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March 18, 2017

Mark Hall

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by 174-pound national champion Mark Hall of Penn State.

MARK HALL: It's a tough tournament. Probably I wrestled a lot of places. This is one of the tougher places. There's a lot of people out there. I've wrestled around the world, different people, different countries.

And the important thing, just have fun. I told myself over and over as soon as the negative thought came into my mind, I replaced it with Jesus loves you, NCAA champion, over and over. And whether I was to win or not, Jesus would still love me. And NCAA champion will one day be in his plan, of course be fulfilled, but just have fun, the most important thing.

Q. You're a multiple time world champion in freestyle. A lot of RV rides with dad, Mark Hall, Sr. Did it ever seem like they were going to pay off like this? And immediately you're redshirting. And then all of a sudden you're in the lineup. You lose the match to Meyer in Carver-Hawkeye. Everything so up and down for you. Did all the RV rides pay off?
MARK HALL: There were hundreds of those. And different people along my journey with me, still with me. Some of my best friends. And again, it's all worth it in the end. I remember calling my dad over and over, asking him, hey, can I pull my redshirt, can I pull my redshirt. Over and over, no, no, no. And ultimately what I wanted to do, I knew it would pay off. And here I am.

Q. Touch on the world title cadet and junior. How does this title compare to that?
MARK HALL: It's awesome. But I'm still a junior. Still go get another one. That's what I'm going to work for. For sure need to get more offense. I got to his legs a lot, but throughout the tournament I wasn't shooting a lot. So there's still a lot to work on. It's all those things.

It's all buildup. One day I want to be an Olympic champion. That's my ultimate goal, and then coach my college team, just like Coach Cael. That's the guy I look up to.

If I could be half the man he is, my life would be a perfection. He's a good guy. So it's all build-up. And just one stepping stone at a time.

Q. You touched on pulling your redshirt and winning the nationals as a true freshman. Obviously Cael Sanderson is a four-time national champion. Have you given it any thought?
MARK HALL: It's my journey. If I wanted to go on Coach Cael's journey I wouldn't have pulled my redshirt. He redshirted and I had already had a loss in my redshirt. I would have a loss regardless if I pulled my redshirt.

It's still something I think about. I'm one of four for now. I'm going to work on my second one. You only win one at a time. Take it one match at a time, one tournament, one dual, things like that. But it's freestyle season now.

Q. You've been saying that size doesn't matter but Zahid was 20 pounds heavier than you last year at the Worlds. And Bo's a big guy, and you're very technical. And against the bigger guys, you have to wrestle a little differently. Talk about how you had to adjust yourself because you're not as big as those guys?
MARK HALL: Yeah, I've got to wrestle smarter. There's a lot of things that can happen in a match. You wrestle smart, you wrestle through it. I don't know. I didn't want to cut any weight. I probably will go 174 again next year. Cutting weight sucks and it makes the season a long season. I think anyone who cuts weight can tell you the same thing.

So at the end of the day, I said before, it's not about the size of the dog in the fight; it's about the size of the fight in the dog. One thing Coach Cael always tells us is it's the story I like. He tells us when a pit bull is around, and a small dog walks by, doesn't bat an eye. But when a pit bull is around and a big dog comes by, he starts flexing, puts his fist in the ground and he's ready to fight. And I'll be the pit bull.

Q. Walk us through the exchange that led to the takedown. At one point it looked like Bo Jordan had the upper hand in the scrum and you ended up getting the takedown. Walk us through that. Did you ever think you were in serious trouble in the scrum or were you confident all the way that you were going to get the 2?
MARK HALL: As long as I kept my hands locked I knew I would be okay. I got in that same kind of scramble against Alex Meyer. I unlocked my hands and ultimately it didn't pan out for me.

I kept my hands locked I was ready to finish the match. Finished that takedown. Yeah, I wasn't worried. I get in those scrambles all the time in practice. Keep your hands locked, wrestle through the position.

Q. Speaking of wrestling through positions, they review it. What do the coaches say during the review? It obviously goes your way, 3-1 lead. You're in good position there to win that match. How much does that play wrestling that you guys do, how much of that really plays into how you guys wrestled? Sounds like you guys do a lot of that.
MARK HALL: It was just -- Coach Cael was telling me you're the man, you're the man, you're the man, you're going to win. Keep wrestling smart. Keep your left hand down, circle right, you've got this.

And that play wrestling helps a lot. Especially with the partner that I have. There's a lot going on. I don't have a bad partner ever. I'm just always wrestling in those positions. I'm always in those positions. There's no reason for me to panic if I'm there all the time.

I said it before, there's not a lot of positions you can put me in that I haven't been in, and it's because I credit my teammates for that, my coaches. They put me in all these positions, just ready for anything.

Q. You talked about your teammates, what does it look like when you're wrestling Nickal who is wrestling now and Joseph. When you wrestle those guys in practice what's it like?
MARK HALL: It's competitive. We have days where I might not get a takedown. We have days where some of our best guys are struggling. And it's just because we're all so good. We're so good out here, but when we're in the room it's like you're just another guy. There's no favoritism. We're all one.

I think that's a big part of -- it's a big part of the legacy we're building. We're all one. And I think, yeah, the partners are who I credit. And, again, just those positions always in them (indiscernible).

Q. You did say it's freestyle season. Would you like to win another junior title? Are you looking to do any senior? And are you 74 again? Because that's going to cost you a little bit of weight cutting.
MARK HALL: I'm 74 again. Ultimately it's just, yeah, it's 11 more pounds. But I only do it, like, three or four times. It's not as bad. Still wrestling smart. My training, coaches train us the best. For fact I'd put up with anyone. Freestyle season, I'm ready. Go into our junior world title, try my shot at the Senior World Team if I get that chance.

Q. I know it's hard doing this interview with Bo out there wrestling Dean, but where would you be without Mark Hall, Sr.? And how much of a driving force has he been through everything you've done? I've never seen a dad so invested in a son, and he really loves you and he's behind you all the way. What's it been like having a dad like that?
MARK HALL: My dad, oh man, he's always been pushing me. Always made sure I was at the right places when I needed to be. I was in the right places when I needed to be. I never had anytime for playing around. I never had any time for -- I was hanging out with friends, but at the end of the day it was school and wrestling.

That's what I'm living for now. I'll have fun after my career is over with. Hopefully by that time I'll have, like, 40, 50 years left on me. But he's always pushed me. And I think credit goes to my mom, too. There's no easy way out with her. And, yeah.


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