my head during a match and I went over (afterward) and looked up the song on Spotify or SoundCloud or something like that.
Who’s one guy you’ve wrestled in college that you enjoy scrapping against and why?
There’s a couple guys I’d say I enjoy wrestling. I liked wrestling Cory Clark. He’s tough. He wasn’t super technical, but he’d go hard. No matter which position, he’d go really, really hard. I had to get ready for that. I think that’s what made me better — when I’m wrestling this guy, I have to make sure I’m putting all effort into all these positions.
When I was wrestling (Eric) Montoya, he’d come at you and no matter which part of the match, it would always seemed like every college match he wrestled, whether he was up or not, you’d feel like you were dominating the match and all of a sudden he’d be back in the match or trying to get another takedown to win it or send it to overtime. When I wrestled him, I was like, ‘I have to be really ready to wrestle hard and be in a position to finish away or get to my attacks quick or on the bottom I have to explode because if I sit around and wait, this guy is waiting for that.’
Both of those guys, I like the way they wrestle and attack their matches because, no matter what, it felt like they were giving effort, and that’s something I can learn from.
If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?
There’s a couple good ones, I’d say. The 2015 Junior World Championships — the year I got bronze for third — I was beating this kid from India (Ravi Kumar), who ended up making the finals. He was a tough wrestler, but I knew on the other side of the bracket I had beaten both of the other kids and I feel like the other side was a little bit tougher. I was up on the Indian kid. He gradually came back on me and I think I froze up a little bit and ended up losing (12-8). It was a really scrappy match. The kid was really sloppy and awkward a little bit and I’ve learned how to wrestle and fix that. It wasn’t a big fix, but that was my first match of the tournament and it was tough. I wish I could go back and re-wrestle that one to make it to the finals and bring home gold.
And then when I wrestled Clark in the national quarters last year I tried to plan out the match a little bit too much in my head and worried about how the match could end up. I had a lot going through my head, like, ‘I’ve got to get a takedown here, an escape here’ and it’s just not how the match ended up going. It was still a very good match and it was close, but I think I was trying to plan it instead of wrestling through. Both of those were like, ‘If I just fixed something here, it could’ve gone the other way.’ Those are two matches I wish I could re-wrestle.
What’s the most interesting about you that has nothing to do with wrestling?
I like soccer a lot. I didn’t play much, but I really like soccer. I like watching a lot of European teams. I watch the Premier League. I love FIFA. That’s my off-time, go-to game that I play. It’s relaxing. I do my homework and I’m always wrestling or watching wrestling. When I’m not doing that, I’m playing FIFA. It’s something I got into when I was young and that’s something I love. I’ve gotten up early before to watch Premier League games on NBCSN or I’ll go on my phone when a game’s coming on and they don’t broadcast it on TV or I’m at school. I’m a soccer fan. It sucks that it’s harder to follow because we’re in America.
If you could go back and wrestle anybody in any era, who would you want to wrestle and why?
Two wrestlers probably stick out to me that I’d like to wrestle. I’ve been over to Dagestan and I rolled around with Mavlet Batirov and Adam Batirov. Mavlet is one of my favorite wrestlers. I grew up during that time period. I was a kid watching him wrestle when he won two Olympics. That was cool being over there and rolling around with him.
It would be cool to wrestle Sergei Beloglazov. He’s closer to my weight and he has such a big bag of tricks. His arsenal was so vast and he’d hit everybody with everything. The way he wrestled was crazy. It would be cool to wrestle him and feel how much of a threat he’d be in all these positions and how he’d be wrestling. A lot of things wrestlers use now come from the way he did it and the way he was taught.
And then another guy would be Arsen Fadzayev. I take a lot from his wrestling. There were maybe three years where he went undefeated and won maybe 140-some (straight) matches at the international level. To be that consistent is unreal. Wrestling him would be pretty cool, I think.