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One-on-One with Joey Davis

Andrew Hipps

5/12/2014
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

Joey Davis of Notre Dame College has compiled a perfect 72-0 record over his first two seasons as a college wrestler. As a freshman, Davis won the NCAA Division II title at 165 pounds. This past season he moved up to 174 pounds, posted a 39-0 record and captured his second NCAA Division II title. He also helped lead Notre Dame College to its first NCAA team championship in any sport.

InterMat recently caught up with the 20-year-old from Compton, California.

Joey Davis has compiled a record of 72-0 over his first two seasons (Photo/Simon Jimenez, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
You're now halfway through an undefeated college wrestling career. Was being an undefeated four-time national champion a specific goal for you when you started your college wrestling career in 2012?

Davis: No, I think it just developed over time. It was not my goal at all. I didn't know how I was going to do. I was really nervous coming into my freshman year of college. You know how it is ... You wrestle against the older guys. You don't know what your strengths are. You don't know how you're doing to do out of high school. So I just worked really hard the summer after my senior year. I had a lot of upperclassmen who got me stronger and got my mental toughness up to the point where it didn't matter who I had to wrestle. Once I got there, as a 19-year-old freshman, I thought I fit in well and could do really well.

As a freshman your team finished third at the NCAAs. This past season your team won the NCAA title. How gratifying was it for you to have your team also win a national title?

Davis: It was really a great experience. In high school we had a good team, but not like this. Being on a team with four national champions -- and we're all like brothers -- it has been great. We always knew we had the best team in Division II. Winning the national title as a team didn't finally hit me until now.

Joey Davis won two state championships at Santa Fe High School (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Your coach Frank Romano has been a successful wrestling coach at the college level and high school level. What's it like wrestling for Coach Romano?

Davis: It's a blessing. I feel like Coach Romano is one of the greatest coaches. He has been in the game a long time. To be under his wing and learn from him is a tremendous honor. I learn a lot from him, not just wrestling-wise, but life-wise. I want to be where he is one day. He loves kids. He would do anything for us.

You were honored by the NCAA this past season as the most dominant wrestler in Division II, averaging 4.42 team points per match. What does that award mean to you?

Davis: It wasn't that big to me. As long as I won my matches, that's what mattered. Winning the most dominant wrestler award just showed that I worked really hard. I just try to score as many points as I can so the matches aren't close.

Three NCAA champions return next season for Notre Dame College. The program has also signed some top high school wrestling recruits. How excited are you about the future of Notre Dame College wrestling?

Davis: I don't have the words to describe how excited I am about the future. We're trying to do something big. We want to take over. Next year we have the team to do it. We've got some heat coming. I'm telling you, it's going to be another great season. We're just going to keep the ball rolling. It's a new program. Before people didn't really know about Notre Dame College. Now everybody knows that we can compete anywhere.

Joey Davis excelled on the football field
You were a successful football player at Santa Fe High School. Do you miss football?

Davis: I was just talking about that yesterday. I miss football a lot. I hang out with friends in the summer, and they're all football players from my high school. We talk about it all the time. Yes, I miss football. Actually, I'm playing this summer. They have summer leagues where I'm from in California, like flag football, so I play just to keep in shape. This year I'm going to take a little break from wrestling, just practice a few times a week. I worked really hard, and I feel like I deserve a break to have some fun. I play football and basketball for my workouts.

You have known the rapper Snoop Dogg since you were young. He even gave you your nickname Iceman. How would you describe Snoop Dogg to people who have never met him?

Davis: He's the coolest dude you could ever meet. He's very laid back. He's very into sports and very into the kids. He would do anything for the kids. That's why he made the Snoop Dogg youth football league for the inner-city kids. Coach Snoop is amazing. He's like another Coach Romano. Everybody wanted to be under his wing. Shout out to Coach Snoop. It was a blessing to play for him all those years.

Last year you competed at the FILA Junior World Team Trials in freestyle and failed to place in the top four. What did you take away from that experience?

Davis: I felt like my first match there I got robbed. I lost to Jordan Rogers from Oklahoma State. Everybody knows I won that match. That match I knew I won, so I wasn't upset. Then I won two in a row, and then I lost to him again. It was a last-minute decision to go to the tournament. I just wanted to see where I was as a freshman. Maybe it was a couple little mistakes that I made. But I also bumped up. I wrestled at 165 during the college season, and then bumped up to 185 for that tournament. I weighed in at 176. I didn't want to make the cut to 163 for that tournament. I really wanted to go this year, but I'm going to be on vacation.

Joey Davis with Aaron Pico
You were on a club team with Aaron Pico. Were you surprised by Pico's decision to forgo high school and college wrestling to wrestle freestyle exclusively?

Davis: No. When he was making his decision he was talking to me about it. He was just saying that he already won a state title and had that experience, so why not wrestle against the best of the best and compete for an Olympic title. It made perfect sense to me. He's still going to school, taking online classes. I think it's a great decision for him. He's doing so well for himself. He's one of my good friends, so I don't want to see him get hurt or burnt out, but his mindset is so cool. He's just so mentally tough. I've never met a 17-year-old like that. He loves to train. His dad is not one of those dads that makes him train or yells at him. He's not like that at all. He has a good thing going right now. I'm really proud of Aaron.

