TAMPA (FOX 13) - Chris Wallace's weeks of preparation paid off, both for the candidates and the American people.
After the third and final presidential debate wrapped up Wednesday, many observers felt Wallace had managed to do something none of the other moderators had: Keep things under control.
Wallace dove right in, giving Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump two minutes each to answer a question about Supreme Court nominees. But he said it took about 10 minutes before he could relax and start to enjoy his role.
"It's a daunting experience," he told FOX 13's Russell Rhodes on Friday. "It's sort of like a referee in a prize fight. If they're fighting cleanly, then you let 'em go."
Wallace interrupted each of the candidates at times and even admonished the audience for reacting loudly -- something they'd promised not to do.
One of the major takeaways from the debate was Trump's refusal to promise he would accept the outcome of the election. That revelation came in response to a specific question from Wallace, who felt the Republican nominee needed to directly address the topic himself.
Others noted that the candidates did not appear to shake hands before or after the contentious debate, which left many people wondering what they told the moderator after the microphones were off.
"Clinton came and she said thank you," Wallace recalled. "It was interesting because the way this stage was [set up], as opposed to some of the others where her husband and her daughter could just walk right up, there was a security barrier and some stairs and so they couldn't get there. And she said, 'Do you think I can go down there?' And I said, 'Well, Secretary, I think you can do whatever you want,' so she went right down.
"Trump came -- and clearly had kind of waited to let her go because they didn't want to be in each other's faces too much -- and he said 'good job' and that he thought it was the best of the debates. He was very friendly and complimentary, despite the fact that I'd obviously asked him some tough questions. But it was very friendly."
Wallace was the first FOX News Channel host to ever moderate a presidential debate, and he credited his professional familiarity with the candidates as the reason they seemed comfortable with him in that role.
"I don't want to pat myself on the back," he continued. "But I think the reason it was a good debate is because I had interviewed both of them several times…they'd had reasonable experiences. Everybody knows I ask tough questions but I think they're fair questions so I think that they felt confident that I was going to deal with them fairly. As a result, they both played ball."
Chris Wallace returns to FOX News Sunday this weekend on FOX News Channel at 10 a.m.