Brands' message simple, but worthwhile

Tom Brands is proven winner on the wrestling mat, as fierce a competitor and a coach as I?ve ever seen.
Last night, at the ninth annual Celebration of Sports Banquet, the University of Iowa wrestling coach showed he?s a winner off the mat, too. And just as fierce.

Those of us who have had the pleasure of listening to Brands speak ? in front of his team, the media or a group of young athletes ? were not surprised by his message or his passion.

Hopefully this message carried loud and clear to an audience that included some of the top high school senior athletes in Linn County on Wednesday night.

As these wonderful athletes venture to the ?next level,? hopefully the words from Brands will carry them through. By the looks on their faces, by their edge-of-the-seat attention, it appears it will.

Brands started by apologizing for ?talking down? to the audience, telling them they were ?his team? and this simply was how he talked to his Hawkeye wrestlers. He talked about being a success in their particular sport, about reaching their athletic goals and doing the right thing ?all the time? so they don?t end their careers with an empty feeling and perceived failure.

He talked about the importance of academics, but said it?s all right to be an athlete-student as long as you work just as hard, focus just as much in the classroom and do those same right things in your life so you can fulfill those goals, too. Tom Brands is all about doing the right thing. He had a reputation as a tough-as-nails wrestler, a relentless competitor who some felt was too intense, to aggressive at time. That ridiculous in a one-on-one combat sport, of course.

But, even during those days, you never saw a Brands on a police docket. He never was suspended for ?breaking team rules? and never was in Coach Dan Gable?s doghouse.

?One strike equals three,? he told the high school stars, warning that missteps in college linger for years.

Brands admitted his message was no different from one heard any day of the week, from many coaches and, he hoped, all parents.

But this is who Tom Brands is and his message is simple. He lives his life trying to get better every day, being a better husband, a better father, a better coach, a better friend. It?s simple, but it?s not easy.

?He?s as good a person, and father, as he is a coach,? University of Iowa sports information director Phil Haddy said during a recent conversation.

Brands learned this life lessons growing up in Sheldon, then later in life under men like Gable. He said he never rolled his eyes at their lessons, their messages.

I didn?t see any eyes rolling last night, either.