Hometown: Short Hills, N.J.
Major: Economics with a concentration in cognitive science
Go-to snack bar order:
Nachos with buffalo chicken and jalapeños
Why did you decide to attend the College?
It is a pretty funny story. My three requirements were big school, warm weather [and] Div. I sports, and I got all three of the opposite. It really came down to looking at my priorities, and I knew that I wanted to wrestle. It became clear to me that if I went Div. I, I wouldn’t be able to optimize or build the college experience that I wanted. I visited the College and realized that I could be a wrestler and have all my goals on the mat, and I could also be a student. I can have a social life and friends that are both on the team and outside the team. Williams checked all those boxes. You can’t really beat it with the academics, and the wrestling team here also is a huge component. My coach really showed me how the team was something special. Being part of the wrestling team solidified that not only will I have great academics here, but I am also going to be in a family where we all support each other and have the same goals.
When and why did you start wrestling?
My father was a wrestler. I started wrestling because of him. We moved back to the United States when I was in first grade, and I started wrestling the following year. That was kind of a once a week, Sunday or Saturday morning thing. I really started competing in fourth grade, and then in seventh grade, it transitioned from just something that I did to something that I loved. It was the year I developed a passion for it and could see that the harder I worked, the more success I had in the sport. Middle school was when it became something that I really loved to do.
What is it like to wrestle for this team in comparison to your previous teams?
It is like night and day for me. I came from a high school where we had eight kids on the team. There are 14 weight classes, so we didn’t have a full roster, and we never won the team match. It was a lot more individual. I was off on my own trying to get supplemental practices and workouts. At Williams, the support network, the team structure and the coaches are just completely different from before. It is such a different experience when you are wrestling for a team as opposed to just wrestling for yourself. You can only push yourself so far, and having the support network behind me has really helped me realize that I [am] capable of more than I thought I was. The success that I have been able to have is purely a function of the team and the support network that I have behind me.
How have you developed as a wrestler over the past three years?
One of the biggest shifts for me has been in mentality going into the match and [during] the match. In high school especially, I was pretty tentative. I would not take risks. I would be scared of giving up points. I wouldn’t shoot because I was scared I would be taken down. Now, it is kind of the opposite. Before I go out on the mat, I tell myself to go have fun because the whole point of it is to have fun. By having that sort of mentality, everything is loose and flows. It doesn’t matter if I take a bad shot because I have confidence in my own abilities, that I could defend and continue attacking. The biggest shift technically for me has been moving my feet and hands together, creating one continuous motion. When I am moving my feet, everything falls into place. Similarly, when I am out there not tense, having fun and just kind of letting things fly, that’s really when my wrestling has improved dramatically.
What would you say are your most memorable moments in wrestling?
[Competing as a first-year] in the blood rounds, which is [the regional tournament] to qualify for Nationals. I was wrestling against someone from Ithaca who had beaten me previously in the season, and I had to win that match in order to qualify for Nationals. With 30 seconds left or so, he takes a shot, I defend his shot and end up scoring a takedown and winning the match to qualify for Nationals. As a [first-year], that was my main goal, to make it there. Really seeing my progression throughout the season building up to where I finally won that match was huge and overwhelming. I don’t know if it was excitement or relief, but all of those emotions piled together. I can vividly remember the hug I gave to my coach coming off the mat, and that was certainly a very special moment.
What has enabled you to be so successful?
My coach and my teammates. It’s hard to narrow it down to a single thing or time. So [in high school], the top three wrestlers in the region of New Jersey I was in qualify for States. I took fourth in the region for three years in a row. I didn’t qualify for States. [After] coming to college, those matches where I may have lost 2-1, I am winning them 2-1. I am winning them 5-1. It is not just that I have gotten better technically. It is also because I have someone in my corner, my coach and my teammates all behind me who push me to go that extra mile. They help me to realize that I am capable of scoring that extra point and coming out on top of something that I shouldn’t have. Wrestling for my team and my coach and not just for myself has expanded my potential and pushed me further than I could have gone before.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Personally, my goal is to be national champion. We have a little less than three weeks until the regional tournament. I would like to win the regional tournament and win the national tournament two weeks later. For the team, I really hope to have at least two or three other guys traveling out to Nationals with me. I think that would be huge, but also huger would be to have everyone wrestle better than they would be expected to. Going to Regionals, if some of my teammates are unranked, my goal for them is to beat someone they are not supposed to beat. At this point of the season, it is all the crème de la crème. For the team, I want to see people outperform themselves, and that is certainly a goal attainable for everyone.
Do you feel pressured to lead the team and to perform well in every match?
Yes, but it is not a debilitating pressure. I want to say that I earned the captaincy based off my work ethic. I go in there with a plan. I have my goals all laid out, and I develop a course of action to achieve those goals. I think that [my] plan of action as well as achieving my goals in the past has been infectious. It spreads to my teammates. They see that when you put in the extra work, you really reap the benefits of that. At the same time, being, on paper, the best wrestler on the team, there is certainly pressure that I should be winning. I hold myself to a standard where even when I don’t win a match, it is all about how I competed and what kind of message it sent out to my teammates. Certainly there is some sort of pressure, but it isn’t a kind of pressure where if I lose, I am going to be incredibly upset because I let the team down. It is, ‘I lost. Okay, how can I learn from my loss?’ That speaks to a plan in action and that a loss in the season doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to reflect at the end of the season.
Do you have any advice for younger wrestlers in being successful in this sport?
You can’t be deterred by setbacks, whether they are injuries, weight management issues or losses on the mat. I certainly have a long track record of losing matches I shouldn’t, struggling with my weight, battling through injuries and trying to balance academics with wrestling. If I am speaking to younger me, or even someone coming into school, it is important to understand that this is all a process, and we are building up slowly towards the end of the season. The losses in the beginning of the season don’t define how the season is going to be, and you can’t let them define it.