March 4, 2008
Talk about it in The Hawkeye Lounge
This is the time of year that Tom Brands loves. This is the time when individual titles are won and team titles are earned. Before heading north to Minnesota this weekend for the Big Ten Championship Meet, Brands met with the media and as usual, he was on his game with plenty of fire, passion, and giving us the lowdown on what it will take for his Hawkeye wrestlers to come home with a title.
Tom Brands and company head to Minnesota for the Big Ten Championships this weekend.
Been saying it all year, we got to a group of guys that love to compete. This is the best time of year to love to compete. Then we got one more after this. So, that's my opening statement ? got a good group of guys.
Q: Tom, what does a team title mean in an event like this? Is it important to win this again?
BRANDS: It's important to have 10 weight classes representing themselves to the best of their ability, and beyond that from the outside looking in ? that means wrestling above your seeds. If you're the No. 1 seed, doing it in a dominating fashion. When you have 10 weight classes doing that, the team title takes care of itself.
Q: A lot of your guys are facing their first post-season, how much is experience a factor?
BRANDS: That's something that I don't really buy into, so to speak. These guys have been wrestling post-season competitions their whole careers, that's how you get to this level ? state championships, junior national championships. Its one of those things that has been brought to our attention via message boards or questions like that, its like going Ames, Iowa in front of 9,000 fans. It's like going to the National Duals for the first time. You were born and raised to compete at a high level, and this is what you thrive on and life for.
Q: Is it extra special to be in Minneapolis this weekend?
BRANDS: You know what, it is and that's not rhetoric. That's not rhetoric coming from the head coach ? it is good. Williams Arena is a great place to wrestle; they have good fans there. We'll have a good following there. Enemy arenas have always been, I guess attractive ? my way of thinking ? when you're invading someone.
Q: You mentioned there's one more after this. What are your goals for this tournament, and to get to where you want to be for the national tournament? Do you need all 10 weight classes to advance?
BRANDS: Well, that's what you're going into this for. You have your seeds and where you think you're going to end up, or the outside looking in, the vote so to speak. You got guys believing in themselves and believing that they can get out of this what they're going to get of it, and that's a championship at each weight class. That doesn't mean that it's going to happen, but that doesn't mean its not going to happen either. So, you look at it from that perspective, we're at an even slate right now. That means our No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 seeds that appear to be automatics ? there is no automatic ? and that means our No. 7, No. 8 seed, it appears they're on the bubble, you can rise to the occasion and shock some people, shock the world.
Q: Tom, that's what this program was built on, was wrestling above your seeds in events like this 20 years ago, 15 years ago. Do you talk a lot about that, going out and doing the unexpected?
BRANDS: You know what, you do what you're capable of doing and you do what you come to do. Our guys, like I said, when they get ready to wrestle, it's a great group to watch. They are confident. So, is it about wrestling above your seeds as a team, is it about bonus points, yes it is because that's how you win big competitions ? with upsets, and bonus points, and domination. So, we're making a living how we've been making a living, and that means that all those things, they're not just falling into place, but we're making them and we're controlling them our way. You're not leaving a lot up to so-and-so beating so-and-so, and other teams and schools beating each other up, but really worrying about what you're capable of doing. If the wheels fall off the thing, at least your standard was high, and at least your mindset was right going into it. Because of that mindset, wheels aren't going to fall off of it.
Q: Is your mindset right? Is the team's mindset right?
BRANDS: We'll see. I don't predict that, I tell you what, I don't predict mindset, how we feel. I'm not going to say we look good in the room, and we're going to storm the competition. All I know is that our guys, when they get ready to go, that they're pretty doggone tough and their fun to watch, because they attack. They do it the right way. You're looking for a boost for wrestling, because of programs maybe being dropped, because of this or that. Bottom line is, if we're doing our job, and we're wrestling hard for seven minutes we're a fun show to watch, and it gives us our best chance.
Q: Tom, you talk about mindsets, regarding Mark Perry obviously physically he's apparently ready. Is his mind ready for what he's about ready to take on?
BRANDS: Anybody that knows Mark Perry knows that this is the Mark Perry time of year. He's ready, and he's Mark Perry at his best right now.
Q: So physically, what percentage wise is he?
BRANDS: He's 100 percent; we have great medical staff here. Again, you're talking the outside looking in, lot of talk about that, and you know what our medical staff took care of him. The best turnaround would have been to remove the meniscus, but you know what, they saved the meniscus, they repaired it and he's at a high level right now. You talk about proving people wrong, there's some proving people wrong right there too, and I love it, I love it.
Q: Is there any concern about the inactivity that he's had?
BRANDS: Inactivity? You been in our room lately? The fur's been flying in our room with Mark Perry. He's in the room, he's been wrestling hard, this is his fourth week. He could have went against Illinois, he was ready to go against Illinois, he warmed up for Illinois. He could have went the week before that if we had to have used him. We weren't going to do that, the week before that, but he could have, and that would have been against Tannenbaum. He was ready, because he's Mark Perry. He's been training his whole life for this, so down time doesn't concern me when you have a mindset like that and you have an attitude like that. That doesn't mean that we're reckless with him, that's now what I'm saying. What I'm saying is you have a unique competitor that gets up for this time of year, and he has been training.
Q: Is he kind of chomping at the bit right now?
BRANDS: I think a lot of guys are chomping at the bit. I think this is the time of year where you chomp at the bit, and its not, I can't wait to get it over with, but it's more like, I can't wait to compete. This is what we train for, this is what I live for, this is what its all about right here.
