Today, a day before the wrestling division 1 national championships get under way, the NCAA had five of the top wrestlers in the nation speak at a press conference. 133-pounder, Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, returning two-time 285-pound champion Nick Gwiazdowski of N.C. State, Oklahoma State’s three-time all-American and returning two-time national champion, Alex Dieringer. Penn State’s returning sophomore all-American, Zain Retherford, and Ohio State’s sophomre returning 2015 national championship runner-up, Kyle Snyder. Snyder is also America’s youngest wrestler to win a World Championship on the Senior Freestyle level.
The transcript of the press conference is brought to you by ASAPtext.com. Photograph is credited to NCAA.com.
NCAA Wrestling Championship
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2016 NCAA Division I wrestling championship. We have five athletes, as you can see, up here today. We have Nick Gwiazdowski from North Carolina State, Alex Dieringer from Oklahoma State, Zain Retherford from Penn State, Nahshon Garrett from Cornell and Kyle Snyder from Ohio State.
I’ll ask each of the five to give a brief statement about wrestling and the NCAA championships.
NICK GWIAZDOWSKI: It’s an honor to wrestle here. It’s a home state of mine, come back home state, my last tournament. It’s a special place and I have a lot of people coming out.
So really looking forward to a lot.
ALEX DIERINGER: It’s my senior year. So it’s going to be cool to go out like this. It’s obviously the most historic place, arena in the world. So it’s pretty cool. And I’m going for my third title. And I’m just going to try to go out with a big bang.
ZAIN RETHERFORD: This place is awesome. I was already out there and checked out the arena a little bit. So just looking forward to having fun with it.
NAHSHON GARRETT: Everybody said it pretty well. It’s exciting to be here. This is my fourth time wrestling at Madison Square Garden. The excitement is awesome, the environment is great, and people are ready to get going and it gets you pumped up.
KYLE SNYDER: I’m very excited to compete here. I’ve never wrestled at Madison Square Garden, so it’s going to be exciting to go out there and compete. Anytime you can wrestle in front of thousands of fans it’s very exciting and something I’m looking forward to.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Question for both Nick and Kyle. It’s fortunate we have both of you here, a lot of people expected to see you at the end of this tournament. Nick, what were your thoughts when you heard Kyle was coming back and he was going at your weight class? How many matches have you seen him in and talk about his success and what he’s been doing?
NICK GWIAZDOWSKI: He’s 6-0 so that speaks for that. When I heard about it I thought, okay, it’s another challenge. I’ve overcome challenges before. Talked to my coaches and people on my staff. So we changed some things up. But overall we were on a pretty solid track to begin with.
So if you want to be the best on Saturday night, you’ve got to beat a quality opponent. So you’re not going to find five easy guys to walk through. So having a guy like that on the other side, but there’s four guys before then. Again, if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. One right there.
Q. Follow-up about facing Kyle, obviously he’s effective with that little single. Do you have to stop that or is there something else you have to stop?
NICK GWIAZDOWSKI: I think there’s more than one shot he has. I’ll be ready for multiple shots. But there’s things you work on in practice, and you obviously watch film on guys. We’ve wrestled before. So you get an idea of what the guy feels like. So there’s some things. But other things I’m good at different skills, too.
Q. Kyle, for you coming back, you’ve wrestled more international. You’ve done folkstyle this year. Have you done anything overseas to mirror what you’re going to be doing in this tournament this weekend?
KYLE SNYDER: Have I done anything overseas?
Q. Yes, any of the events you’ve done overseas or your training that would help prepare you for this?
KYLE SNYDER: Well, I’ve just been wrestling a lot. So I think that’s going to help prepare me for the competition that I’m going to have here. I haven’t really wrestled too much folkstyle. I’ve been training mostly freestyle still since I came back. But I think wrestling the type of opponents that I’ve been able to compete against this year, some of the best guys in the world at my weight class, some guys that have wrestled heavyweight before and done well is going to help me compete well at this tournament. And just focusing on the same things I’ve been focusing on, improvement, trying to open up more and wrestle freely.
