Carson Kharchla Q+A: Embracing a hot start, Ohio State’s key culture, eyeing March’s NCAA team race
by Joe Wedra, USA Wrestling
Photo of Carson Kharchla at the 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational by Tony Rotundo
This year, themat.com will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each Thursday as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.
In our latest weekly college athlete Q+A, we talk with Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla, who won this week’s Big Ten Wrestler of the Week award. Kharchla has been a steady presence for the Buckeyes at 165 pounds, acting as one of the anchors of a very talented lineup.
This week, Kharchla is ranked No. 5 by FloWrestling at the weight and is set to wrestle for Ohio State when the team returns to competition after the holiday break – January 2 against American in Washington D.C.
Q: What has the first part of this year been like for you, as you’ve been someone who has certainly turned heads and grabbed attention thus far courtesy of your strong performance?
A: Honestly, the start of the season has been pretty hectic for me – just getting used to a full schedule, wrestling, making weight, practice and school. It was a little hectic in the first couple weeks as I was trying to balance and figure everything out, making sure I wasn’t going to drive myself insane.
Now, I guess, the more I’m into it, it’s gotten easier to know what I have to do and stay on top of schoolwork, wrestling, my weight. There’s been a little bit of a learning curve, too, learning how to rehab your body. You have to make sure you’re getting the most rest and recovery that you can when you wrestle on Sunday and have to come back and wrestle on a Friday, it’s tough. Just learning how to do all of those things and the world around me has been big.
Q: That’s such a big part of the student-athlete life, balancing academics and athletics. What are some of the ways you’ve learned to do that successfully this year?
A: It’s kind of similar to high school, having to balance both. It’s a little more strenuous in college with people having majors, looking to graduate and get your college degree. Also, the wrestling in college is just a completely different than high school, so it adds stress and pressure. But I think the biggest thing is just staying on top of everything and not letting things get away from you.
I think it’s pretty easy to just look at us, everyone’s schedule and say okay, I have an assignment due in a few days, I’m not going to do it until the third day, but sometimes you have to do it that first day. And that’s tough. It’s a motivation thing where you have to push yourself to do it. I know for me, I like to procrastinate a little bit, so it’s really just staying on top of it.
Having a good support system and a group of friends and teammates who are all on the same page and want the same things you do makes it really easy. When they want to go to do homework and tell you to make sure you’re staying on top of things, it makes things a whole lot easier.
Q: Can you expand a bit on that, just how the culture and tight-knit relationships with everyone in the room has led to the success you’ve seen on the mat?
A: Culture is big. It has to be in college wrestling. It’s a team sport. And even though it’s individual and you wrestle yourself, the team aspect is really big. I think wrestling gives you a different team aspect than any other sport, just because there’s so much individual work. If you truly let it be an individual sport, it’s going to eat you up and break you. You need those teammates there, because you can’t always be the best version of you every single day, and you’re not going to win every single match. You’ll go through times in life when it’s hard, so having those people there surrounding you and bringing you up when you can’t do it yourself, I think that’s huge.
One thing with our team, we’re always there to bring each other up. I think you have to be in wrestling because it’s such a demanding sport. You need to be able to do that with each other. But also too, you all see and know what everyone is going through. If someone loses a match, it’s not like you can’t relate. You can relate directly to that guy. You’ve been there. You’ve been in those shoes. Everyone has lost a close match. Everyone has won a big match. So just that, it really brings you close together and makes you want to help and push each other to be better.
Q: As a team, you all will have the holidays off in terms of competition before hitting dual meet action again on January 2 against American. How would you describe the phase that you’re in as a team right now, and what will the next few weeks look like?
A: Yeah, I think it’s definitely a rest phase maybe more mentally than physically, just for your mind to take a couple of weeks and relax. You can focus on training and not have all of the stress of competing every weekend. I think that’s big, and it’s going to be really helpful just to get the minds right, refocus and recalibrate. But also, you do have a long break and a long time where you don’t want to take it for granted. This may be the last time in a while where we really get to focus on some places of work and skill, and focus on how we want to wrestle in areas of improvement.
I think I’m definitely going to take a mental break and a little bit of a physical break since we’ve been going for five, six weeks straight. So, I’ll take it a little bit lighter but I’m definitely going to try to focus on working on my skills and my craft.
Q: Now that you’ve gotten off to such a hot start this year, does that change the way that you approach competition in the second part of the year, or is it somewhat business as usual?
A: I kind of think of it as business as usual. I’ve always kind of had that target on me my whole life… It’s a little different in college just because everyone is tough and every match you wrestle is going to be hard. Everyone is here to fight. Not many people get to college, just lay down and will let you score 100 points on them. But, I’m ready to take things one match at a time and be living in the moment.
I could look ahead and say I have to wrestle this person or that person, look at the conference championship and stress myself out and worry, or I could focus on one thing at a time and make those bigger battles smaller. I think that’s really key, just putting your mind at ease and really preparing the best you can. You can’t try to do too much. I need to focus on one thing at a time and I think it will all work itself out in the end.
Q: As you look ahead to the rest of this year, what’s it like to be on such a talented team and to know that you have the potential, as a team, to make a run in March?
A: Obviously, it’s all in the back of our minds. We talk about it and we know what’s going on. We know that there are some teams that have six or seven returning All-Americans. They have the pedigree, they have this and that, but I think we look at it and say just because they have that, it doesn’t mean we can’t have the same thing this year or next year. Just because they’re a returning All-American or national champion, it doesn’t mean that we can’t wrestle with them and push them.
We talk about that, and we talk about believing and knowing how good we are. We trust in our wrestling and our process. We don’t worry too much about what everything else is saying, because if you just worry about that, you’re never going to hear what you want to hear. So, it’s just believing in who we are as a team and trusting our process…
I think going back to our team and our values and core, we all love each other and we all want each other to win. And I think that gives us more of a push to do things for each other. It’s hard to do things when you’re alone and by yourself. But, when you have 10 guys screaming for you, it makes it a little bit easier. Just knowing that, loving and supporting each other, and making sure everyone is ready to wrestle the best that they can – that’s all you can ever ask for.