March 1, 2011

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis addressed the media at the regular Monday news conference. Among many topics, he previewed the 2011 Big Ten Championships, which are slated for this Saturday-Sunday at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. and also discussed the return to Andrew Howe.

A complete transcript is below and you can also watch the archived video of the Monday news conference

Barry Davis: ?I think my first opening comment?s going to be the question I get the most. Is Andrew Howe back competing at the the Big Tens? And, yes, he is. He?s been on the mat the last three weeks wrestling hard, and so he?ll be pretty much 100% on Saturday, so looking forward to it.?

QUESTION #1: ?Have you stopped smiling since you heard that??

DAVIS: ?Not really. It?s good news. But I knew it a long time ago, but we had to wait to see what, how he?s progressing, things he was doing. I think our trainer, Jesse Donnenwerth, has done a great job. We?ve got a great medical staff here.

So as of right now, a lot of the doctors cannot understand how can he tear his hamstring that way and come back the way he is. But, Andrew Howe is a very unique individual, and maybe he heals fast. But he?s doing great right now. His body looks just as good now as it did at the beginning of the season, so it?s an exciting thing.?

QUESTION #2: ?Wrestling is individual but a team sport as well. How did the rest of the team handle that when, arguably the best guy in that room isn?t able to compete for so long??

DAVIS: ?I think they did a pretty good job. Actually, we had a few bumps in the road this year with Andrew Howe and Trevor Brandvold being hurt. This will be the first time since their first competition we had our full lineup back all in one. So it?s been a makeshift year. We had one guy who was in four different weight classes in three weeks in Shawn Perry. But they adjusted well. We?ve got some good leadership on the team, and the dual meet season is behind us, and now we?re onto Big Tens.?

QUESTION #3: ?How would you assess your chance this weekend, and what?s it going to take for you guys to come back with a Big Ten title??

DAVIS: ?Well, if you look at the seeds, I think Penn State has five number one seeds. We have three. So I think the key match that?s going to be for us is how our (1)74 and (1)57 and heavyweight do. They would be three weight classes for us, as well as (1)25.?

So, obviously, they have more seeded guys than we do up top. We?ve just got to make some, makes some breaks. But that?s why we wrestle the tournament, and that?s why you train all year long for this here. And we?ve made some good effort this year as a team. We?ve been through the battles. We do the wars, so we?ll step up Big Ten time. We?ll see how Saturday.?

QUESTION #4: ?You mentioned Shawn Perry. Is this his best weight to wrestle at??

DAVIS: ?Yeah. It is his best weight, yeah. Well, he?s certified at 149, but this is his best weight all the way around. He?s the only unseeded guy in the Big Ten. Now he?s back at his weight. I would think that if he was at that weight all year long he would have been seeded. So a little chip on his shoulder, something to prove, and I think Shawn will come through for us.?

QUESTION #5: ?Does Eric have something to prove too at heavyweight??

DAVIS: ?Eric Bugenhagen? I think he does. I think he does. He?s a senior along with Trevor Brandvold. I think Eric?s, you know, got some good experience last year being in the NCAA Championships. I think right now he?s got a very good draw where he?s at.

He?s got a chance to make a big move for himself. And if he does really well in this tournament, he can set himself up for a great seed at the NCAA Championship as well as Cole Schmitt and Ben Jordan. Those three guys right there in the tournament can really set themselves up come seeding for the Big Ten, I mean, for the NCAA Championships two weeks from now. So they?ve got to step up. (If) they do that . . . our eyes come NCAA time. But let?s get through the Big Tens first.?

QUESTION #6: ?The Big Ten is obviously loaded with so many good teams and wrestlers, and you?ve sort of touched on the NCAAs. How does this tournament prepare them for the NCAAs, and is it almost as tough, tougher, I mean, the competition??

DAVIS: ?I think that our Big Ten season prepares you for the Big Tens. But I think the Big Ten Tournament?s almost actually tougher than the NCAA tournament, because there?s so many ranked guys in the Big Ten.

I mean, most of the matchups you see in the Big Ten finals you will see in the NCAA finals, because there?s less guys in their bracket. There?s only 11 instead of 33 at the NCAAs. So every round starting with the quarterfinals, it?s almost like the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships. So it?ll be a battle all the way through. But we as a staff the other day talked with the guys. We went to the Vegas Invite . . . Tournament, National Duals, successful in all of those events.

They?re big events, where Penn State and Iowa didn?t compete in some of those events, and we did. I think a lot of our guys have the top RPI in the country. Andrew Howe, Travis Rutt, and Tyler Graff, those guys there, as well as Trevor Brandvold, so I think we?ve wrestled a really tough schedule. We?ve had a few bumps in the roads, but the guys have came through.

And like I said earlier, this is the first time since our first competition we come together. All ten guys are together at one time and healthy and ready to go, so I think we?re ready. We had a good training week last week, good training over the weekend. Today is Monday. We?ve got, actually, a couple more good training days just to work on a lot of skill work, tightening skills up.

Each individual is working on five different areas that we have the most in those situations and make sure those skills are pretty much on the money perfection. And then a bit of mat time, and then the body feeling good and go get ready to leave on Thursday and compete on Saturday.?

QUESTION #7: ?You said that Andrew was pretty much 100%. Are you convinced of that??

DAVIS: ?When I watch Andrew Howe last week in practice wrestling Travis Rutt, with the second best (1)84 pounder in the country (No. 3 according to InterMatWrestle.com) all out for about 45 minutes, and then he wrestled Ben Jordan, who?s one of the top 20 kids in the country all out for about another 45 minutes, 2 days back to back, I?m pretty convinced.

Because you look at Travis Rutt, 184 pounds, number 2 in the country (No. 3 according to InterMatWrestle.com) and Andrew Howe being (1)65, that tells you right there. Plus, Andrew goes, hey, I need to wrestle. I want to wrestle Travis Rutt today in practice to make sure. I need to make sure in my own mind that I?m totally . . . and I?m ready to go.

So he did it. And it?s like they wrestled back in October, the same scrambles and all out battle all the way through. And after that, those two workouts there, he?s like I?m ready. So that puts more of a smile on your face, but I?m totally convinced. I think the whole staff is convinced. Andrew Howe is convinced, and so we?ll see.?