Q. Kyle, obviously when you came out of Olympic redshirt, things changed your plans. And I was curious going into this tournament, has your freestyle affected or helped your folkstyle and vice versa? Has wrestling some folkstyle had any effect on your freestyle?
KYLE SNYDER: I haven’t wrestled — I’ve wrestled six matches in folk but in practice I only practice freestyle with the guys pretty much. So I think just wrestling is wrestling, I’m going to learn and get better in positions whether it’s freestyle or folkstyle and top/bottom is something — I’ve never really been that great on top. Like I’ve never had a pin before, I think. So I’m not really good on top. But bottom’s always been something that I’m pretty naturally good at. So I haven’t worked on that too much. But I think, like I said, earlier going overseas I’ve learned a lot against the competition I’ve wrestled against, and I think it’s made me a better wrestler.
Q. Nahshon, you said this is your fourth time wrestling at the Garden. How does this venue compare to other venues you’ve competed in?
NAHSHON GARRETT: I think it’s — I would say it’s probably a little more intimate because I just think the places I’ve actually wrestled before at nationals are a lot — I think they’re a lot bigger. And when I came here it seemed to be like more compact. There’s a lot more people like fitted in. So it seems you’re closer to people. You’re closer to the people, you’re closer to the crowd, you’re closer to the excitement. You just seem closer; you don’t feel distant from the competition or anything else.
Q. Does that impact your wrestling at all?
NAHSHON GARRETT: Oh, yeah. For me, I love feeling like I can compete and wrestle to the best of my ability for specific people and just put on a show for people. So the closer people are and the more, like, I see them I can see them face to face almost, the better I feel, like, I’m like, oh, wow, it’s a performance. And it feels great.
Q. Zain, you took a redshirt year last year after finishing as an All-American, your true freshman year. What were your goals that you wanted to accomplish last year during that redshirt, and can you see that it’s helped you here during your sophomore season?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: Yeah, my goals during my redshirt season were just train harder and pick up stuff from guys. When you’re in the folkstyle you might not be able to get your hands on guys as much and think about learning technique. You kind of get stuck in a rut sometimes and you kind of have to be conscious of that. So I was just working on getting better on my feet and working better in all positions really. And I think it’s definitely, freestyle definitely helps with folkstyle for sure.
Q. As a quick follow-up, you’ve already had pretty good success against the other top-seeded guys in the tournament. Where does that put your confidence coming into the tournament?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: I mean, this is the NCAA Tournament. So everybody’s going to be going for that national title and your bracket doesn’t really matter who it is. I just don’t think it really impacts me at all. I think I’m just focused on having fun and enjoying this process, this tournament, and having fun with the year. And this is the end of the year. So looking forward to having fun again.
Q. Alex, you’re an exciting guy to watch wrestle. You go out there, you look like you’re having fun. How much fun is it being able to put on a show, put up big points. And also has the discussion with Kyle and Nick kind of taken the pressure off of you, whereas most years you would kind of be the guy people were focusing on, okay, number one guy, this is the guy to watch, has that taken the pressure off?
ALEX DIERINGER: No, not really. I’m pretty relaxed wrestler. I don’t feel too much pressure. I always stay pretty relaxed. But yeah, I like to go out there for the fans. A lot of it is for the fans. For wrestling, it makes it more exciting for the fans if you go out there and try to score points, and I think it promotes wrestling a lot more. That’s one reason I like to do that.
Also I don’t like to go out there and win a close match. I like to go out there and score a lot of points. If I don’t get bonus points I’m not happy with myself. I think that’s the only reason why I do do it. Because if I don’t get bonus points I’m not pleased at all and I go back to the room and work on it.
