USA Wrestling #TeamUSATuesday: Men...

#TeamUSATuesday: Men's Freestyle National Team member Michael Macchiavello

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | Nov. 19, 2019, 5:12 p.m. (ET)

Photo by Richard Immel.

Michael Macchiavello is currently No. 3 on the Men’s Freestyle National Team at 92 kg. To prepare for his Olympic run, Macchiavello bumped up to 97 kg. His first competition at the new weight class was the Bill Farrell International this past weekend, where he finished runner-up to Kyle Snyder. Mike took some time to talk with us about a variety of things, including the weight bump and facing steep competition for the 2020 Olympic spot.

What is your favorite movie?
I used to be a big Marvel and Star Wars guy. I still am, but I’ve recently been getting into more documentaries and movies based on true stories. My favorite movies have changed over the years. I like Will Smith too, so pretty much any movie with Will Smith in it I like.

Who is your favorite musical artist?
Tupac, not just because of his music, but he was also a poet. I think the lyrics in the majority of his music related to a lot of things people deal with in real life, whether it’s overcoming a drug addiction or not having a father, stuff like that. A lot of his songs have a lot of substance.

What is your favorite food?

Pizza or burgers. I like putting eggs and avocado on my burgers. Eggs and avocado with some nice thick-cut crispy bacon.

What is your favorite sport to watch other than wrestling?
Pro football. I’m a big Carolina Panthers guy because I’m from Charlotte. I like watching my team.

Did you play any other sports growing up?
Soccer was the first sport I played. Then I got into football. I played a little baseball, and I played a little rec league basketball. In high school I played soccer, football and wrestling all four years.

Who is your favorite wrestler to watch either past or present?
In high school, I really liked watching Jordan Burroughs wrestle. Now, I know him really well, so it’s kind of different. Now I watch older matches from guys around my weight. One  guy I like is Adam Satiev. He was a beast. I also like Triple H.

What is your biggest fear?

Having to be fed through a tube instead of being able to eat and enjoy food.

Do you have any plans once your wrestling career is over?
No, not yet, I want to keep wrestling right now. It’s my main priority, my main focus. I’ve got a couple options though. I could get into coaching or MMA. That’s a possibility. Maybe, try out for the WWE. I want to explore all my options to figure out which one is best for me and which one I’d enjoy doing the most. Right now my priority is wrestling though.

How did you first get involved in wrestling?
I was playing football, and one of my middle school coaches was from Pennsylvania. They asked me to come try out for the wrestling team. My fifth grade coach asked me to try out too, and I didn’t want to do it. But this time, one of my teammates told me that wrestling was awesome, so I figured I’d give it a try. I told him I’d do it, but I wasn’t going to wear a singlet.

I wrestled my first dual meet with shorts and a tucked in t-shirt, and I was the only kid in the whole competition wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts. I was sticking out like a sore thumb looking like a noob, and I thought well I guess the singlet isn’t too bad. I’ll just wear a singlet now. I ended up liking the sport. I won my first match, and I was like yeah I like winning; I can do this. That was in eighth grade, and that’s how I got started.

What was the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Nick Gwiazdowski told me my sophomore year, “it’s as hard as you make it”. I really had to sit down and think about what he meant by that. For me, it kind of simplified it. I could either make this very difficult for myself, and not enjoy it. Or I can have fun with it and set high expectations, work as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.

It’s really easy in the sport of wrestling to settle because something seems really far away or a goal seems really hard to accomplish. When he gave me that piece of advice, I was thinking about settling because things hadn’t been going the way I wanted them to my freshman and sophomore seasons. After that advice, I told myself maybe this is easier than I think it is; maybe I can do this. Then I stayed focus and kept the same goal I set for myself as a freshman, which was to win NCAAs, and I continued to work at it. It was really simple advice, but it changed the way I approached the sport mentally.

What advice would you give to a younger wrestler?

You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.

You came to NC State as an unheralded recruit, how did you go about achieving the lofty goals you set for yourself?
I won states my senior year of high school in North Carolina and placed third at FloNationals. My goal was to win a FloNational title, and even though I fell short, I thought I was capable of doing it. I came into college with a lot of confidence even though I wasn’t a highly sought after recruit.

It got tougher after my first year. College wrestling kind of slapped me in the face. It’s funny, we had to give our coaches our goals for the next four years. I remember telling my coach Frank Beasley that I wanted to win four national titles, and he kind of thought I was crazy.

That’s just how I think and operate. If I’m going to dedicate my time and energy and sacrifice a whole lot into something, why would I settle and not strive to be the best? Wrestling is hard enough as it is. If I’m going to work this hard, why would I want to work this hard just so I can get seventh? Why would I hope for seventh? How much harder is it for me to say, I’m going to aim for first? It’s not that much harder. It’s not changing the trajectory of the goal that much; it’s just setting the bar a little bit higher. That does nothing negative for me. It only benefits me.

