I want free things

Victorious lions shake hands with their former prey

As part of our continuing series on Columbia’s athletic promise, today we bring you an interview with Shane Hughes, CC ’15 and Angelo Amenta, CC ’16.  Sports Editor Ross Chapman sat down to chat with them and brings you the minutes. 

Bwog: Important first question. Are there free things at your meets?

Angelo: I think so? It’s free to get into the matches. I think we have one free giveaway event a year. [More info will be out on this as the season progresses.]

Bwog: Is there any one dual where you want a lot of people in the Blue Gym, with or without giveaways?

Shane: We really would like people to come out to all of them. The fall of the wrestling season is usually primarily individual tournaments, whereas the second half in the spring is more duals. Once we get into the dual season we normally have two a week all the way through. We’d ideally have people come out to all of them.

Angelo: I guess Princeton, Penn, and Cornell, the three Ivy League duals we have this year would be our most important.

B: What makes wrestling exciting?

A: Each match is just seven minutes of nonstop actions. There’s no timeout, there aren’t any substitutions. It’s an interesting change from team sports.

S: In other sports you’ll have a few differences. It’ll be an argument of some people are more talented, more athletic. In wrestling, there’s a million different ways to win, and everybody has different things that they do well and different things to bring to the team. So utilizing the skills that you have and neutralizing your opponent’s is such a great thing to see happen.

A: If people just gave it a chance and came out to watch it, they’d see that it’s pretty exciting watching two guys, for lack of a better word, fight each other and see who’s more dominant, physically and tactically. You have one guy trying to do whatever he can and another guy doing everything in his power to stop that guy.  Wrestling at its core is a combat sport. You kind of can’t get around the fact that two guys are trying to beat each other up. So it definitely is an interesting thing to watch.

B: You’ve got a meet coming up against Lehigh, who was some pretty high expectations. What’s it like dealing with the non-Ivy schedule?

S: Well, most of our competitions are outside of the Ivy League. We’re going to Las Vegas and Chicago to wrestle Big 10 schools and the schools out west. Lehigh is a top ten team, and it will help us gauge where we are. Our goal is to be a top ten school this year. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.

When and why did you get into wrestling?

S: I started wrestling when I was five. I actually started kind of out of luck. We all went to sign up for sports with my older brother, and they didn’t have a basketball league that would take me because I was too young, so I tried out wrestling. And I’ve been wrestling ever since.

A: My dad wrestled in college and coached high school, so I was sort of born into wrestling.

B: Do you feel more pressure in team or individual competitions?

S: I think it varies. For me, I don’t know if it’s more of a pressure thing. It’s more exciting for me to wrestle in duals because you’re doing it for your teammates and everyone is watching. It’s more of an excitement and reason to give it your all.

A: I do enjoy wrestling in a dual meet more just because you’re with all ten of your teammates for every match and you all get to watch each other wrestle. It’s more separate in the individual season. We try to all get hyped together.

B: What sort of stuff do you do together as a team?

S: I would say our team is very close knit. I think that is partially the culture here and partially the culture of wrestling. In wrestling there’s such a high level of dedication, mentally and physically, and so going through all of that work together just sort of ties the team together and makes you all friends.

B: What’s it like to have to manage your weight so much while staying strong?

S: In the offseason, the weight cutting aspect is not there at all, so you have the freedom to work out and become a better athlete as a whole. During the season, having weight classes forces you to keep your weight, so you have to pay such close attention to your diet, your sleep, how you’re working out. There are a lot of moving parts. It’s part of what makes doing wrestling so difficult. Being able to have the mental fortitude to keep your weight where you need to be is essential to your success.

B: What’s it like being in a formal leadership position on the team now?

A: I actually don’t think there’s that much difference. The only main difference is vocalizing leadership a bit more. Last year we sort of sat back and let the senior leaders vocalize everything, but this year it’s up to us.

S: In terms of training, I don’t think it’s changed at all. Outside of that, you have a little bit more of a responsibility to make sure that the entire team is doing things right. I don’t see it as being a whole lot different because we weren’t just thrust into this role. It’s the logical progression of our careers here. The way we do our captains is that we have a team vote, so it’s all based on how everyone sees each other. So not a whole lot of the dynamic really changes.

B: What do you do to relax between sports and school?

S: Being an athlete here, we have to be really good at managing our time. Our season goes from October to March, but we’re working all year. You have to get that ability. You just generally have to have it together. Outside of wrestling and school, I don’t think our lives are that much different from the average person.

A: I think wrestling in and of itself is a stress reliever. Any time you get a good workout in helps relieve stress. And wrestling, as a combat sport and as a passion, it’s something we all really enjoy doing.

S: You can’t get to this point in wrestling without enjoying it.

B: Do you have any message you want to get out to Columbia students?

S: I think that a lot of the reason why wrestling isn’t so popular is just a lack of exposure to a lot of people. Many people don’t know what the sport entails. So I would certainly suggest anybody come out to see one of our duals. I think wrestling is a really exciting sport. You have two guys both going in with the assumption that they’re going to win, and one of them will be wrong. A lot of exciting interesting things happen. For example, last year against Bucknell, the dual was tied going into our last match. It all came down to that. If people come out and see what wrestling is about, they’re going like it and they’re going to come out for more.

B: Which is more pressure, a big match at the EIWA’s, or finals week?

A: I’d say a really important wrestling match at the EIWA’s, because that result would stick with me and impact me a lot more mentally for the rest of my life than a grade.

S: I think that wrestling is definitely more pressure, although I’m not sure that’s the right word. Any time you talk about pressure, there’s a feeling of excitement and anxiety. There’s certainly more pressure in a wrestling match, and part of that just comes from the fact that we’ve been doing this for our whole lives. It’s the pinnacle of 15, 20 years of hard work. And I’d say that school is not necessarily that same equivalent. It’s not a personal matter. If you lose a match, you’re going to take that personally, because some one other person beat you. The nature of the sport grants a higher level of pressure than school.

A: Think about it. Some of us have been wrestling for longer than we’ve been going so school.

[Interview edited for brevity]

Opponents getting mauled put in their place via Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars