Nov. 6, 2014
- Read the November issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPad and iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Q. It’s been a while since you’ve been at the top of the heap. What will you do different this year?
TOM BRANDS: Well, thanks for reminding us. That’s number one. Getting back on top of the heap, I don’t think you change a whole lot. I’m not one of these guys that’s a proponent for shooting from the hip. I do know that we have to do some things differently as far as personnel and getting guys to do some things differently so they become more consistent. But you’re asking me to go a completely different direction. That’s not going to happen. Probably the answer you expected, right?
Q. Can you talk about that consistency?
TOM BRANDS: I think the consistency is that you are a proponent and an advocate for a certain style of wrestling that is entertaining and puts a lot of points on the scoreboard. So when you’re talking about what needs to be done in the room or does it help to have more to do with the competition arena, both. Both, because one impacts the other, and it’s easier to go forward when you have success when it’s in front of everybody and the lights are on. It’s easy to go forward the next day in that wrestling room, and then when you do it in the wrestling room, it’s easier to duplicate that in your competition. It’s about things that are what I call universal or biblical, things that are very solid and consistent on a basis that is going to prevail every time you come to a fork in the road, this is what I’m going to do, even if it’s the hard thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do, so I’m going to do it, and that’s not easy for young people to do. You talk about a guy like Thomas Gilman, he beats the national champion, he was the Midlands champion, he wasn’t even in the lineup last year when we made the call between him and Clark, but how he handled that will help him. There wasn’t drama, there wasn’t bitterness. Of course he was disappointed, but it wasn’t an issue where the coaching staff was favoring Cory Clark over me and where I’m the victim here. I think he understood why, and then especially after some dialogue, and then especially after how he trained, you know he understood maybe why, whether he agreed with it or not. It made him better because of how he marched after that adversity.
Q. You had a real good summer with international, a lot of success for your guys. How is that carrying over?
TOM BRANDS: McDonough was a bronze medalist in the University Worlds and we had two guys in the world team and Thomas Gilman in the junior age category, which is the 20 and under, so there’s some good results there, and what it really shows is that our postgraduates are involved with our program. What we need to do is those two medals that we won need to be a different color, meaning gold, and then those two guys in the senior level, we need to add to that. We have actually four guys on the senior level, and then those guys need to start producing, as well. I think they’ll be the first ones to tell you that. I don’t think I have to speak for them. I think they’re accountable, guys like Tony Ramos and Brent Metcalf will be the first ones to tell you that they want the results, as well. And then where that really goes as far as why we’re here today is the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and how they impact us and make us better, and they do that. They cannot be involved in any coaching roles, but they can train with us on a daily basis and they do, and they help us in that regard, so it’s extra built in leadership there.
Q. Who are the leaders on the current squad?
TOM BRANDS: When you look at the makeup of this team, you look at guys like a difference between a guy like Cory Clark who’s a lightweight and then you look at Bobby Telford, I think there’s a lot of personality difference there where one guy is laid back and the other guy is go, go, go all the time, and one guy likes to maybe play video games and the other guy likes to be outdoors all the time. But they still have the same common themes in their head, and that is to produce results on the mat and in the classroom, and we want to have that prevail throughout our lineup. We’re not after a certain template where we have certain guys who fit these templates. We’re out there after guys who are serious about what they do on the mat and what they do in their off time and in their academics, and then because of that, there’s a common theme where they get along. When you talk about leadership, I think there’s a lot of different ways to lead, and some are vocal, some are vocal and with actions, some are just with actions, and some are maybe with sparks here and there. Maybe somebody that you haven’t heard really assert themselves, they get a little bit older, and they start to assert themselves a little bit more. So there’s a lot of different leaders in our room, and I would say right now you ask the question, I don’t know if I answered it, I’d say the natural guy being a heavyweight is Bobby Telford, but he’s a two time All American, he had the knee injury his sophomore year. That wasn’t fun. We put that behind us, but it’s time to step up in a much bigger way, and along with nine other weight classes. I could talk a lot about individuals. I talked about Gilman and what he needs. I talked about the wins that he had last year, and then you can even take that a step further and why guys are going to either assert themselves on the national scene or not is going to come down to the things that I talked about earlier with consistency and how they compete. You can talk about just the fact on how you get ready to go every day or how you wake up or how you go to bed and the mindset that you carry. We’ve got work to do.
Q. Who do you have at 41, 49, 57?
TOM BRANDS: Well, our schedule this week, we’ll find out a little bit there. And what I mean by that, this weekend. Then next weekend we go to Luther Open, and we’ll know more there. But where are we at at those weights is Grothus is a returner at 49. 57 we have a veteran there, Mike Kelly. Those two guys will factor in, but there’s some exciting new names in there, as well, with Edwin Cooper and Brandon Sorensen, and then you look at 41, you have a guy like Topher Carton, who I’ll tell you, if you look at somebody you’d give a most improved award to in the wrestling room, it would probably be him. The problem with that is that comes with reminders, so he responds well when things maybe start going the wrong way, but what about doing it on your own. That’s really what you look for as a coach. When you look for someone who can change a match or maybe change a dual meet because of the way they wrestle, you’re going to have to do that on your own because when you’re sitting in that chair, there’s only so much that you can do for that competitor. Topher Carton is going to be the guy at 41, he’s got to challenge to beat a veteran there, and more than that he’s going to have to have the consistency I’ve been talking about. Not just where you stop the action in the practice room, and then he nods his head, oh, yeah, and then all of a sudden he’s tougher because he got the friendly reminder from the coach, who probably should have put a boot up his butt but didn’t because we want soft dialogue because maybe he responds better the other way. But where is the pressure there to do it when, okay, now it’s my turn. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not a knock on him. Don’t get me wrong, that’s completely honest with 30 of my best friends here on how are we really going to get that guy over the hump. So are we excited about him? I just said he’s the most improved guy in the room probably if you were going to give an award from say last January, February until November, and that’s what, how many months is that? That’s a lot of months. That’s 10 months. And that’s positive. But we still have to take another giant step. I don’t think you take giant steps until you take little steps.
Q. Are you still looking at Thornton?
TOM BRANDS: It’s one of those things where for me and maybe the coaching staff, we were excited after the Midlands. That’s what you’re referring to. And then you read something that he said, and I think it was in either Pilcher or Hamilton’s article, I don’t remember who got the quote from him, but whoever got the quote, I give you a gold star on that day because it really helped us with his perspective. And I think in his mind it was more about just the thing that he said where I don’t know if I’m ready but I’ll do what they need me to do. And man, when there’s that doubt, that means that we need to take a harder look at this rather than just assume that he’s ready to go or just assume that he’s on the same page as we are. Sometimes it’s something that you look at these quotes of these guys, and you pay attention to it. I don’t know if we would have got that as a matter of fact I know we wouldn’t because there is good dialogue with him and we didn’t really get that feeling from him because he is kind of a quiet, unassuming kid and you know he’s on page with you, you know he’ll jump on a grenade for you, he’ll go through the wall, he’ll go the extra mile, so he’s not going to really debate, so if you say, what do you think about going, he’ll go, yeah, I’m good, instead of maybe really telling you what he thinks. And one of you guys pulled it out of him. That gives you some good perspective on where he was maybe.
Q. Josh is still in the mix at 41?
TOM BRANDS: Yeah, for sure. Josh Dziewa is a veteran and he’s a senior, and he had a bright future. You look at his high school career and the things that he was able to attain there, and I think he’s learned a lot in his five years here. He’s in his fifth year, and one thing that he’d better learn is that it’s going to be over here in a little bit. About the time you snap your fingers, March is going to be here. There’s some things that are undone in his career, and let’s get them done.
Q. Burak, what does he have to do more to be higher up on the podium this year?
TOM BRANDS: Darren Miller wrote an article, I think it was either published yesterday or the day before, I think that, again, consistency for him, and here’s what I mean, and what we see in that wrestling room is the same thing that you saw between say the second round of the national tournament and the quarterfinals, where he beats the Bloomsburg guy and that was a big match for him, and then a guy that we had beaten in the Midlands, you know, two months, three months before, knocks us that can’t happen. That can’t happen. We need those points. So again, do you put the boot up his butt from a pressure point of view? Do you kind of back off because maybe he’s not that type of guy to respond that way, but at some point he has to figure out that this is your role and your responsibility that you have to come ready to go, even maybe when something doesn’t feel right inside of you, but you’ve still got to get up, and you can get up for that because you got up every day in that practice room when you didn’t feel like it periodically, as well. So coach doesn’t know that you’re having a bad day, even though you may be struggling. See, those are things that you can talk about to your team and you can have dialogue and you can preach and then you have examples of it, but those are things that come from within yourself. That’s a lifestyle, too, that you can’t just flip on and off. It’s a lifestyle meaning, okay, I got a full day on Tuesday where I’ve got a lot of classes and I’m an academic All American, which he is, and he’s got a lot of good things going for him, but is he eating at the same time every day, and is Tuesday a harder day for him and so he departs from a regular schedule that is better for his academics and his wrestling anyway? You can’t separate the two, you really can’t. Things that are important in your life, there’s going to be two or three or four things with your family and your faith and your academics and your wrestling, and then you’ve got the social life. Those four or five things, they’re all in the same category. They’re important. I don’t know if you can rank them. So you’d better be doing it right, and that’s where Nathan Burak is going to help himself the most, and he has taken steps. So what steps has he taken? He’s gotten better.
