This is the 53rd 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.
Arizona State All-American Ryan Millhof is 13-3 this season at 125 pounds.
If you could take what you know now and have a conversation with yourself at 15, what advice would you give yourself?
Man, a lot of things. The No. 1 thing is probably to relax. Just go out there, wrestle and relax and stop stressing so much. Let your ability take over, trust yourself, relax and stop being so uptight all the time.
What were your top three schools in recruiting and why did you pick Arizona State?
The three I really talked to were Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Arizona State. They’re all really good schools, they have awesome coaching staffs and they’re awesome schools to get degrees from. When I came out to ASU, I really liked the coaching staff and the culture and the environment they had. I could tell from meeting with the administration and the coaches that wrestling was a big priority at the school, and it’s definitely held up to expectations since I’ve been there. The athletic director and the senior athletic director and all the coaches and guys, everyone was really pumped up and excited about what was going on at ASU, so that was something I definitely wanted to be a part of.
What’s the most rewarding victory you’ve ever had?
Probably when I became an All-American in 2016 (with a 4-2 overtime win against Darian Cruz). That was definitely the most rewarding. I went through a rough patch. I started as a true freshman and kind of had a lot of doubt and questioned a lot of things. I started out the beginning of my sophomore year and still kind of the same way — taking some lumps, not really sure as far as trusting myself and ‘OK, how good am I?’ Midway through my sophomore season I started to figure it out. I had to work really hard to get on the podium. I think that win in general proved a lot to myself. I think that was like, ‘Hey, you deserve to be here.’ It went into overtime and I had to work really hard just to get that win. Proving that to myself and going out there and getting that done for myself was big.
Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?
I know it’s already in the works, but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is (making) wrestling a one-semester sport. I think that would be beneficial, not just for student-athletes but fans as well. From a student-athlete standpoints, I think it will be easier on student-athletes as far as workload and going from (two semesters) to the second semester. You get finals halfway through the season and you’ve got to travel around during the holidays and it’s tough on everyone. And I think they should make the season a little bit shorter. This is just my opinion, but I think from a fan perspective I think it would be a little bit more exciting. Maybe with not such a long and drawn-out season, you might get some more action in a shorter time period and you might get some bigger matches.
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?
My weight’s honestly pretty good. I don’t cut a whole lot of weight. I’m not very big to begin with, but after I make weight, typically, I like to go straight water at first. I know a lot of people like to rush to Pedialyte. I like putting straight water in just to hydrate up and then I’ll sip on Pedialyte after that. After that, when it comes to food, I like anything warm. If there’s any kind of soup, I’ll do soup, coffee, but mostly I do chicken noodle soup. I’m kind of on and off with listening to music. There was a fine line I had to find over my career. Listening to music can be productive and it can a harmful in a way. You can get too anxious and too excited. I think it can be a little downfall. So sometimes I listen to music and sometimes I don’t, but I definitely try to keep whatever music I listen to a little bit fun, any kind of pop. I listen to rap, but nothing too serious because I don’t want to get too amped up and then five seconds into a match you’re exhausted.
What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?
For me, I try to keep it very narrow. Right before I set my foot on the line, I try to keep everything so it’s not such a broad view, like, ‘Let’s go win this match’ or ‘Let’s go score a thousand points.’ You start every match on your feet. For me, I step on the line and I’m like, ‘OK, let’s go get to a leg and everything else will take care of itself.’
What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?
Be active and move your feet. Those are the two — no matter if it’s Zeke (Jones), Haislan (Garcia), (Lee) Pritts or (Chris) Pendleton or my dad in the top of some stadium, I can hear ‘Be active’ and ‘Move your feet.’
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?
I was at Oklahoma and I noticed somebody was wearing camo in the stands. For whatever reason, I was mid-match wrestling and I was like, ‘Man, it would be nice to be in a deer stand right now.’ I caught myself saying it and I was like, ‘Whoa, you better focus.’ I was kind of laughing at myself internally. It was a weird thought.
If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?
If I could go back, I’d say the one I think about is one I actually won . It was the Big 12 Championship finals (against Oklahoma State’s Eddie Klimara) my sophomore year. I ended up winning the match, but I felt like I left a lot of points on the mat and left a lot of opportunities that I could’ve went out there and scored and I kind of held back a little bit. I ended up winning and you’ve got to take the good with the bad, but I felt frustrated afterwards.
Who’s one guy you’ve wrestled in college that you enjoy scrapping against and why?
Wrestling Klimara was always fun. He got me the first couple times. I got him the last couple times. But I was always really excited for those matches. We always had super-close matches that always ended in some kind of dynamic fashion. I always looked forward to those matches.
What’s the most interesting about you that has nothing to do with wrestling?
I’m kind of boring, really. Probably the most interesting thing is my passion for music. I’m really big into hip hop, the breakdown of it, the science of it, the word play and rhyme scheme. I’ll sit around and listen to different MCs and hip hop artists and study and break down music, which, I know some people do, but if you met me or talked to me you probably wouldn’t expect it.
If you could go back and wrestle anybody from any era, who would you want to compete against?
If I was the same size, I think everyone would probably want to go back and wrestle John Smith. He was unreal, so I think you’d want to go back and you could say, ‘Yeah, I wrestled with that guy and got my butt beat by him.’