Q. Where do you think a third title would cement you in the history of the great wrestlers at Oklahoma State?
ALEX DIERINGER: Hopefully one of the greatest. I heard that coach said I would be top five. That was pretty cool to hear.
MODERATOR: If you don’t get to keep up with all of college wrestle ling Alex has not lost a match since January of ’14. So, a 78 match winning streak going.
Q. Question for Kyle. So you went out and won the world championships back in August. What was it like going back to college at Ohio State and being a sophomore and getting ready to wrestle again in college.
KYLE SNYDER: Well, the first semester I was planning on taking an Olympic redshirt. So I actually didn’t have any classes. So I didn’t really go on campus much. My apartment’s like 50 yards from the wrestling room. So I really just walked back and forth from the wrestling room multiple times every day and really wasn’t on campus that much to see everybody. But the second semester was fun, coming out and telling everybody I was going to wrestle again. And that part was fun but then having to take classes wasn’t as much fun. And I know it’s something that you have to do. And I try my best to do well in school. But the wrestling is my favorite part.
Q. The kids on campus, do they know you’re a world champ? Do they call you champ? What’s that like? And even around town?
KYLE SNYDER: Some of the people on the campus know I am a world champion. That’s pretty cool to walk into a football game or just walking around campus and people will ask for pictures and stuff like that. But most of the time I can just walk around and people don’t know who I am, which is fine, too.
Q. Nick, there’s been a lot of talk about the legacy you could leave as a three-time champ, heavyweight, one of the best of all time. Can you talk about the ending that could shape up for yourself in your home state, how important it is for you wrestling in your home state, wrestling at Madison Square Garden, the big lights, the big stage, quality opponent, potentially the biggest match of the tournament? What are your thoughts on that?
NICK GWIAZDOWSKI: I think about it sometimes when I’m in training and just at home and other times. But there’s a path to it. And sometimes I look forward to having the opportunity to do. It’s pretty special when people say you win this next tournament you could be one of the best ever in the weight class, especially with the people I’ve watched and competed against in this weight class and overall in the NCAA. But what you talked about being here in my home state of New York and potentially against a quality guy like that, it just makes everything better. It’s like you see two best guys go at it for the last time and you find out who is the better one. Stuff like that. As a fan you look forward to it, I think. But also as an athlete, cuz you really test yourself and see what you have within you, see where you’re really at. And I think that’s something that tells a lot about the person you are.
Q. You had an opportunity to wrestle in Time Square last year. How is that experience. I know Kyle has also wrestled there how does that experience help you for from the Big Apple for an experience like this?
ALEZ DIERINGER: It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever been in, to be able to wrestle outside in Times Square was awesome, and now wrestling in Madison Square Garden, it’s going to be a very cool experience. I’m used to the big stage. I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. So it’s all the same thing to me. It’s all just another match and I try to be pretty calm about it.
THE MODERATOR: We had three former NCAA champions in here earlier, and they were asked about this. I’ll toss it to these guys right quick, since the Beat the Streets is coming up. Nahshon, events like Beat the Streets, Grapple in the Garden, Grapple on the Gridiron at Iowa City last November, how much do you think these events can help collegiate wrestling and international wrestling in the United States.
NAHSHON GARRETT: I would say a lot. For wrestling to put, so much heart and so much dedication and time for our guys and for them to — we don’t do it for — we don’t do it for the fame. We don’t do it for the fortune. We don’t do it for those types of things. But it’s nice to be noticed. It’s nice to be, the work to be appreciated. And I think it’s something that we don’t look for, preaching for it. We don’t look for it. But I believe that these kind of productions definitely kind of point towards it to say this is something it’s an amazing sport and it’s something that teaches kids values and characteristics they wouldn’t get in other sports. So, yeah, the fact that it just puts wrestling out on the bigger stage is pretty incredible.