Q. Nick Moore was wrestling as much as anyone last season and had a bad March. How has he been mending?
TOM BRANDS: He’s been reminded of that again, and again, thanks for reminding us on that one, as well. He is a super competitor. He had a splendid high school career and he is frustrated, but the one thing you see with him is that he’s training this year angry and alone, and there’s a lot to that. There were days where it’s the dog days of summer and you’d be driving up Hawkins there on that bumpy curved road and here he is pulling that hill in full sweats and a stocking cap and it’s 95 degrees. That’s things that you don’t coach into guys. When you’re training angry and you’re training alone, that means that you usually feel pretty good. When you see that you don’t honk and wave and let him know that you saw him, but you nod quietly to yourself that let’s get it done. There’s a lot of things that go into that, too. I mean, you saw the change in the bracket last year. Those are details that I don’t know if you remember that or not. Remember that’s the guy that beat him first round the year before, or the second round or whatever, and my point is those are mental things that we’ve got to get over, but when it’s 95 degrees and you’re out here in full sweats, I think he’s purging it in his own way. That’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to get it purged in your own way, not my way. As much as it hurt me, it doesn’t matter to me what I say to him, but it is going to matter how he handles that question because you should ask him that if you’ve got the stones to do it. Ask him that question and see how he answers it.
Q. Sammy Brooks did a nice job filling in last year. How has he improved or now that it looks like he could be the guy?
TOM BRANDS: Yeah, we like Sam Brooks. Things that come to mind with him make me you know, make me feel like we’re in good hands there. But we’ve got to be able to do some things where it doesn’t have to be a close match with him. In order to do that, hey, it’s a seven minute match, stud, so you might as well wrestle it hard because no matter whether you wrestle it hard or not hard, it’s still seven minutes of your life. The match doesn’t get shorter. It’s not a different time frame. It’s seven minutes, so go wrestle it hard. Sometimes maybe he likes to wrestle it on his terms maybe a little bit. He needs to wrestle it the way that he knows he needs to wrestle it but not necessarily how he feels, so to speak. Very unique sport in that when you don’t feel quite right, you can’t come out for a series and let somebody else that’s capable fill in for you even though he may not be the best guy but he’s got several people around him that are going to help him, so that’s why that consistency in that room is important, and that’s why I talk the way I talk.
Q. How fired up are you to get this season going?
TOM BRANDS: I’m always fired up, and it’s one of those things where it’s fall, it’s time. We were in Cedar Rapids yesterday, we’ll be in Des Moines on Monday. We have press day today. We have a roomful of guys that I think are ready to go, as well, and so you’re always fired up. But at the same time you don’t want to appear to be a raving lunatic, even though there’s probably a lot of emotions that go into the job every day when there’s things that are behind the scenes that really kind of when you’re a competitor, you learn to let the things kind of urge you that need to urge you, but you try to downplay them, like to you there’s a lot of things that you don’t say right now because at the expense of being a raving lunatic. I don’t remember not remembering. I remember remembering, meaning I remember, right, and follow that in your head. You can’t unsay what was said in the past, and I remember what was said by and that’s where loyalty comes into play. We know who’s loyal and we know who the detractors are, and I’m not talking about code there. I’m not talking code and encryption. That’s not encrypted. That’s simply that when we walked off the mat in certain events last year, there’s a lot of gobbledy gook, and they can’t undo that. So here we are, we’re coming back. So how fired up am I? Hey, it’s time again.
