This is the 41st 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 184-pounder Domenic Abounader entered his senior season with the Wolverines as a Big Ten champion with a 69-23 career record.
Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?
Right now, wrestling is leading towards trying to make people score a lot more points and trying to make it more exciting to build a bigger fan base. I honestly really like the rule they created this year. That’s one thing I’ve thought about — a scrambling rule in folkstyle and how if your back is exposed 90 degrees they’ll start a count and award a takedown. That’s one thing I really like that they did change. I don’t know that there’s really anything I would change. I think they’re doing a good job with a lot of the rules. I would get read of the headgear in folkstyle for sure. I don’t like the headgear.
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’ve never really cut a ton of weight. This year will probably be the most I’ve had to lose. Day of the match I’ll usually get to the facility and get a little workout in, get around two pounds off so I could eat a good breakfast and get some fuel back in me for the evening match. That usually involves fruits and nuts. Then I usually hang out for a little bit until about two hours before weigh-ins when I’ll go back and check my weight and make sure everything is good and in order. I’ll wait until weigh-ins and after weigh-ins, I’ll eat a pretty good amount, depending on if a team wants to draw (the starting weight) or not. Being at 184, I usually have some time. I have a meal that I always eat: A bagel with roast beef, cream cheese and honey. It’s kind of weird, but I like it. I have a glass of chocolate milk, a lot of water, a lot of Gatorade. I eat those Gatorade gummies to put quick carbs in me, and then I do a little warmup. It’s just a 15-minute warmup. I don’t like to go super hard.
In the Big Ten, we usually have a break after 157, so that’s when I get my hard warmup in. During that break, I also have a 5-Hour Energy and another pack of Gatorade gummies and I get a real hard warmup in. It’s usually about seven minutes during that 10-minute break. Then I have two matches after that to kind of just settle down and get ready for my match.
What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?
Score points. That’s what I tell myself, and the one thing I try to focus on during the match is just getting to the guy’s leg. That’s one thing Andy Hrovat and Jake Herbert put into my mind. When I’m just thinking about getting to that guy’s leg, it takes my mind off defending, it takes my mind off what the time is, what the score is. I just have one thought in my mind — getting to that guy’s leg and scoring.
What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?
Move your feet. They always tell me to move my feet. I’ve kind of had a bad habit over the years. I think I’m pretty good defensively, so I’m really comfortable in ties and I tend to keep my feet still, but it also takes away from my attacks. They keep telling me to move my feet and that gets my hands moving, and that’s when my attacks are really solid and when I get the best results and get a lot of takedowns. When I’m standing around and not moving my feet, that’s when I get slowed down a little bit.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?
My dad was kind of my coach through grade school and a little bit through high school. He used to try to not yell things so he’d give me little hand signals. I distinctly remember one match in college — he hasn’t coached me in forever — looking up and seeing him trying to show me hand signals of what he wanted me to do in a Big Ten match. I remember another time my freshman year at an open tournament where this really good looking girl was there and I think it helped me. I remember in the match thinking, ‘I’ve got to show off a little bit.’ It helped me score a lot of points and got my mind off the negative things, honestly.
If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?
It would definitely be the blood round my junior year (against Iowa’s Sam Brooks). Really, honestly, at any year at the national tournament I haven’t opened up. That match specifically, I felt like I had a pretty good mindset going into the match and I got away from my gameplan a little bit and got put on my back for six points. That’s a hard deficit to come back from in the blood round. That’s one match that’s really been stuck in my head. All the matches I’ve wrestled at nationals, I haven’t achieved my goals yet and it’s really because I haven’t opened up. I know I’m good enough to be on top of the podium in my mind, but I’ve got to open up. In those matches at nationals, looking back on them, I can see myself not moving my feet and hands and then it gets to a close match and anyone can win that match.
Who’s one guy you’ve wrestled in college that you enjoy scrapping against and why?
I’ll give you two. My freshman year I wrestled (Penn State three-time NCAA champ) Ed Ruth twice. The first time he handled me pretty good, but the second time was in the Big Ten semifinals. That was such a cool experience because he’s so different, so unorthodox. It was really cool wrestling him. I wish I could wrestle him in the room a lot more because it would be fun. Then both of my matches my junior year with (Virginia Tech’s Zack) Zavatsky were really fun matches. They went down to the wire and we were just scrapping and getting after it.
What’s your greatest fear?
I think a lot of people struggle with this in college wrestling — the fear of losing. You work so hard and you get that fear of losing just because of how bad you want it. I think I’m really getting over that and I think that’s why I’m really going to blossom this year and show people what I can do.
If you could go back in time and wrestle anybody from any era, who would you want to wrestle and why?
I would really like to wrestle our coach, Sean Bormet. I wonder what it would be like — if wrestling was different back then and how they would relate to the style nowadays. I would love to wrestle him and see what he had.