I remember the first press conference I had coming back here, and I said we were surrounded with the Gophers and Nebraska and Oklahoma State, Penn State, and that's still the case. The challenge is great, and we like challenges.
Q. Bobby Telford, is he pushing Blake at all?
COACH BRANDS: Bob Telford is a motivated heavyweight. He is what you would expect young guys to come into the program as: Motivated and hungry and not worrying about what's in front of them, but to stamp their name in that record book.
He had a good freshman year with the age group championships in freestyle last spring. He had a good freshman year throughout the season in open tournaments and had some good wins.
We've got to keep him going now. It adds depth to heavyweight. The other side of the coin is Blake Rasing, he's not going to lay down. It's very healthy competition. We like both those guys. They're both capable.
I think when you look at Blake Rasing, I think what you think of is a guy who maybe thought that winning the Big Ten tournament was going to be very satisfying and maybe a little bit of a let down at the end of the year. Come to find out that going 3-2 in the national tournament or 2-2 or whatever he went, with a Big Ten championship wasn't quite as fulfilling as maybe he thought.
Now he's down to his last chance, so now let's go to another Big Ten championship, and add a high level national accolade to his resume as well. So we like those two guys.
COACH BRANDS: Tomas Lira is there. When you look at the wrestle-offs, he's the only guy in the bracket. He'll have a match on Saturday, and we'll figure that out as we go deeper into the wrestle-offs tomorrow and Friday on who that opponent will be. And these are all exhibitions anyway, so that will be an exhibition of the exhibition or an exhibition of the inner squad.
Q. Rasing and (Indiscernible) weren't listed. Is that precautionary with injuries?
COACH BRANDS: Rasing?
Q. Excuse me, Carew?
COACH BRANDS: Carew we'll see what we do with him. Precautionary, yes. We're just taking it one step at a time. The thing with Carew, you have a real unique fellow there where he's -- a lot of guys are about the process and the competition, and that's what we like.
Carew, and I say this in not a derogatory way, but he's more about the championship, about when the lights are on. He's not so much about the process. Looking back at the history of this program, guys like Alger and Ironside and guys like that, they were about the process as much as they were about the competition arena and the two went hand in hand.
Carew is let's get on with the lights and the camera and the action. So he's a unique guy there. He's a fun guy to be around. We have to sometimes talk him into certain things, but once he gets pointed in the right direction in that room, even in the practice setting, he's all about doing the work as well. We'll see if he gets a match or not this weekend.
Q. Coach, you're coming off a year where you didn't have any NCAA champions and you finished third as a team. Is there a sense of a sour taste in their mouths from last year?
COACH BRANDS: I mean, again, broken record time. You look at that poster there and there are four guys on that poster that are returning All-Americans, and none of them got what the program is about or what they're about.
Even, I mean, if all four got what they wanted, there is still work to, do because then there are six other weights that have to attain what they have attained. I don't know if there's ever a year where there's across the board satisfaction and that mentality is prevalent. It's always been prevalent in my life. It became even more so wrestling for Gable, neve-satisfied-type philosophy.
I think that's how those guys are. None of those guys are satisfied. Short of perfection, let's pin everybody every time, win a National Championship in ten weight classes. That would be a pretty good year. Is that realistic? Who are you going to tell that's not realistic to in those 10 weight classes?
Q. You have eight returning weight classes and maybe two, three, four potential freshmen cracking into the lineup there. What have you seen from that group, the freshmen?
COACH BRANDS: Very interesting that you say we have eight returning weight classes, because, yes, and very interesting what you said because those eight weight classes plus the two that we don't return, there is going to be more than two new faces in there. I'm not saying that it's going to be that way the whole year. I'm saying that you're going to see where these guys are going to get a chance.
Unless those eight returning starters just grab the bull by the horns and catch fire and go. And we've got a lot of work to do in order for that to happen.
I say that to challenge them, to get them going. I also say that because we have some things beyond our control right now as well with some of our returners.
When I think of what has to happen on this team, you see some high-powered individuals on that poster where the lowest place that we had was fourth on that poster, returning All-Americans. But there are six guys that have to raise themselves to that level and beyond.
So it's not what you have in the stable. It's not that you're eight points ahead in the ranking, which came out yesterday or the day before. I was educated yesterday on that. It's about what we've got to do with a guy like Ramos. He was a top 12 last year. Big deal to him.
Ethan Lofthouse, it's going to hinge on guys like that that are veterans now. It's time to grow up. It's time to take ownership in the program to where you're not just 10% of that equation. You're just a weight class or a starter.
That mentality is dangerous because when you think that you're going to graduate into success because of graduation ahead of you, meaning I'm a freshman now I moved up a couple spots because guys graduated, that's when you get in trouble. Because you've got to remember, there are guys coming underneath you that are motivated to rip your head off.
