April 6, 2006
Tom Brands was introduced as the University of Iowa’s new head wrestling coach Wednesday afternoon at a media conference inside the UI’s award-winning Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Here’s a look at what the former Olympic and All-American had to say to the media, friends, and fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes in attendance.
University of Iowa Director of Athletics, Bob Bowlsby
Thank you all for coming on short notice. We appreciate it very much. This has been a very difficult ten or twelve days and yet having said that it culminates in an event that we are very excited about. I looked around and as most of you are aware I have been involved in wrestling in one level or another for a long time and as such it was a little easier to have a short list available of those we would like to consider as the head coach at the University of Iowa. We undertook that process and looked at some mostly Iowa people with Iowa backgrounds but there were a few that we looked at that didn’t have Iowa backgrounds. I visited with a lot people that I have known a long time in the sport of wrestling and some locally and some around the country. As we worked our way through it, we came down to one candidate and that candidate was Tom Brands.
He has done at terrific job at Virginia Tech. Obviously, he was a known quantity and has exactly the kind of fierce competitive spirit that we are looking for. He is an accomplished coach, tremendous person and a great family man. I think he is exactly the right guy to put Iowa back on the traditional pedestal that we have enjoyed over so many years. I am not sure there is a more difficult job in sports. There is absolutely no room for error in the expectations of the Iowa wrestling program. I don’t put those expectations there, you don’t put those expectations there – a tradition of very high achievement is what puts those traditions at the very apex of the world of sports. Tom understands that, all of us close to it understand it, and it makes it a very difficult environment. I can’t think of another job anywhere where if you don’t win the NCAA championship, the Big Ten, National Duals, and go undefeated you some how had have had a less than a successful year. We all understand that and we know that we are not going to get back there overnight, but I have every confidence that we will get back there.
There have been a lot of people who have assisted with this process, none more than Fred Mims, the associate athletic director on our staff to whom wrestling reports. We are both very proud to today announce our new coach as Tom Brands.
University of Iowa Head Wrestling Coach Tom Brands
Thank you very much. First I’d like to say, back to the folks at Virginia Tech. My boss, my immediate boss, Jon Jaudon, the associate athletic director, and Jim Weaver, the man in charge there, they have done everything possible to make it a great experience to build a program. They have given us tools and been more than fair. I appreciate that first of all.
“Second of all, not a fun thing to say but to Jim Zalesky, he has given a lot to the state of Iowa, a lot to Iowa wrestling, he coached me when I was in college, wishing him and his family the best. With that being said, it is an enormous challenge. North of us, we have J Robinson and the Minnesota Gophers who are doing a good job. South of us, you have John Smith in Stillwater, Oklahoma, doing a good job. To the west, there is a little bit of buzz going on with Cael Sanderson being hired as the new head coach at Iowa State University. To the east of us, Columbus, Ohio, is a potential hot bed. Ohio State University looking for a new coach could create a dynasty with the right person in there. It is like we are surrounded.”
Second of all, not a fun thing to say but to Jim Zalesky, he has given a lot to the state of Iowa, a lot to Iowa wrestling, he coached me when I was in college, wishing him and his family the best. With that being said, it is an enormous challenge. North of us, we have J Robinson and the Minnesota Gophers who are doing a good job. South of us, you have John Smith in Stillwater, Oklahoma, doing a good job. To the west, there is a little bit of buzz going on with Cael Sanderson being hired as the new head coach at Iowa State University. To the east of us, Columbus, Ohio, is a potential hot bed. Ohio State University looking for a new coach could create a dynasty with the right person in there. It is like we are surrounded.
We are up for the challenge. Also, because of that challenge we have to put everything aside as far as hard feelings, which there always is in this process. That is not going to come easy. That is my probably biggest challenge maybe and more than that it is my biggest priority is to unite the program. Unite everything. When you are talking about domination, because this is Iowa wrestling, you are talking about domination that is the idea. That happens by training in the room and competing on the mat that way. Competing on the mat to dominate. In order for that to happen, we have to have people feeling good about themselves and feeling good about their futures. Student-athletes, staff, the bosses, family, fans, and of course everybody that has ever wrestled and competed for the University of Iowa.
