Default snack bar order:
Barbecue chicken nachos
When and why did you start wrestling?
I started wrestling in fourth grade at a youth program called the Newington Blackhawks. I got a flier in my classroom and had no idea what it was, because no one in my family has ever wrestled, but I just thought it looked kind of fun. I was actually really bad at first, but I liked it right away.
What was your middle and high school wrestling experience like?
My nickname was “Crybaby Chris,” because I was extremely competitive, and I would lose all the time and start crying. In sixth grade, I turned it around. I started going to this club called Northeast Elite, and we started traveling. I started winning more matches, and in eighth grade, I got much more serious. I focused on wrestling in high school. I had great experiences with a lot of different people. My parents and coaches were really supportive. Some of my best friends were people I knew through wrestling. My freshman year, I placed sixth at state opens in Connecticut. I kept traveling, going to camps and getting better. My sophomore year, I took third at New England’s. I won it my junior year and started thinking about doing it on a national level.
Why did you decide to attend the College?
I wanted good academics, a good wrestling program, a place where I could feel at home and a team that I liked. I actually wasn’t that enthused to visit the College, because the wrestling program hadn’t been very good for a while. But when I visited, everyone was smiling, and I heard about how great the school and the alumni network were. My tour guide was really nice, but the biggest reason was [Head] Coach [Scott] Honecker. He’s the man – a coach and a friend who really takes care of us. I could see that I was going to establish a really strong relationship with him over four years. On my overnight visit, I made my decision. The guys on the team were good people with their priorities straight. They could kick back and have a good time like regular college guys and were also obviously motivated and high-achieving.
What are your favorite things about the team?
My coach and teammates. I’ve had such great support. I came from a pretty average public school, and the adjustment was pretty tough freshman year. The guys on the team helped me with the adjustment period a lot. Through good times and bad, they’ve been on my side. I’ve just had so much fun cheering them on and having them cheer me on.
Who is your favorite professional wrestler?
Jordan Burroughs. He is a really interesting guy – a two-time national champ in college and a three-time world champ. He won the Olympic gold in 2012 and is a great person, a great family man and a man of faith.
You were a junior captain last year and are now a senior captain. What have those experiences been like?
I was honored to serve as captain both years. It’s a little different this year, because I’m the senior, and I’ve taken more ownership over the team. I realize that this is my last shot. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my teammates from having to respond to different crises and to be a good leader. I am learning to build good relationships with people.
How has wrestling helped you overcome inner ear health problems?
Growing up, I was an unathletic little kid, and I was in remedial reading and had really bad balance. I played soccer when I was younger, and I would just fall when I ran after the ball. Wrestling has been huge for that. I worked really hard at it, and it gave me confidence in other domains – academic and social. I realized that if I work hard enough at something, I’m just as good as anyone else and I can overcome whatever challenges I’m facing.
You wrestle at 184 pounds. Do you have to cut weight during the season? If so, what is that like?
I’ve cut about 20 pounds since the beginning of the year. It’s been much easier this year. I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries in my career; I had two ACL repairs in 2016 – the left in March and the right in May. I think the reason I was getting hurt was because I was dehydrated, so I’ve become better about dieting and being disciplined to get my weight down so that I don’t have to dehydrate too much. It’s really tough to cut weight and a lot of people don’t understand how wrestlers do it. It’s just sort of something you learn to deal with.
You’ve accumulated a 24-1 record this season and are 124-11 overall. What are the secrets to your success?
I have a theory that to be successful in college wrestling, you need a few things. You need some level of natural athleticism, but more than that, you need to work really hard and trust the system that your coach is giving you. Coach Honecker is really good with mental preparation.
You have been in three consecutive NCAA championships. How have those experiences been?
They’ve been really good. My freshman year, I missed a lot of time, because I was coming off a knee injury from high school. I was not supposed to qualify for Nationals, but I placed third at the regional tournament to qualify. No one really knew who I was, but I made the semifinals and placed third. That was awesome. Sophomore year, I broke my nose nine days before Nationals, so I had to wear a big mask. I wore it for my first match and lost, so I took the mask off for the rest of the tournament. I came back and took fourth which, considering that I had lost my first match, was good. Last year, I tore my ACL in the first match. I was seeded second, so it kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
I’m going to try to focus on having fun with it. I love wrestling. I really want to savor what I have left, work as hard as I can, and achieve my goals. The College has never had a national champion, and I’m hoping to change that this year. I’m excited to go back to the national stage and try to right that wrong and make up for not placing last year.