It's Zero Hour

March 17, 2010

Head Coaches Photo Gallery | Video interview with coach Brands

OMAHA, Neb. — “It’s zero hour; it’s time to go,” University of Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “It’s the time of year where you want to be at your best.”

Brands was one of five coaches selected to participate in a press conference Wednesday, a day before the start of the NCAA championships in the Qwest Center.

“We’ve done what we’ve set out to do since the beginning of the year,” Brands said. “We have to continue that. If our individuals are ready to go when they step on the mat, then I feel good. If we see some funny things going on there, then I don’t feel so good.”

The Hawkeyes are favored to win their third consecutive national championship following a 23-0 regular season and an undefeated trek through the Big Ten Conference schedule. Iowa also won titles at Midlands, the NWCA/Cliff Keen Duals and the Big Ten Conference tournament. Still, the Hawkeyes do not have a No. 1 seed at the national tournament, which runs March 18-20.

Brands was the first coach to enter the press conference and shook hands with Iowa State head coach Kevin Jackson when Jackson walked on stage. After an opening statement by each of the coaches: Brands, Jackson, Mark Manning of Nebraska, Tom Ryan of Ohio State and John Smith of Oklahoma State, Brands was asked about the status of senior Ryan Morningstar. Morningstar, who placed third at the NCAA championships a year ago, sustained a knee injury that forced him to default to Penn State’s Dan Vallimont in the third-place match at the conference tournament.

“That’s a good question, but in my mind it’s a silly question,” Brands said. “You demand a lot out of these guys; these guys demand a lot out of themselves. It really doesn’t matter. We like where he’s at in the most important place. I’ve said it over and over again and that’s his head and that’s where we feel good about him”

After Manning answered the next question, Jackson chimed in:

“I just want to make sure nobody has a follow-up question for coach Brands on that injury report to Morningstar. No one has a follow-up to that?”

In a related question, Brands was asked if he thought Iowa could win the national championship without Morningstar reaching All-American status.

“We want everybody to be at the top of the stand,” Brands said. “That’s what we’re here for. I said it in my opening statement and everyone echoed basically the same sentiment: This is the one you are about, so we have to get 10 guys ready to go. We’re getting individuals ready to go and individuals are getting themselves ready to go. How’s that for dodging a question?”

Brands said that senior Brent Metcalf — seeded second at 149 — has a sense of urgency heading into his final NCAA championships. Metcalf dropped a 9-3 decision to Lance Palmer of Ohio State in the finals of the Big Ten championships.

“The apple cart was upset and he’s overcoming a lot and he’s overcome a lot more that a loss in a wrestling match,” Brands said. “He’s overcome big losses in wrestling matches before, so he’s fine.”

Metcalf opens the tournament against Northern Iowa’s Trenton Washington. Washington is a graduate of Boys Town in Omaha.