I have to have an imagination that I've got to be moving this way and beating everybody around me. It's not just moving this way with graduation or attrition. Tony Ramos is fourth ranked; is that right? Is that what I've seen? Two? Well, that's news to me there. You keep educating me.
But to me, that's just a returning guy that fits into the -- that's what I said yesterday about Josh Dziewa, just fits into the chronological order or the pecking order. It doesn't mean anything until he beats everybody below him and everybody above him, and then he has really what he wants.
That's a rambling, bumbling statement to answer a question. But if you follow what I'm saying, there is a lot of truth to it. There is a lot of truth to it. It goes back to what our daddys all taught us, and our moms, and that is you don't get anything that you deserve. You get what you earn.
These guys, Tony Ramos may deserve that second ranking now based on attrition, but he hasn't earned it, and neither has the guy above him or the guy below him. It's all experts weighing in.
When I came in here and said it's upon us, it's upon us because now it's time to start stamping our name into that record book in 2011-12.
Q. Who would you say are the leaders on the team?
COACH BRANDS: We probably could use a little bit more in that area. We've got some -- I tell you what we've got. We've got a lot of guys that are like punching people and stuff. There are some tough guys there that you could call leaders.
But I want to see guys that are going to wrestle tough. I want to see guys that emotions are under control, and they're going to wrestle tough and score points in wrestling.
We see a lot of this right now. Starting to lose their cool a little bit. A little freshman that isn't supposed to be fighting him is fighting him, and then all of a sudden, somebody steps back and pops him. That's not toughness to me.
We want to see guys that are tough on the mat within the rules of the sport of wrestling, and then carrying it to the edge because I'm a hustler because I'm mentally tough, because I'm emotionally tough, I'm spiritually tough. So we need some work in that leadership category.
We need guys to not just say, hey, I'm doing it right. Look at me. But we need guys that are going to grab guys and say I'm an extension of the coaching staff, and what you're doing is out of line, and by God you're going to get it right or you might have to answer to soap in the pillow case.
Q. You've got several guys from the Quad-Cities area. How do they fit in?
COACH BRANDS: We like them. Premature question because we have wrestle-offs coming up, and then we have two events that I call preseason events. We have St. Louis and then the Iowa City Duals.
133 is deep and competitive. We have Krutsinger, Tony Ramos, we've got Clark. Between those three guys somebody's going to get the job done. Clark's waited a long time. Last year I think he probably thought that he should have, could have, would have been the guy. So now you've got to show us. Show us with performance.
Q. Can you talk a little about what Michael Kelly has shown you in the year he's been on campus?
COACH BRANDS: Michael Kelly has shown us that he is a tremendous competitor. He is very capable. Probably, if I could critique him a little bit, he needs to be more consistent, probably. Then you'll have something there.
He's also in a deep weight class with the guy on that poster, Derek St. John, among others. We'll see how that shakes out this weekend.
We like Mike Kelly. We like all our guys. He's shown us that he's capable. He's very capable. We just need to maybe see a little more consistency.
Q. Is 49 an option at all for him there?
COACH BRANDS: He's certified at 49. Right now it's not an option, so we'll see if it becomes one. We have Jake Ballweg at 49. We have Carew at 149. You know, you ask Brody Grothus, another Quad Cities guy if he wants to wrestle or not, and he'll probably tell you he does.
He's one of the few freshmen that comes in that wants to wrestle. It will be a tough assignment but good for him.
He hasn't told me that, but I know that I've heard it from Coach and people over there that he's not in it just to sit a year and wait. He's in it to -- that's how he trains too.
You never know how freshmen are going to be in the long haul. But right now he appears to be doing a pretty good job as far as buying in or has bought in and hit the road hard when he got on campus here. He's hard at it. So we'll see what happens.
This weekend's going to tell us a lot about our lineup. Tell us a lot.
Q. Can you talk about Matt McDonough?
COACH BRANDS: Matt McDonough is one of the guys that I'm talking about being maybe more of a leader. He's earned it from a performance point of view where he's the natural guy to look to. I looked to him, and he's a good example. He's as good an example as we have in the room.
He's a big 25-pounder. He's very disciplined with his weight. He is literally the last guy to leave every night, every practice. He doesn't miss workouts. He's about the right things.
We have to maybe have him more of a hands-on and maybe a voice. I don't know if that's something that is going by the wayside maybe these days, but it certainly is lacking in our room right now where somebody would just step up and be a vocal leader.
Metcalf was that kind of leader. He was a vocal leader. We don't really have that right now. Metcalf came to town, and he was calling our veteran, highest accolade guy out in sprints and whatnot. That was Mark Perry, and that helped Mark Perry a lot.
We need guys that are going to hold other people accountable, and Matt McDonough can be that guy. That's not being critical. That's just an observation that is on my mind the last couple of months or so through the summer where we really don't have that. I know our coaching staff is not concerned with that, but we're looking for that. We're always looking for that, and we need to see that. But we love him. I kissed him on the forehead the other day.
