PISCATAWAY, N.J. (July 3, 2014) – Rutgers wrestling redshirt freshman Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.) is set to compete for the USA University World Team at the 11th World University Wrestling Championships from July 7-12 in Pécs, Hungary. Ashnault, who was crowned the 65 KG 2014 Asics University Freestyle National Champion on May 25, is the first Rutgers wrestler to compete for the USA University World Team in the program’s history.
Freestyle competition at 65 KG will take place on July 8, with the finals beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST, hosted by the University of Pécs. To view the full World University Wrestling Championship schedule, click on the link below:
In advance of the World University Championships, ScarletKnights.com caught up with Ashnault for a Q&A session prior to his trip to Hungary. The four-time, undefeated New Jersey State Champion out of South Plainfield HS discussed his recent run at the Asics University Freestyle National Championships, his workouts leading up to international competition, and what motivates him to be the best.
Scarletknights.com: What does it mean to you to represent the United States on an international stage?
Anthony Ashnault: You don’t get many chances in life like this to represent something bigger. It’s really exciting and humbling and it makes me work a little harder. This experience is really exciting to look forward to. Not many guys get to do it so it’s pretty awesome.
SK.com: How significant is it to make the USA University World Team so early in your career?
AA: It’s great. I have such high goals, higher than this. It’s a step in the right direction to get my foot in the door. The national teams, they don’t really care what you do on the NCAA level. They’re out of college, they’re a lot older. But it definitely gets my foot in the door, and it’s so exciting because now I know I can compete with those kind of guys. I know I’m there and it makes it worthwhile to see your hard work paying off in front of your eyes. I want to be on the top of the USA so I can represent the USA in future years.
SK.com: What did it feel like to compete against and beat top talent at University Nationals?
AA: I think it was a great tournament because I wrestled three All-Americans and 2014 national champ Jason Tsirtsis [Northwestern] and that’s exactly what the Big Ten Conference is like. Week in and week out you’re going to wrestle All-Americans and the top-notch guys making an impact at the college level. It just prepared me for what’s going to come next year, especially at the Big Ten Tournament, where you’re wrestling just as many good guys, if not more. Wrestling guys like that now makes it easier then. I know what to expect, I know what kind of crowd it’s going to be at a tournament like that and my head will definitely be in the right place. It gives me a lot more confidence right now.
SK.com: Have your workouts changed leading up to University World Championships?
AA: There are a lot of guys training in the Rutgers wrestling room right now voluntarily, just getting in there scrapping with other guys. Guys have been texting me asking if I need workouts. I’ve been working out with [redshirt junior] Anthony Perrotti (Roseland, N.J.) a lot and [incoming freshman] Anthony Giraldo (Guttenberg, N.J.). We’ve got talented freshman coming in around my weight so it just makes it a lot easier for me to train because they’re so hungry to get into the room. They’re coming at me with everything they’ve got and want to prove that they belong, and I hate losing so it just makes it a better room.
Also when I was out in Arizona, I got to train with [three-time All-American at Nebraska] James Green for a day and that was a pretty cool experience because he’s been at the top of the game for about three years at 157 pounds.
Sk.com: How different will it be wrestling overseas compared to other tournaments you’ve competed in around the country?
AA: It’s a lot different to prepare for mentally because you’re pretty much losing a whole day in travel. You’re wrestling guys you’ve never even seen before, you don’t know how they wrestle and international wrestling is a little different than American wrestling. It’s a different pace and a little different technique. I’m not going to try to change any of the things I do, but it’s just something you have to be aware of because it could come back to bite you in a match. Compared to another tournament it’s something new that I’ve never done before, so it’s very exciting. I’ve been to so many places, wrestling but never across the Atlantic Ocean, so I’m really excited to get my foot in the door here because I think I’m going to have many more competitions in my future where I’m going to be doing stuff like this.
SK.com: What do you plan to take out of wrestling with other top talent on the USA University World Team?
AA: Most of the guys are older and out of college and have been through a lot of the tournaments that I’m going to go through in the next five years. I’m excited to just get their perspective on how they were successful and some of the things they did to see what they went through. That will help me tremendously. Pretty much all of them are great and going to be competitors to win the University World Championships also, so it’s going to be great wrestling with them. I couldn’t ask for anything more – I’m only going to be wrestling these guys a couple times so I’m definitely going to take advantage of it and try to get a better technique and a better mindset.
SK.com: How does your early track record of success benefit you on the mat?
AA: I think it’s a mindset. Russia is always looked at as the best wrestling country, but America is not far behind right now. We’ve been towards the top of the game for the last couple years making a big push and it’s given me more confidence going overseas to wrestle theses kind of guys. I just have the mindset that I train just as hard as anyone else, if not harder. You’ve got to outwork the world, not just the country, to be the best. Every day when I leave practice or leave a lift I try to say that to myself and if I don’t believe it I do a little bit more. I believe every day that I put in the work to be the best in the world not just the best in the country. I’m already going there with the mindset that I’m going to win the tournament.
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