Q. Zain, we’ve seen you grow the sport of wrestling just within the Penn State fan base really on the strength of your physicality, the way you wrestle. Could you tell us your opinion of the nickname Z-pain is?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: I don’t know. I don’t really care. It doesn’t really matter. Doesn’t affect me at all. The fans like it. They think it’s cool. It’s cool with me. Sure. Yeah.
Q. Kyle, a year ago you lose three matches in your true freshman year. You have a runner-up finish. A month later you beat Jake Varner. The next year you’re on the world team. To what do you attribute your jump? Is freestyle just a better situation for you, or did you make massive leaps as a wrestler in that short amount of time?
KYLE SNYDER: I would say it’s a little bit of both. I do like freestyle more. I like wrestling freestyle more. So that might be reason — my style probably suits it a little bit better. I think that might be a reason why I have more success in freestyle. But I also feel like I grew as a wrestler a lot after the NCAAs and even during the season I was growing as a wrestler but you take a few losses. And that’s kind of just the way it goes.
But after the season kind of just talked to some of the people I trust the most and reevaluated the way I think about the sport and instead of — I think I was able to wrestle more freely, wrestle open in the competition where you saw that I had success. And with that I was able to learn more and become a better wrestler.
Q. The weight change, how was that — do you think that’s played a role and has that helped you maybe open up a little bit more?
KYLE SNYDER: 197 wasn’t too hard of a cut when I wrestled in it last year. I had it under control. And even before the season I was dieting to make sure that I could make the weight easily by NCAAs. But I like wrestling at — I would say 213 is probably pretty much the perfect weight class for me. And then heavyweight isn’t too bad most of the time. Coon was really big, so he was hard to wrestle. My forearms got tired when I was wrestling him, holding on to his leg, stuff like that. But I wrestled good heavyweights in the room. Like I say often, Tervel Dlagnev, and our heavyweight, Nick Tavanello, they’re both tough guys. And I get used to wrestling the heavy weights with them in the room. But, yeah, so 285 is — it’s a good weight class for me.
Q. Follow up for Kyle. Unfortunately your last match in the AAAs was not one that you expected. But you did get pinned. Could you talk about what that experience did? A lot of people thought maybe you needed the break after the way you lost. Can you describe that night at all, what do you remember?
KYLE SNYDER: Yeah, I can describe the night. I remember the night pretty well. (Laughter).
It was hard. Especially it was kind of a mix of emotions because we won the team title last year. Some of my best friends won NCAA titles. You don’t want to be jealous for them. You want to be happy for them. But just as an individual, you want the same thing. So it was kind of hard for me to be around them, even though I am super happy that we got it done as a team and I’m super happy for the individuals who got it done now. It was hard to be with them in that moment because I was hurting pretty bad. But the rest of the night really wasn’t that fun. Coach Ryan made me come up and speak so all the Buckeye fans who came to our meeting get-together, that really wasn’t that fun for me to do, but I had to do it.
And I would say I learned a decent amount from that match. Didn’t really, I wouldn’t say it catapulted me to what I did during the summer. But I definitely — I learned a lot. It made me reevaluate the way I think about the sport. It made me assess my wrestling more and I got better in that under hold position, too, so I’m not going to get thrown that way hopefully anytime soon
Q. Alex, two-part question. We’ve got like — we’ve got a really tight Hodge Trophy race, all of you guys sitting up there. What do you think, you’re a senior going out, how important is the Hodge Trophy to you, and can you tell me why you think you deserve the Hodge Trophy?
ALEX DIERINGER: You know, I think a couple of guys up here deserve it, too, but we all have some pretty, really good seasons. Obviously if you get a Hodge Trophy you win a national title. But then again you’re also getting bonus points not only for yourself but for the team. And that’s what I look for. I’m always looking for bonus points and just like these guys up here. Makes it more exciting for yourself and for the fans.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Click the Link below to watch the video of the Press Conference.
2016 NCAA DI Wrestling Student-Athlete Press Conference at Madison Square Garden
Posted by NCAA Wrestling on Wednesday, March 16, 2016