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March 18, 2022

Kizhan Clarke

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Media Conference

Q. What's this run been like for you? You've been kind of one of the great storylines at the tournament. What's it felt like to be part of this?

KIZHAN CLARKE: I feel like it's a long time coming. The past years have been taken from me because of COVID. I feel like this is something that everyone knows I deserve, and I've been grinding for since the first day I started college wrestling. I just never stopped even when I was quarantined. And when our wrestling team in America was kind of dying down, I worked every day in my basement. I would call everyone up, and have our own workouts, and since then, I know I deserve this.

Q. Kizhan, if COVID would not have happened, would you be at North Carolina, and what has happened between the ACCs to now to when you performed then until now?

KIZHAN CLARKE: It was more than just COVID that happened. I was really close with Coach Teague Moore, and ultimately when they got rid of him, I kind of didn't have any other reason to stay. I mean, I am still friends with everyone there, and so I'm in good standing with everyone. I feel like there's more than I could achieve, and I mean, it's proven now, so ...

Q. I've talked to some wrestlers before, and some of them don't even look at the brackets. Have you looked ahead to your match against Nick Lee at all?

KIZHAN CLARKE: No, I don't -- sorry. Yeah, I don't go into matches really trying to game plan too much. I try to go in there and just put my approach on it and put my game plan out there and not worry about what the other person is going to do. It kind of psychs me out. That's why in that match I wrestled Cole Matthews before, and I was going in. I lost to him. What am I going to do? What am I going to do different? It got in my head too much. With this being my first Nationals, it was kind of crazy. Let's go.

Q. Coaching staff is a little excited. Hey, this is a match that was really, really close. There were positions that you looked very uncomfortable in. The underhooks that he was running you off the mat with, it looked like you weren't very comfortable there. How were you able to keep your composure during that match to stay where you needed to stay and give yourself a chance to win?

KIZHAN CLARKE: I was just confident in my strength. I knew he was going to, like, you know, blow me over. I was just trying to make sure I wasn't going to put myself in any weird positions because, yeah, I don't get double underhooks much on me. It is kind of an uncomfortable position. I like to be in space a little bit. I can do that too, so I jacked him up, and you saw him run back too, but no one likes to be in double overs unless you're Daton Fix or something. Yeah.

Q. You said you are a Teague Moore fan. Coleman Scott was also from the same program. Is that what brought you to North Carolina, that Oklahoma State connection or what?

KIZHAN CLARKE: I'm originally from Florida, so Coach Ramos reached out to me. He was the first one to reach out to me and said O'Connor is going up to 57. We need a 49 pounder, and I was, like, all right, I'll come on. I love the south. North Atlanta is an amazing law school, and I was, like, I'm going. I'll go. If they accept me, I'll be there. I know everyone there is a hard worker. I know wrestling partners like Zach Sherman and Austin O'Connor. That's why I came here. With me and Zach switching off going down to 41, I feel like that was definitely the best option for me. It's playing out.

Q. What do you think about your next opponent, Nick Lee?

KIZHAN CLARKE: I haven't really put much -- I don't want to disrespect the man. I just haven't sat down and really looked at him or had my coaches look at him. I know he is going to be tough. Penn State is always tough. Every opponent I've wrestled has been tough. I'm just going to get ready for another grinder. Just keep moving forward. It's working out so far.

Q. You did not have the best ACC tournament, so what was the change in your mindset or did something help you since then?

KIZHAN CLARKE: Yeah. I get too wrapped up in my head. I took that loss too. You see the matches today that were a lot closer than I would like, and so I took a loss like everyone does. And I had my eye busted open, had stitches, and then from there, I was just kind of not in the right mindset. I was, like, am I really as good as I think I am? Did I put in the work that I wanted to put in? It took a little bit of soul searching after that for me to kind of realize that I deserve this. I worked my whole life for this.

It's my last opportunity. I've got to make the best of it. I can't sit here and mope about an ACC tournament because at the end of the day, no one is going to look back at this and think, you know, oh, he went 0-2 at ACCs. They're going to think national champion. That's it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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