That is really what I wanted to say in my opening statement. I am excited for the challenge and excited for the opportunity. I’d be a liar if I sat here and told you that this isn’t what I’ve worked by whole career for. Going back and watching “Gable’s Boys” on television in junior high and high school. Watching the Iowa wrestling Gods perform on that mat, bigger than life. I was late for some things as a kid but I was never late for an IPTV broadcast of Iowa wrestling. Getting into high school it meant more and more having a little bit of success, there was only one place I wanted to wrestle. Once I got into this system, started to get maybe even a little bit better from a winning point of view, it becomes addicting and there was no place that I wanted to coach other than Iowa. It is, I don’t like to say a dream come true, because I don’t believe in dreams, I believe in going after it. It is great gratification for me. Thanks for listening to me. I guess I take questions now.
Question and Answer with New Head Wrestling Coach Tom Brands and UI Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby
Q: Tom, what have you learned about yourself after two years at Virginia Tech?
I think the biggest thing is patience, more than anything. I have also learned what it is like to be a head coach. I have also learned what it is like to really, really work for something. I don’t want to say when the tools aren’t right, when maybe the resources aren’t what you are used to. Remember I spent five years here as a competitor and twelve years here as a coach. It was very big time and so you go from the big time and then you go some where they expect you to make it big time but you are starting from virtually scratch. And so you learn patience and learn to work the system. You learn to get along with the bosses and supervisors.
Q: Tom, did you ever have a doubt this job would open up? That you would ever be here?
It is one of those things that I probably thought that I would always be here. But it is much quicker than I thought. When I left here I thought it would be much longer.
Q: Tom, I see some of the dads here today, are you bringing some kids with you from Virginia Tech?
We will cross that bridge when we get there. There are processes and steps that have to be taken. That is the NCAA guidelines and rules that govern one-time transfer exceptions. We will cross that bridge through the end of the school year and into the summer. One more thing about that, when you develop relationships like we’ve done at Tech, our staff and myself, you would expect to have dads here. They’re local dads. We don’t just recruit their kid and forget about them. It is important to people, Iowa wrestling is important to people.
Q: Will you talk about your future staff, will Terry join you?
Terry has a job to do in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has to go beat some Russians, Iranians, Turks, and Bulgarians. Right now, we have to go through the process, the University process of hiring a staff. That is probably where our second step is. Our immediate step is to address some issues with the athletes. Make sure that they have a chance to talk, I have been introduced to them but I need to hear from them too.
Q: Does your hiring and then with Cael being hired last week is that going to bring the spotlight back to Iowa?
I think for maybe the short term. What really puts the spotlight on you is doing what John Smith is doing, doing what Gable did. That is what I am talking about. We want to be the spotlight; we don’t want to be the spotlight just because they are hiring some hot shot guy from Virginia that won an Olympic championship. We want it to be because of something lasting. It starts with individual championships. It starts with a team, a team unity but then it carries over into individual championships. That is the way I was coached. Take care of yourself, win your championship. If we have ten guys thinking that way, I tell you what we are going to be where we want to be, shortly.
Q: Bob, with Dan Gable, will his role change at all? Will he be more involved with the wrestling program than he has been in the past?
I think that is unknown at this point. I don’t know that there is a person around in any sport that enjoys the kind of icon status that Dan Gable enjoys. How we harness that and how we put it to work for the betterment of the Iowa wrestling program is yet to be seen. I know that Tom embraces having Coach Gable involved and certainly the rest of us do as well. I think that that process is going to be concurrent with the one Tom described earlier. He has to put his staff together and I think he’ll think long and hard about how to deploy the greatest wrestling coach in history.
Q: Tom, Iowa has always been known for its toughness, mentally and physically. In recent years, it seems to be lacking a little bit. How do you get that back?
