Youssif Hemida still has a bad taste in his mouth from coming one win shy of becoming an All-American at last season's NCAA tournament.
After entering the tournament unseeded, he fell 2-1 to No. 7 Tanner Hall of Arizona State in the Round of 12, also known as the "Blood Round."
The heavyweight has been working toward the All-American milestone ever since he missed the podium, and he feels ready to redeem himself at the national championships starting Thursday.
"Coming into college, it was my goal to become an All-American," Hemida said. "I'm an upperclassman. There's no more excuse of, 'You're younger; it's your first time there.' All that stuff's behind me, and now it's go time."
Including the Big Ten tournament, Hemida went 27-5 this season, the best mark of his career. He had only one dual meet loss, to then-No. 8 Nick Nevills of Penn State on Jan. 21. He earned four wins over ranked opponents, placed third at the Midlands Championships in December and was ranked in the top 10 of his weight class for much of the year.
Hemida enters the tournament with Maryland's highest seed at No. 12 after placing sixth at Big Tens and is set to face Virginia's Tyler Love (8-17) in his first match.
Hemida's track record proves he has the physical ability to reach his goals. Coach Kerry McCoy said his biggest hurdle is his own mentality.
While the sting of last season will continue to provide a push for Hemida, McCoy doesn't want him to get too caught up in it.
"It's really a delicate balance of focusing on the motivation and the drive and everything that happened in the past," McCoy said. "You don't want to hang on and worry about it too much because … you're not focusing on going out and wrestling your best."
Hemida has also drawn inspiration from assistant coach Jimmy Sheptock, who was in a similar position during his collegiate career.
The Maryland wrestling alumnus lost in the Round of 12 his sophomore year but earned All-American status his junior and senior years.
In addition to sharing his experiences, Sheptock helped Hemida come up with the mantra "move my feet, hard to beat," which the junior said has been a good way to focus on his movement during matches.
"That's one of the stronger things that they've said to me," Hemida said. "They know what they're doing, they've been there, and hopefully they can bring me to where they've been. They've taught me that I'm good enough, I can be an All-American, all this stuff to keep me motivated, keeping me excited to go out there, wrestle hard and compete."
The team is confident the junior will take advantage of the opportunity to avenge his loss last season.
"There's no question that he can beat almost every single guy in the weight class," Sheptock said. "It's just going to be trying to figure a way out to get that last little bit out of him. Usually it's just the pain from last year, to just kind of remember what it was like, and that pushes you to the brink."