GoDuke.com recently caught up with Duke's 174-pounder, Connor Bass. The senior is headed to his first NCAA Championships after taking third at the ACC Championships two weeks ago. The Yorkville, Ill., native returns to the Midwest to conclude his wrestling career in front of his family. Bass is 21-11 on the year and opens nationals against No. 16 seed Christian Burcki of Central Michigan in his opening bout. Wrestling opens March 16 at 12 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU. All matches will be carried on ESPN3 through the tournament.
GoDuke.com: What’s been the biggest change for you this season moving up from 157 pounds to 174 this season?
Connor Bass: I think for me it’s just been an attitude change. I think if you look at a lot of other top wrestlers that kind of get over their hump and you ask them what made the difference, a lot of them will have that same response. It’s been an attitude adjustment on and off the mat. Whether you’re in practice or going to compete, it’s just an unwillingness to lose.
GD: What’s it like knowing you’re going to finish your career in front of your family at NCAA Championships?
CB: My family was there at the start so I feel like it’s only fitting that they should be there at the end too. It’s been tough being away from them these past four years and they haven’t been able to come out to everything when we’ve been on the road so it’s nice that I’m headed back close to home and they can all be out there and support and get to share in the experience and ultimately finish off the experience of the sport on a positive note.
GD: What is something you’ve overcome this season or during your career that you will carry on into the next chapter of your life?
CB: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is dealing with and overcoming frustration because it can really cloud your judgement and inhibit your progress. Coach [Ben] Wissel told me one day a couple months ago ‘If you’re not getting frustrated then you’re probably not getting better and you probably don’t want to get better.’ You’re not trying things, that maybe aren’t working at first, but if you keep committing to them they will be there when you need them. That’s probably been the biggest thing for me. Especially this season, I knew it was my last year and I kept telling myself there is no time to get caught up in mind games. It’s overcome and conquer.
GD: What’s next for you after graduation?
CB: I took a job as a foreign exchange analyst at Wells Fargo. I’ll be heading down to Charlotte, N.C., to start that job in the first week of June. It’s a quick turnaround from graduation, but it’s a good opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.
GD: Wrestling is really hard. What keeps you motivated to keep going?
CB: I think it’s just being unsatisfied with what you’ve done. I think it’s inherent in the sport. My goal has always been to win at every moment. It hasn’t always been, win a state title, win a national title. Ultimately, I wasn’t satisfied if I wasn’t winning every moment. If I give up a takedown in practice and then score 50 points, I’ll walk away and still be hung up on that one takedown. So I think the part of wrestling where somebody else is right there at your throat and you don’t want to give up any ground. It makes you want to keep coming back.
GD: What word comes to mind when you hear the name Glen Lanham?
CB: Tough. He’s a tough dude. From the way he lives his own life to the expectations that he has for his athletes. I think that’s the only way to succeed in a sport like this is to have tough expectations and breed tough individuals.
GD: What word comes to mind you think of Jake Faust?
CB: Resilient. He’s battled through a lot in his career. And I think one of the defining moments of him was when he went out and wrestled at ACCs after people were trying to talk him out of it. He went out there and did what he showed up and intended on doing, even against being hurt and already taken a loss to that same NC State wrestler earlier in the season. To me that was phenomenal display of resilience and a great way to lead into the last few weeks of his career.
GD: Jacob Kasper?
CB: Kasper has this aura of confidence about him. That keeps him going and he’s got to keep that going to do well in this tournament. It’s what makes him win. It’s what makes him want to go out there. Literally, he wants to go out there every match, throw the guy to his back and pin him. He’s got the confidence that he can do that and that transfers over to how he competes.