Q. What do you like about having Gilman and Clark at the same time?
TOM BRANDS: It’s good. I mean, it’s good, and I think it’s a natural more than anything because Clark came to us about moving up a weight, and I think if Clark had wanted to stay down, I don’t think Gilman was moving up. So I think we would have had an issue there where you probably would have had an early season controversy and then one guy would have had to move up, and this works better. Clark came to us in June or early July and it was basically a quick conversation. So it works out well that way, and then certainly the personnel, and both those guys are super capable, but there’s no automatics, and when you look at Schopp and you look at Beckman at 33 and then you look at Nahshon Garrett and you look at Delgado at 25, I mean, the challenges are there. It doesn’t really matter the preseason rankings. I think we’re probably a little bit low at 125. I mean, there’s guys ranked ahead of us that we haven’t lost to and have beaten several times, but those are preseason rankings, as well, and it kind of goes along with us being No. 1, and Minnesota had the majority of the No. 1 votes, but hey, we’ll take it. But we’ve got to prove it every week and not just when we meet big dual meets head on, but this weekend, next weekend, the weekend after that. And then just keep going. I mean, Midlands is the 29th and 30th of every year. The Big Ten schedule is getting tougher. Everyone talks about the Big Ten. We are concerned with the Big Ten but we are also concerned with the nation, and the Big Ten has national implications. But when you add two more schools, you add one more dual meet a year, now we go from eight to nine, all of a sudden early January, you’ve got a Big Ten weekend there on the 2nd and the 4th, which is it’s hard to do. You’ve got Midlands on the 29th and 30th of December, and the 2nd and 4th you’ve got a Big Ten dual meet. You balance that and you’re talking to your team and training your team to get ready for that grind and to really grab hold of it and love it. I mean, love it. The National Championship is going to be on the road. It’ll be on the road. It’ll be in Columbus, Ohio. For the Big Tens, it’ll be in St. Louis, and it’ll be on the road in four big, big dual meets at Oklahoma State, at Penn State, at Minnesota and at Ohio State.
Q. You talked about that grind and adding the extra dual. Would you like to see or would you be favorable like running a triangular where maybe you have Nebraska and Minnesota come in like that?
TOM BRANDS: There’s no better thing than the dual meet. I don’t mean to stomp on your question, but there’s no better thing than the dual meet. That’s probably the thing that the track purists will tell you that they departed from that probably hurt track and field the most is they went more away from the dual meet. It’s more about you split your team to go places to get times and to qualify, not even qualifying for the nationals. I think you’re qualifying for the regionals to go to the nationals. I understand that you want to do well nationally, but those national duals that have national ranking implications where it’s Iowa against Oregon, you know, in Eugene, Oregon, that’s what I would live for as a competitor in track and field. So you can’t really water it down that way. Here’s what I would say. I think you’ve got to have the dual meets in wrestling. You keep that going because that’s what you’ve got going for you. But when you add two teams in the Big Ten, it’s not a grind because those two teams are added to the Big Ten. It’s a grind because now you have another date that’s a Big Ten school and you still have Iowa State, you still have Oklahoma State, you still want to travel and promote one or two other dates, and like last year we went to Edinburgh and Lehigh, and those were two beehives that we were going into. When you add another dual meet, it’s harder to do. It’s another so, read between the lines. That’s a long answer. I hope that answers your question without me being too rude. But I think you have to have the dual meets.
Q. I agree with that, but I mean, having two dual having Minnesota and Nebraska maybe the same night
TOM BRANDS: Listen, listen. Here’s the thing. I went to an event in California. It was the best wrestling event for me because I’m a wrestling guy, and this was a couple years ago, and the Russians were there and there was some Canadians there and we wrestled the Russians and we wrestled the Canadians. That event was like 183 minutes. There’s nobody that sat there for 183 minutes and watched those matches. Nobody wants to sit for 20 or 30 matches. You can only eat so much popcorn and ice cream or whatever. My point is that these 10 matches where it’s 100 minutes or it’s 110 minutes maybe, it’s under two hours, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. Don’t mess with that. It’s kind of like and having the conversation with Gary Barta last spring, how he thinks and how he grasps the idea that hey, we’ve got a really good thing here with the national tournament the way it is. Let’s not mess with it. And then when I explained to him what we’re trying to do as a sport but where we’re not on that page, meaning our coaching staff, where other programs aren’t on that page, as well, and it’s almost like you’re split down the middle so why are you going to change if there’s 50 percent that are for the way it is and 50 percent the way it isn’t. My point there is that common sense has to prevail sometimes, and that’s where the first question is is what are you going to do differently. Well, we’re going to do a lot of things differently as far as getting our guys better. I’m going to work differently today with our individuals than I did yesterday with them. But do we just go a completely different direction? No.
So triangulars, man, that’s a long night for somebody who’s looking for some fireworks.