Q&A with National Collegiate Open All-American Chasen Blair of the University of North Carolina: On Goals, Expectations, and MMA.
The talented sophomore out of California spoke to me on Tuesday about his expectations for the 2020 college season and his dream of representing his grandparent’s country (Philippines) at the U23 World Championships in Freestyle at 86kgs in October.
A student-athlete on-and-off the mats, Chasen knows the importance of maintaining his grades to be able to compete in the highest level of wrestling. Involved in mix martial arts throughout his life, Chasen hopes that at the end of his wrestling career, he will be able to get into MMA and continue his dominance in the octagon.
The following is a transcript of Chasen’s interview with me.
DiMaria - First things first: For the inexperienced, can you explain what wrestling is all about?
Blair - Wrestling is all about self-development, therefore wrestling is a lifestyle, not just a sport. The amount of character and physical development you go through is amazing. Also, even though wrestling is an individual sport, you can’t improve unless you have teammates that push you every day. The journey you go through with your teammates is a relationship only other wrestlers would understand.
DiMaria - How did you get into it?
Blair - My Dad wrestled when he was growing up and some of my cousins wrestled as well so I was familiar with the sport. In fourth grade, I got a flyer from my PE teacher for a local wrestling club which I ended up joining. I wrestled recreationally until eighth grade which is when I started wrestling year-round and setting goals in the sport.
DiMaria - What brought you to Chapel Hill from Southern California?
Blair - What brought me to Chapel Hill was the blend of great academics and athletics. Chapel Hill provides a unique environment in which you can pursue an elite education while being coached by Olympic and NCAA Champions. The credentials of the coaching staff here at UNC are second to none and the team itself is full of young talented guys ready to compete at the highest levels.
DiMaria - Did they treat you differently probably thinking you were or are a surfer rather than a wrestler?
Blair - Not really, I came out to Chapel Hill and took summer classes before the fall semester of my Freshman year, so I was able to get to know everybody on the team early. Everyone was welcoming, I was a part of Coach Scott’s second recruiting class so there were a lot of new guys coming in. We’re all family now.
DiMaria - How has the transition been from high school to college?
Blair - The transition from high school to Division 1 is a big jump. Everyone in the room is a state champion or nationally ranked and you are grinding daily. Physically this is a big transition. It is also tough to adjust to higher expectations in the classroom while dealing with transitions in the practice room.
DiMaria - How do you balance to stay on top of your schoolwork with wrestling practice and social life?
Blair - It takes an extreme amount of discipline. As a student-athlete, your priorities are school and wrestling. It can be difficult to make sacrifices when you are not able to spend time with family and friends
DiMaria - You recently traveled to Japan with your teammates, how was that experience?
Blair - I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with the UNC wrestling team to Japan for 12 days. It was an amazing experience where we were able to train while being fully immersed in Japanese culture. We stayed in both Tokyo and Gunma prefecture, so we experienced both the city and rural sides of Japan. During our stay in Japan, we got to learn from 2x Olympic Gold medalist and 3x NCAA Champion Yojiro Uetake. We were also able to train at Kokushikan University which is one of the top colleges for wrestling in Japan. It was a great team experience and the trip of a lifetime.
DiMaria - You became a citizen of the Philippines. Will you be expected to represent them at the Asian Games?
Blair - It is a dream come true to be recognized as a Filipino citizen and have potential opportunities to represent the country on a world stage. After spending time in the Philippines training and spending time with family, I am looking forward to competing. I enjoyed visiting the provinces in which my grandparents are from and seeing my extended my family. My time spent in the Philippines was life-changing and helped reprioritize my life and goals. Training with the Philippine national team was a valuable experience that helped me grow as an athlete. I will be representing the Philippines at the U23 World Championships in Freestyle at 86kgs. I look forward to representing the country at the International level and hope to compete for as much as possible.
DiMaria - How will you balance competing in college and at International level?
Blair - UNC is committed to developing international wrestling. It’s perfect because there are multiple Olympic medalists on our coaching staff here in Chapel Hill. UNC and the coaches recognize the importance of international wrestling. We at UNC wrestle year-round; when the collegiate season ends we immediately transition into international styles.
DiMaria - What makes a student-athlete?
Blair - Academic and athletic discipline allows an opportunity to compete at the next level. If you are not willing to make sacrifices to reach your goals, you will not make it. The hardships you experience along the way ultimately result in success being that much more fulfilling when you have great achievements. The journey becomes a real reward. These experiences prepare you to excel in a life well beyond athletics.
DiMaria - You have a martial arts background, are you planning to utilize that in the sport of wrestling?
Blair - I use traditional martial arts in all aspects of my life.
DiMaria - With so much knowledge of wrestling and martial arts are you thinking of jumping into the MMA scene once you’re done with college?
Blair - Absolutely. Martial arts have been a part of my life since I was 4 years old. I started with traditional karate and then transitioned into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling. The path I have lived my life on has led towards mixed martial arts.
DiMaria - What about family? Are your mom and dad excited for you to wrestle internationally?
Blair - They are extremely excited about the opportunity for me to represent the Philippines. They are extremely proud. My extended family in the Philippines is also very supportive as well.
DiMaria - Have you wrapped your head around that?
Blair - I want to be the best in the world and the only way I can do that is by competing internationally and gaining experience.