Q: What guys right now do you think are potentially ready for a breakthrough? Maybe you don't want to list them, but?
BRANDS: I don't know what you mean by breakthrough. I'm looking at Joe Slaton, I'm looking at LeClere, I'm looking at Charlie [Falck]. I mean I'm looking at 10 weight classes where I don't know if it's about a breakthrough. If you're talking about a breakthrough I guess you're talking about Morningstar, he's a seven seed, and Beatty, but they've shown that they can break through and that they've had breakthroughs at certain points in the year. The problem with Morningstar is his consistency. That's been something that we've addressed over and over again. How do I answer that question? I don't know how to answer that question. Matt Fields needs a breakthrough. He hasn't ever beaten the Northwestern guy. We need a breakthrough there. We're the four seed there, and we're going to wrestle the five seed or a pigtail first depending how the bracket comes out. We do our job, then we're wrestling Bergman if he does his job. But really you got to worry about that five seed, which is the Illinois kid, and then that gives us our best chance for a breakthrough. Then we take on the next step ? one match at a time for a breakthrough.
Q: How important are breakthroughs for, not maybe the Big Tens, but the NCAA's?
BRANDS: Again, a breakthrough, that means that, if I'm looking for a guy to breakthrough that means that I don't believe in him whole-heartedly, and there's going to be an act of God or a magic wand pointed at him. I don't believe we need a magic wand or an act of God. I think we got Morningstar, I think we got something there. I think we really got something there. Matt Fields, I think we got something there. Chad Beatty, I know we got something there. You got to score points at all 10 weights, and you always want you're fun, warm fuzzy feeling story, like a Whitmer type thing, but we'll see that when it comes up. I don't know how to answer that question really.
Q: When you look at the seedings that were released, are there any that you're any that you're disappointed, that outside looking in, didn't give your guys a little more credit?
BRANDS: Doesn't matter. We voted, what you see there is pretty close to how we voted, real close actually. Maybe the only one that was maybe caddywompus in my mind is , and not our guy, but the one, two, and three there at 157. Doesn't matter, really doesn't matter.
Q: Last season one of your biggest problems was wrestling up and down, do you feel like the team, as a whole has been more consistent this year?
BRANDS: For sure, for sure, no question, and its because guys get ready to wrestle. They get ready to wrestle, it's about a lifestyle, and they're living it. So this didn't start on Friday coming up, this started April whatever in, what was it, '06?
Q: How would you describe the 149-pound weight class?
BRANDS: Balanced, and tough, and a lot of guys hoping, and one guy that knows he can continue his rampage. I like our guy. He's a No. 1 seed there, and that's why you like him Brands, but no that's why I like him. I like him because of how his approach is and how his impact on this team is.
Q: Schlatter is the only one he has not wrestled, does it matter?
BRANDS: He's wrestled him.
Q: I mean this year.
BRANDS: No it [doesn't] matter, he's the what, right now he's the three seed, and we'll see how that holds up, how close it is. Doesn't matter ? one at a time.
Q: How about at 141, kind of a pretty close?
BRANDS: That's another weight class that, really however you seeded it was, I mean it's a miracle that its consistent like that. How we voted is basically how it came out, but it could have gone a lot of different ways. Actually no, because we had a different five seed. I think we had the Minnesota kid as a five seed. It doesn't matter, it's a weight class where you're controlling your own destiny for your best place to sit, and you let some things get away. Because everybody else was beating everybody else up, you ended up in an okay position too. See the okay position, we could be the two seed there, and it doesn't matter because you still got to wrestle, because of the evenness of it. We got to be ready to go. When we tighten things up and we're ready to go, then good things happen. When he's attacking, not from left field or from Mars, but from in tight and moving guys, and being physical and doing what he does best. What he needs more is more consistently trained by a guy by the name of Doug Schwab, and that's happened. Schwab had been on the road competing a couple different weekends, and that took away from him a little bit. That's not an excuse, but Schwab's got him back where he is tightening things up and being more selective, and being smarter and so on and so forth. That's really what its about is being hard, going hard, being smart, and being aggressive, and wrestling your match that way.
Q: Tom how do you feel about your team in the post-season this year compared to last year?
BRANDS: I don't want to say.
Q: You guys have had some success in other championship events like this this year, you won the Midlands, you had a few champions at some other events. How much more confidence does that give your guys?
BRANDS: It shows we ? confidence for our guys is big, and our guys are confident ? but it shows we get up for our biggest events. Yeah, coaches guide athletes, and you do everything right, and you make sure that you get them just right and you hit the sweet spot the right time. You know what peaking is, peaking isn't just a frame of mind, it's an attitude. It's an attitude that comes not from me, or our coaching staff because I can tell you that there's a high level there. There's a high level that rattles around inside this head, and it's communicated. It's a matter of how these guys ? peaking is on these guys. I tell you what, they bring the frame of mind, they bring the right attitude, and because of that they're peaking. I remember one year where, I was either a senior or a junior, of course I wrestled for Gable, and we were peaking so called. I remember he sprint us, and it was like a Monday or a Sunday before the national tournament. Looking back on it, I was sore still on Thursday morning from that workout. You know what, it didn't matter it didn't even matter. The only reason why I remember it was not because I was sore, but because there were some guys on our team that were complaining. It was like maybe prevalent in some guys' minds, it's like your bulletproof, the bullets just bouncing off you. It doesn't matter. Throw more at me. Peaking is a frame of mind, and that's what I mean. I mean, did the coach over-do it, did the coach not do it right? It had nothing to do with it. The coach is smart, the coach is going to do right, and its frame of mind. Its how your approach is going in.