I think you start with unity. It is something I have thought about since this situation occurred. It is something I thought about as an assistant here. There is maybe the mystique loss. We don’t need to talk about that, we don’t need to be critical but it is a fact. You do that by getting people on board, by getting student athletes on board. Where they are maybe becoming more independent that doesn’t mean they are doing it by themselves but it does mean that they are becoming more independent. So that when something does go wrong they can dig themselves out of the hole. They have a lot of tools here and they need to use those tools. That is what is going to prepare them better for life but also for domination on the mat.
Q: Tom, how do you assess the talent that is here now?
I know it from afar. I have good relationship with Mike Zadick who is training for the US Open next week, the World Team Trials and the World Championships in Guangzhou, China. I am some what up to speed on it after talking with him. I think it is phenomenal. I think it is young. It is phenomenal. You have to be able to harness that. It is not something that is automatic. It is not about having the best talent in the room. It is about having guys that are driven to do the right thing. I tell you what, when you are doing the right thing in all areas of your life. It is affecting the areas of your life that are important as well. It is not just doing what you feel like doing. It is doing the things that need to be taken care. Making the best decisions that way, that carries on and impacts your future in a positive way. The future, really that is what we are talking about at this press conference, is March 2007 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Q: Tom, do you believe you can duplicate what Gable did in his career here? What things do you want to take from him to be that kind of coach?
“I don’t know that there is a person around in any sport that enjoys the kind of icon status that Dan Gable enjoys. How we harness that and how we put it to work for the betterment of the Iowa wrestling program is yet to be seen. I know that Tom embraces having Coach Gable involved and certainly the rest of us do as well. I think that that process is going to be concurrent with the one Tom described earlier. He has to put his staff together and I think he’ll think long and hard about how to deploy the greatest wrestling coach in history.”
I don’t think about duplicating anything. I think about giving the athletes the chance for me to hear from them. As far as Dan Gable, I have always used him and always maintained a relationship. He has always been able to push the right buttons on Tom Brands. I’m sure that he’ll continue to do that. The relationship has grown more professional. Me being an Olympic Coach and a World Team Coach and then before I left here as an assistant, I sought and still do seek to this day his counsel. Not only is he an icon, but an icon is useless if he is not up to speed or current. He is up to speed. He is very current with wrestling and he is a valuable resource.
Q: You mention Gable pushing the right buttons. Is that why you try to do, push the right buttons?
Yes, I believe that I do a good job with that.
Q: Tom, can a program win nine in a row again? Twenty-five straight Big Ten Championships?
Like I said, the next step for me is to make sure we have athletes that are on board and then we will go from there. Can you? You bet you can. You bet you can. Can you? Yes, you can.
Q: Tom, is it harder now than it was?
No, no. Parity has been talked about a lot. Parity is being sixty points out of first place. I don’t believe that parity is having Oklahoma State running a way with the title last year with five champs and having it over and sewn up by Friday night this year. That is not parity, that is one dominate program. They are dominating the scene in college wrestling. There might be parity in two through ten but nobody remembers two through ten.
Q: Tom, talk briefly about Cael Sanderson over in Ames right now. Can you talk about the future rivalries with that program again? That use to be the biggest rivalry in the country. Would you like that to be the same?
I would like this program to be heading in the direction where it is the best in the country. As far as rivalry, that will depend on each school. I think that Cael Sanderson brings to the table a lot of things that are fresh and exciting for wrestling. He is out to do a job, just like all other head coaches are out to do a job; except he has probably got a lot of people to maybe prove wrong because of his youth. I think the spotlight is on him as well. He is a competitive guy. I have had a lot of association with him in 02, 03, and 04. The guy is competitive and does a good job.
Q: What is your schedule going to be like the next month?
I’ll officially take over here on April 25th. There is a transition period there. We aren’t going to get up and leave Virginia Tech. We are training for FILA Junior Trials and actually I am late for a workout back in Blacksburg. We have good people back there running the system. It is going to be a transition from Blacksburg to Iowa City and then maybe back and forth a couple times. That is another thing with my boss in Blacksburg, Jim Weaver; he has been more than kind enough to let me stay on as long as I need to as far as that transition. It is probably going to take through at least the late part of April; the finals are over the 13th there and the 15th here. There is a lot of work to be done between here and there and now and then.