This is the 51st 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.
North Carolina senior Troy Heilmann is 23-3 and ranked No. 5 nationally at 149 pounds.
If you could take what you know now and have a conversation with yourself at 15, what advice would you give yourself?
The advice I would give to myself is hard work is not productive unless it’s focused. I always put in my best effort, but it wasn’t always focused on the right things. I think I’ve focused a little bit more in areas of wrestling I needed to get better in and, along with my hard work, I think that’s what’s helped me get better.
What were your top three schools in recruiting and why did you pick North Carolina?
My top three were UNC, Princeton and Nebraska. If you look at those three of those, they’re kind of different in their own right. It’s not like three Big Ten schools or something like that. I think I picked North Carolina because it was the best mix of all three of those schools. Nebraska is a big-time athletic program, Princeton is big-time focused on academics and I think UNC falls in the middle, a little bit of both of those.
What’s the most rewarding victory you’ve ever had?
That’s a tough one. It was pretty exciting the first time I made the (New Jersey) state finals. That sticks out in my head. The first time I won in the state semifinals was the most exciting. I can’t really think of the most rewarding, but that was a big moment. My sophomore year I won in the semifinals against Kevin Devoy, who wrestled at Drexel.
If you could take something from someone else in college wrestling’s skill set and add it to your game, what would you pick?
I think because I wrestle with him a lot, I’d take (teammate) Kennedy Monday’s length. He can grab the back of someone’s leg from about halfway across the mat. If I had a little bit more length I think that would be nice.
Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?
I think I’d like to see collegiate wrestling move more and more toward freestyle. There’s a lot more action bringing people up on their feet after 20 seconds. From a fan watching from the outside, I don’t think they want to see a guy getting ridden out for four or five minutes without any points being scored. I think freestyle is more exciting, there’s more action, it’s a little bit easier to follow, so I think collegiate could move more toward freestyle.
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’m pretty routine with that. We’ll usually workout an hour and a half or two hours before weigh-ins, so I’ll come in a pound to a pound and a half over, get a little sweat going, get the weight off in about 45 minutes, usually, or less. Then I’ll wait around until weigh-ins and after weigh-ins I’ll usually have a turkey sandwich, some oatmeal, fruit and some water, keep it simple. After that, I usually get my legs moving again before the match and watch the 125 match if we start at 125 and then get up and start walking around. I don’t really listen to any music. I just pace back and forth and (take a) deep breath and try to stay focused and get in my zone.
What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?
Give it your all. I try to focus on the things I’m good at, so I just tell myself: Hands down and get to this guy’s head.
What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?
Coleman (Scott) always says, ‘Do more.’ If I’m wrestling hard in a match, but you’re not getting to what you can do, he’s always yelling, ‘Do more’ or ‘Don’t try, do.’ That’s one that sticks out.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?
I’m usually pretty blank when I’m out there. I’m trying to give you something good. This isn’t very weird, but last time I was wrestling when I was thinking ‘What the hell is going on?’ I was in Florida and I think it was the (Jayden) Eierman and Yianni (Diakomihalis) match and everyone was going wild. I was wondering, ‘What the hell is going on?’ That place wasn’t real loud all weekend, but it got really loud really quick.
If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?
I would have to say my last match last year. It felt like I was wrestling pretty good and I lost to (Steve) Bleise, who transferred (from Northern Illinois) to Minnesota. I think I could’ve gotten on a roll after that match. I was hoping to get on the podium last year. I guess I’d wrestle that match again if I could.
Who’s one guy you’ve wrestled in college that you enjoy scrapping against and why?
I would say my most common opponent. I’ve wrestle Mitch Finesilver about six or seven times and we’ve had some good scraps and we’ve both wrestled pretty hard and usually both of us put it on the line. I like wrestling him. We’ve had a pretty good rivalry, but he bumped up to 157 this year. He keeps getting bigger and I couldn’t go up to ‘57 with him. We both started at ‘33, but he’s up at ‘57 now.
If you could go back and wrestle anybody from any era, who would you want to compete against?
I’ll say (Dan) Gable. He seems like a tough dude and I’d like to scrap with him.