Ben Askren Interview
How did you get into the sport of wrestling?
Ben: I did all of the sports when I was of a young age. Wrestling happened to be the one I enjoyed the most, so I stuck with it.
Is wrestling one of those sports that you have to start at a young age, or can you take it up later on in life and still find success?
Ben: You can start young or later on in life. Either way though, it will take hard work and a lot of dedication and sacrifice to find success in this sport.
How did you find success in this sport? What would you consider was the largest factor that helped contribute to your incredible success at Missouri? Was it your conditioning, your strength, your technique, or the overall general will to win?
Ben: The most important asset of my successful career in high school, college, and at the international level was my will to find any necessary way to win a match. I was always willing to do whatever it took, and the other guy usually was not willing to go as far as I was to come out on top. That’s all it really comes down to. Who wants it more? Who’s going to want it more when you are preparing for the match and who is going to want to win more when you are in the match going toe to toe.
What kind of training helped you the most? Was it strength training, conditioning, or, just live wrestling?
Ben: I always did most of my work on the mat, because that is what I loved. I only lifted and ran when training for a competition. I hate to drill, but love to go live.
Wrestling is not one of those sports that you become good at naturally overnight. It is something that takes a lot of dedication, discipline, and courage to practice for endless hours. What inspired you to keep that dedication throughout years and years to become a National Champion?
Ben: I wanted to be the best, and I was driven to make myself as good as I possibly could be. No matter how long it took, I was willing to put in the time and effort to better myself and I still am willing to do so. If you work hard at something long enough, the results are sure to come.
What has wrestling taught you about life? How has it transformed you into a better person both physically and mentally? How has it boosted your confidence, self-esteem, and ability to succeed in life?
Ben: Yes, I do not know where I would be without wrestling and it is kind of a scary thought to even ponder. My upbringing and wrestling have provided me with all of the character I need to be successful in life. Through the dedication, hard work, and sacrifice that I have poured into the sport, my work ethic in anything I do is unparalleled; and I can owe it all to wrestling and my wonderfully supportive family.
A lot of people talk about this love-hate relationship that many kids have with this sport or any sport for that matter. The grueling practices and the difficulties with cutting weight takes its toll on the average athlete, but do you feel this pressure Ben?
Ben: I love it and love it. There is no hate involved. There isn’t much I would rather be doing than wrestling. It is a part of my blood. The hard work has paid off time and time again for me and there is no better feeling in the world than having your hard work paid off when you get your hand raised.
We absolutely love the hair, Ben. What’s with it? Do you keep it for any particular reason? Is it a superstition or do you keep it because it defines your “funk” of style? Was it difficult mentally to get it cut in Beijing?
Ben: There is really nothing to the hair; but it was a very tough decision to get it cut, simply because I like my hair. But after Tsargush pulled my hair at the World Cup and Lewis pulled my corn rows at the Olympic Trials, I felt like I was left with no other option. However, the Chinese lady in the village that cut it would not stop cutting it. Talk about being scissor happy. Finally, I had to just stand up and make her stop. Needless to say, my hair is shorter than I would prefer it to be and I definitely got made fun of the rest of the day for it.
You are one of the best wrestlers in the world and we, as well as many of your devoted fans, know the Beijing 2008 Olympics did not go quite as planned, as you suffered a heart-breaking loss to the incredible veteran Ivan Fundora; but what are your future goals with the sport of wrestling? Are you still competing internationally to hopefully land a Gold Medal for the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics or are you going to explore the world of Mixed Martial Arts, or perhaps both?
Ben: I have not made a decision yet. My wrestling background would obviously be a wonderful asset and jiu-jitsu came naturally to me because of my successes in wrestling. Additionally, I have been training the striking aspect of the sport down in Florida, which is the hardest part of this transition for me. I have a fight scheduled in February of 2009, so I am working real hard to be prepared for it. But one thing is for sure though. I will not make my decision based upon the money involved. I have never done wrestling to get rich and I don’t think anyone else has. Would my life be easier if I got a large contract? Of course it would; but it would not make me a better wrestler and that is not why I would do MMA. I would do it because I think it would be fun and it would be a great challenge for me. I have always wanted to fight, but it isn’t because of the monetary gain or the fame that comes along with it. Obviously though, that doesn’t mean I won’t accept it.
Do your future aspirations end at the sport of wrestling whether in terms of competing and then going on to coach, or do you have some other occupation that you have always dreamed of fulfilling?
Ben: My dreams lie within wrestling and MMA. I am so happy to be involved in this sport, that I can’t dream of doing anything else. For now, I will be at the University of Missouri until my brother, Max, graduates. It is a promise that I made to him when he initially came to Missouri. I told him that I would be there as long as he was, since he helped me get to where I am today. A lot of people insist I should go elsewhere to train, but I gave him my word and keeping my word is more important than anything tangible could be. We will see where the next few years take me, though.