You have trained with Jordan Burroughs. How has he helped you?

Davis: I started wrestling with Jordan when I was a senior in high school. I was on a recruiting trip. I thought I was hot stuff, and he beat the crap out of me. Then last year after I won nationals I thought I could get him, and he beat the crap out of me. He just keeps putting me in my place. I'm just getting better and better every time I wrestle with him. So hopefully this year if I train with him it will be a different story because I'm way bigger than JB now. I'm like 185 right now. He's like 170, so hopefully I'll give him a run for his money now.

The Olympic weight classes are 74 kilos, which is 163 pounds, and 86 kilos, which is 189 pounds. You competed this past season in college at 174 pounds, which is in between those two Olympic weight classes. What weight class do you expect to compete in as a freestyle wrestler if you make an Olympic run?

Davis: 189 probably. I don't think I could ever make 163, even though I'm not big now. I'm like 5'11" and weigh 185, but I feel like as I keep growing I'll fit into the 189-pound weight class pretty well. I'll hit the weight room. I want to fight too. I'm 5-0 in amateur fights. So I've been training for that. My uncle is Antonio McKee, who trains Rampage. I just left Rampage yesterday. I met his boxing coaches. I'm going to be taking a boxing class. So I might not even wrestle after college. I might just go right into my coaching career, and then fight. I have some options. I'm just training, training, training, and enjoying my life. But if I do train for the Olympics it will be at 189, not 163.

A young Joey Davis with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Who are some of your favorite fighters?

Davis: I love Jose Aldo. I love Urijah Faber. I love Rampage. Those are probably my favorites. I love my uncle Antonio McKee ... Just that type of style, takedown, brutal on top, and can hit hard. I feel like I'm one of those kind of dudes. I'm very athletic. I grew up fighting my whole life. I come from Compton. So when it comes to MMA, I just love it. I love the grind. I love punching. I love taking people down. I love slamming. It's just different from wrestling. You get a different kind of antsiness in you. In wrestling they can't hurt you unless you get in a certain position. In MMA it's like this dude is really trying to hurt you. I love that antsiness. I love that grind. I fight nothing like Jose Aldo, but he's one of my favorite MMA fighters that I would try to be like with his kicks and punches.

You have talked about how much you enjoy being at Notre Dame College and are excited about the future. However, because of how much you have dominated your competition in Division II, many wonder whether you will be transferring to a Division I program. Do you plan to stay at Notre Dame College?

Davis: As of right now I'm staying. I love everything about the Notre Dame program. I love the coaches. I'm treated how I'm supposed to be treated. They take care of me. School is going well. The teachers know me, but they're hard on me. I feel like a regular kid. They don't give me any kind of special treatment. Right now I'm staying. But I'm going to take some trips -- not necessarily recruiting trips -- but more just trips to train and see how it is. If I'm not liking what I see I probably won't even be interested. I'm just going to get some good training partners and train with the best in the world.

Joey Davis celebrates after winning his second NCAA title (Photo/Simon Jimenez, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Do you get tired of having to answer the Division I question?

Davis: No, I don't really get tired of it. I understand. A lot of people think I can be in the top four in Division I and want to see if I would be ... I want to see too. I was supposed to be in the All-Star match and wrestle David Taylor, but I couldn't make 165. I wanted to see if we could wrestle at like 170 or something, and they said no. I asked to wrestle Chris Perry. John Smith said no. I asked to wrestle Mike Evans. Tom Brands said no. Everybody was saying no to my coach. So this year I'm supposed to be in the All-Star match at 174.

Is there a particular opponent you would like to face at the All-Star Classic?

Davis: I want to wrestle Matt Brown of Penn State. I want wrestle against Cael. I wrestle Robert Kokesh all the time in practice. I have wrestled with Logan Storley. He came to California. He's tough. But I want to wrestle Penn State. I want to go against Cael. That's what I want to do.

Northwestern coach Drew Pariano has stated that he would love to have you compete at the Midlands. Will we see you at the Midlands next season?

Davis: I don't know. I just hate tournaments during my time of break. December at our school is a time to relax and chill because we grind so hard during the other months. I come home around December 13 and my birthday is December 29, so then I go back right after my birthday. I would love to compete at Midlands, but I'm not about to be the only one from my team to go. I feel like college is about your team. I just do whatever my coaches tell me. I don't really tell my coaches where I want to go. If he wants to take me to Midlands then he'll talk to me about it, and I'm down to wrestle anybody. I'm not scared to compete against anybody. I have always wanted to go to Midlands. That tournament has so much history.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Joey. Is there anything else you want people to know about you?

Davis: I love God. He's doing a lot for me and I'm blessed.

Comments

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PSUhomerinVA (1) about 4 months ago
Amazing kid, would love to see him at 184 next year in Rec Hall wearing a blue and white singlet. Also like seeing him wear his FAITH on his sleeve.
greff (1) about 4 months ago
he would trounce Mike Evans
Ron Garcia (1) about 3 months ago
Good interview Joey I'm so proud of you keep it up. Ron Garcia Santa Fe wrestling