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Mark Hall Discusses Recruitment Racism On USA Wrestling Show

Former Penn State wrestler Mark Hall made an appearance on USA Wrestling’s “Moments Off The Mat” show Monday. He discussed the discrimination black athletes face in the sport alongside Olympian Jordan Burroughs and several other prominent black wrestlers.

Hall, who was a three-time All-American at Penn State, first explained his experience while recruiting as a high schooler. The Minnesota native mentioned that a coach at another program tried to sway him away from Penn State by implying that head coach Cael Sanderson was racist.

However, the Nittany Lion explained he is extremely happy with his decision to attend Penn State and the claim about Sanderson couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“I couldn’t picture my life without Penn State,” Hall said. “That’s one thing that spoke to me, is that coaches will say what they can to get an athlete to their university. But I believe it should be done the right way. Saying something like that to an African-American athlete who is making a big decision for themself — that’s something that I don’t want to hear.”

Hall went on to mention that in some instances, the way black athletes are treated in the sport isn’t always an accident.

“It’s important to look at coincidence and be like, ‘if so-and-so is happening’ because of your race, you have to think if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Hall said. “Look at it for what it is and don’t turn a blind eye just because of how natural a coincidence can look.”

The 2017 NCAA Champion discussed two instances in which he experienced racism as a wrestler. Hall said that in middle school, he was wrestling in Kentucky and he and his dad were concerned that a certain referee would be at his match and would make “blatantly poor calls” toward Hall and other black wrestlers.

“It’s something small, but in a sense it’s not small. There are historically bad refs in wrestling, and there are great [ones],” Hall said. “But for someone to make poor choices towards someone because of the color of their skin, that’s something that once I got older I realized there’s people out there like that.”

Hall added he also experienced a brief instance of racism while wrestling at Penn State. While preparing to take on Iowa before a match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, an Iowa fan said, “Mark Hall, you suck, [bitch].”

“Maybe it was racism maybe it wasn’t,” Hall said. “But there’s me and five other teammates back there getting ready to wrestle, and he chose me to say that too. It rocked me. I was seeing red.”

Hall added he had a “blind rage” heading into that match because of the encounter.

“There’s no room for that in a college wrestling setting,” Hall added.

The star wrestler believes fans can do a better job supporting equality for all in the sport. As he now eyes a professional career and a possible role as a coach, Hall wants there to be more opportunities for black wrestlers in the sport and more consistent discussions on how racism exists within it.

Hall also explained that he feels there is a way for black wrestlers to have a more “prominent voice” on racial issues in the sport. He admitted he didn’t always speak up on issues he could’ve but thinks that will change for him and many others.

“Something that black wrestlers and athletes can know is, especially in wrestling, I just don’t know if they’ve always had a means of support for things they want to say,” Hall said. “I know that there’s definitely been times like this in my lifetime that I haven’t said anything on, just because I didn’t know how others would take it.

“We have a family for everyone and we believe that if you have a message that you want to deliver to people, then we want to see you do it the right way and we want to see do it the way you want,” Hall added. “I think that’s important and shows individuality.”

You can catch Hall’s interview below and watch USA Wrestling’s entire two-hour program here.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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