March 11, 2009
Tom Brands said that the performance of his wrestling team this past weekend was decent, but not great, as they captured another Big Ten Championship. The goal before heading to St. Louis next week for the NCAA championship is to move closer to great. The motivated Hawkeye head coach talks about what his team needs to do to repeat as champions, how Brent Metcalf compares to the all time greats, and much more.
Tom Brands talks about the upcoming NCAA championships and defending their title.
Q: Is your mind focused on the NCAA's yet?
BRANDS: I think so. I think you go right to the next step. This is the big time.
Q: Speaking of big time, you guys have the biggest of big time programs right now. I know you don't want to brag about yourself?
BRANDS: You can look at it in one of two ways. We had a fifth, two fourths, two thirds, two seconds, and two firsts. That is too balanced. We need to be more lopsided to that championship end.
Q: What do you need to do in the next week?
BRANDS: We need to sharpen edges and continue with what we have done all year and that is build.
Q: How is Beatty?
BRANDS: (Coach Brands smiles and gives a thumbs up)
Q: Can you talk about Dan Erekson's progress at heavyweight?
BRANDS: He has made progression all year. At the beginning of the year, I am not sure when it was?at the UNI dual, especially. He had a pretty good win against Arizona State and then I am not sure what happened at the UNI meet. He was the first match drawn out of a hat and for whatever reason, he did not perform well and got banged up a bit injury wise and his head was completely out of it. He has really learned to focus on what is important and what he can control. That has probably been the biggest issue, being able to wrestle for seven minutes or longer if he has to. Here is where I can control and everything else that I can't control I don't worry about it.
Q: Why is that such a challenge for some guys?
BRANDS: I'll tell you what, if I knew that we would be automatics and we are not automatics and we never will be. It is very unique when you have a guy do what Chad Beatty did and that is wrestle when he really had no business being out there in that consolation semi-final match. But, he had to do it. He had to. You don't leave it to chance. If you are going to leave it to a committee decision, maybe he gets in or maybe he doesn't. We wouldn't have found out until Tuesday or Wednesday and we are at the time of the year when you have to be able to come back.
Q: Talk about the run that Metcalf is on and how he might compare to some of the greats?
BRANDS: The thing about him is that it is a run, but it is consistent. I have been talking about it for a couple of days now, but it is like if you put a highlight reel together it would all look the same. It is not like, wow, he pinned Bubba Jenkins. He has pinned him before and he has beaten him bad twice and now he pinned him again. He really had to dig deep a couple of times and this time I think Bubba rolled over. A lot of competitors don't put an emphasis on every match as a guy like Brent Metcalf does, so to him he has more coming. So it takes away your edge, whether they admit it or not. Being a tough competitor all the time is what Metcalf is about and that is why he is where he is.
Q: With that being said, were you a little surprised he wasn't the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year?
BRANDS: I voted for him for both awards. With the string of lopsided victories that he has put together, there is no question that domination plays a key part in that. The other guy is a senior. I think when I was a senior I won the OW at the national tournament and I didn't deserve it at that tournament. It was more like an OW for a career. Mark Kerr beat up Randy Couture in the finals and he should have been the OW that year.
Q: What makes him able to pin the #2 guy in the country and what separates him from the crowd?
BRANDS: Here is the thing, it is his approach. He doesn't get in practice. On days where everybody else is a light day, he spends an hour and fifteen minutes on the mat just hard drilling on his own and every shot is real. It is not rocket science. It is just a lot of hard work and repetition. You read a couple of these books that recently came out talking about success and that type of thing and they talk about the 10,000 hour rule. That is where he is at. He has put in a lot of quality hours, so it is not rocket science. Most guys will drill for 15 minutes and then they are done and then off on to a bike and riding tenderly. He works for an hour and fifteen minutes hard on the mat. He is a fanatic.
Q: Talk about a guy like Ballweg and what he needs to do now?
BRANDS: Continue to get better and do some soul searching.
Q: What is it going to take to defend that title and what do you guys have to do differently than last week?
BRANDS: We have to put a string of matches together and we talk about that and we are capable. We are going to have to be ready to go in every match and if something goes bad you have to turn it around right away and keep going bad. When you have to turn it around it has to be all me and not a topsy-turvy thing. We have to be very selfish.
Q: Was it important for Dennis to get that last win and turn things around?
BRANDS: I think all wins are important and it certainly was because that was a hard fought match too. There are a lot of quality opponents out there if you keep it close.
Q: What do Charlie and Alex have to do to end this right?
BRANDS: Charlie Falck has to be able to control that match and keep it in his domain. Tsirtsis is complete matches. Complete holds and complete matches.
Q: Do you still want this team to take the mat in St. Louis with a chip on its shoulder?
BRANDS: We have to wrestle better because it is another weekend. It is the most important weekend now. We can do better. We are not automatic and we are going to have to earn it. We better be ready to slug. I think we did a pretty decent, not great, decent job on Sunday.
Q: How much more does the bar need to be raised?
BRANDS: I like our guys. I do. You are not going to make a prediction for nine guys, but every one of them is capable. Individually, every one of them is capable.
Q: Morningstar has two overtime losses to Howe this year. How close is he to being where he needs to be?
BRANDS: The formula is simple, score takedowns. Very simple. I didn't say takedown. I said takedowns.
Q: Is it about finishing?
BRANDS: He needs to score takedowns. He needs to put himself in position to score a lot of takedowns.
Q: What comparisons can you make from this year's team to last year's team?
BRANDS: They are both a good bunch of kids. Our leadership is the same with Metcalf. Perry was important to us, but Metcalf has been the leader of this team and the example that you look to as to how to train and live and compete. The similarities are that we have guys that are capable and motivated and are hungry for post season honors. Those are the guys that you see going to St. Louis. It goes hand in hand with what I said a couple of minutes ago, there are nine guys and individually every one of them is capable.
Q: Speaking of comparisons, when you see Metcalf, what Iowa wrestlers does he compare to and does he remind you of anybody?
BRANDS: Not really. He is starting to pretty much blaze uncharted territory. Mcllravy was certainly one of the toughest guys that I ever worked out with personally. Some of the things that Metcalf has done are beyond what anyone has done. He is a true pinner and he is also a whirlwind on his feet and nobody rides him. Gable was a pinner and that made him dominant. You had guys like Ironside and guys in that mold that were tougher than heck on their feet and they could ride. They could get a pin, but it wasn't like every match. Metcalf is tougher than heck on his feet and tough on top. He is truly not satisfied unless he gets the pin and that is why he is dominant.
Q: You mention Mcllravy, he was dominant, but he had a bad tournament one year.
BRANDS: That is not how I evaluate Mcllravy. It's not Mcllravy, he got beat. I am saying?
Q: I'm saying it can happen.
BRANDS: It can happen, but how many guys were first, first, second, first? Not taking anything away from Mcllravy. You have got to be ready to go in every match. You have to get tougher as the rounds go on. You have to get tougher as the season goes on and you have to get tougher when you are at the most important time of the year and that is where we are at.