That’s just the way I viewed it. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to strive to be the best. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but I’m going to work to be the best. If the outcome doesn’t go the way you want it to, that’s ok. You have no regrets and you know you gave your all to the sport. You can walk away with peace of mind.

You were at 92 kg, and you’ve moved to 97 kg. Those weights have been manned by World Team members Kyle Snyder and J’den Cox, two of the best wrestlers in the world. Does the thought of having to go through them to earn the World or Olympic Team spot ever weigh heavy on you?
Not really, to be honest. I don’t think about it that much. Let’s say, best case scenario, I make the (Olympic) Team in April. Then I have to wrestle Sadulaev or Sharifov, both guys that are Olympic gold medalists. Winning the spot is only half the battle.

I try to eliminate the names and just focus on the task and the process of getting there. Rather than putting Kyle’s name on a piece of paper and putting it in my locker or putting J’den’s name on a piece of paper, it’s more so how do I get better today. The truth is, if I’m not improving then the possibility of those goals is going to be a lot further away than if I was just focusing on winning. For me, if I just focus on beating Kyle and J’den, then I’m just focusing on just the outcome. “You have to beat them; you have to win.” The key word there is “win”. Winning is an outcome oriented focus. For me, I try to focus on the process. If I focus on process, then when the time comes the outcome takes care of itself. If I can focus on the process of being the best in the World, then come April, skill-wise, technically, wrestling IQ-wise, everything will be where it needs to be to achieve the outcome that I’ve worked for.

If I sit there and dwell on the obstacles instead of the ways to overcome them, then the goal is going to be that much harder. My focus is on the development and the growth more so than the result right now. When the time comes, hopefully the work and the things that I’ve sacrificed and the things that I’ve been disciplined about help me grow enough to be in a position to win and accomplish my goals and accomplish the things that I’ve set out to do.

Do you have any pre-match rituals?
Not really, I keep it pretty simple. I do stance and motion. I break a sweat. I’m not superstitious. There isn’t anything I have to do to be in the right state of mind to compete.

What motivates you during training?
It comes from a lot of places, primarily my faith and my family.

What is your best wrestling memory to date?
Winning NCAAs was a pretty cool experience. It was a great experience for me individually, but it was also a great experience team-wise. We finished fourth in the country, which is NC State’s highest finish. So it was a great weekend overall for everyone. There was a lot of celebrating, and all of the work I had put in paid off. That was a really good feeling.

Talk about making the bump up to 97 kg for the Olympic year.
That decision was really hard for me to make. Kyle (Snyder) took me as his training partner to Worlds two years ago. I was really grateful for that experience, and I learned a lot from him. This year, J’den (Cox) brought me as his training partner. I became friends with both of these guys, and I enjoy wrestling with both of them. So my decision was: do I go up and compete against one of them? I don’t actually know what J’den’s doing, but let’s say he goes down, do I go down and compete against him? It’s going to be weird competing against those guys since we’ve gotten close and help each other out. Ultimately, it took me a really long time to make the decision.

I wanted to make the decision in August, but it took me until the end of October. I was having this internal battle with myself. I decided to go up after talking with my coaches and my strength coach. With my style, it was a better decision. Physically, I think my numbers in the weight room and not cutting weight makes sense. In college when I bumped up from 184 to 197, I found success. Going up a weight class made better sense to me performance wise, so that’s what it ultimately came down to.

How has having a training partner like Nick Gwiazdowski (two-time World bronze medalist and two-time NCAA champion) help your wrestling?
It’s a night and day difference. Coming into the NC State room, I watched this guy train for a whole year. He went from having an eighth-place finish to coming off of a redshirt and winning an NCAA title. I saw the body of work that he put in, and I said I can put in that same body of work. I can do the exact same stuff training-wise. If I’m doing the exact same stuff he’s doing, he must be doing something right because he just won an NCAA title.

I used him as almost like a mentor. I’m trying to accomplish what he’s done, so I used to ask him a lot of questions ,like what do you think about when you’re going into matches, and what do you think about during practice, what’s your focus on specifically when you’re trying to work on a specific position? I was really just trying to get some insight on the way he thought about and approached the sport. Even though it might have annoyed him, he answered every single one of my questions. He really helped me and gave me some guidance on how to approach my training and how to approach competition.

On top of that, he’s an amazing training partner. He’s one of the best in the world at heavyweight. Being able to train with him is good because he challenges me to be a better wrestler. He’s been a huge influence on me and a big piece of some of the success I’ve had in the sport of wrestling.

The Macchiavello file
Birthday: December 24, 1994
Hometown: Monroe, North Carolina
High school: Sun Valley High School
College: North Carolina State
Residence: Raleigh, NC.
Club: Titan Mercury Wrestling Club/Wolfpack Wrestling Club/RTC
Twitter: @mike_macch
Instagram: @mike_macch
• 2018 NCAA champion
• 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament runner-up
• Third at 2019 U.S. Open
• 2019 Bill Farrell International runner-up
• 2018 U23 World Team Trials champion
• 2019 Third at Dan Kolov International (Bulgaria)