Q. Does having the trials here in Iowa City affect the attitude in the room, the excitement of guys coming back and things like that?
COACH BRANDS: Let me tell you something about the trials. The trials are in April, and we have three guys qualified and two of those guys' weight classes aren't even qualified for the Olympic games. You talk about a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do.
Metcalf and Zadick are qualified for the trials, but their weight classes aren't qualified for the Olympic games. They might not even be wrestling in the trials. The first event was the World Championships. So the phase two would be the Pan-Ams in, is it February? We've got to get that weight class qualified, then we can start talking about the trials with those guys.
The only guy in our club is Lloyd Rogers that is qualified. Phil Keddy is not qualified, Dan Dennis isn't qualified, Luke Lofthouse isn't qualified, Kurt Backes isn't qualified. So there is a lot of work to do. They're going to New York AC this weekend. It's another big event.
We had one guy that was a runner-up at Sunkist. So we had one guy out of five that placed, so the challenge is great there as well.
Do we think about that every day? No. But it's something that guys are going to be involved in when April comes around. Right now that's what they're gearing up for. They're gearing for trials and beyond London 2012.
Q. Talk about 165? Who are some of the contenders there?
COACH BRANDS: For this weekend is Evans, Moore, and Walt Gillmor. Anything could happen there. We'll see what happens. We like all three of those guys.
Q. What has Mike Evans shown you in recent weeks, months?
COACH BRANDS: Weight control, serious, no discussion about what weight class he was going. No discussion. Didn't come in and say, coach, can I talk to you? He just did it. That's what we like. That's called ownership.
That's what I'm accustomed to, especially in this sport. When there are conversations going on that means that the parties are trying to figure each other out and figure out what role is best for that particular athlete, and that never happened. He made up his mind.
We have some things out of our control at 184. I thought maybe he might end up there. But there was no discussion.
If he takes on Ethen Lofthouse at 74, I'm not surprised there either. He made up his mind to go 65. All of a sudden I noticed one day he's on the scale. He weighed out. He was in the high 60's, low '70s, weighing out consistently, you know, 65 pounder. So good for him.
He's like Montell Marion, lot of growth, a lot of growth there. I'm proud of a lot of our guys because there are some things behind the scenes where they've had to deal with some demons.
You know, we've worked through problems and we find a solution and then work hard to keep our guys around. Mike Evans is one of those guys that he's come. It's tough. He's a tough kid. But things weren't clicking and jiving for him, and now you take ownership all of a sudden. He's grown. He grew a lot from February on, it was like rocket fire progression.
Q. How gratifying are those two particular instances to you as a coach? In your interviews in the past you've talked about Montell Marion, it's a process, but most recently came out with an outstanding article on him, talk about that from a coaching perspective, how gratifying is that?
COACH BRANDS: I just said I'm proud. I don't know how many coaches say they're proud of their guys, so that says a lot. It's gratifying, but you work hard and that's what we do. Our coaching staff goes deep. It goes to Kim Klein our secretary, Luke Eustice, Danny Song our trainer, Fred Mims, my immediate boss, all of those people are involved.
Kim Klein is at my home helping make the occasional meal. She's right there with my wife and Terry's wife, and Kurt Backes' wife, and Luke Eustice's wife. So it's not just a job or showing up here. Then when you leave here, it's over. It's what you do, so it's gratifying.
I can't imagine it being any other way, and I learned from the best. You think Gable was running the team, he wasn't. Kathy Gable was running the team. So we learn from the best, and that culture continues.
Q. You've got two or three seniors on this roster, Krutsinger, Wagner, Ambrose, can you talk about the importance of having guys stick around that have maybe not been in the spotlight a whole lot, but how important they are to your process?
COACH BRANDS: It's important. Rasing is another guy where you're proud of him. I mean, he was at rock bottom at one time, actually left the team. I mean, he left the team. I don't know how many people know that. Getting him back was a big step in his life.
I know his parents knew that the best thing to do was to keep him in. So now you're talking about another level there. You have great support from the parents. I kind of was critical on him earlier. I wasn't kind of, I was. All I'm saying, with how he was content, was Blake Rasing, look at yourself. You have unbelievable capability to be the champion, not just the Big Ten champion, but The national champion. So let's march with that in mind.
Very gratifying though. These guys, Vinnie Wagner's in medical school. I don't know how many Division I wrestlers have competed while they're in medical school. I don't know if there is an All-American in the history of college wrestling. I would be really interested in that trivia or a national champion.
I'm pretty sure that is a little easier to answer. And Vinnie Wagner came in maybe thinking 97. He was certified at 84, but now he's going down to 84 and he's in medical school. You talk to him on the phone and you're jockeying your schedule. Not once have I heard him sigh or there was a pause that, coach, you're asking a lot of me. It's always upbeat.
You'll get that when you talk to him downstairs. You'll get that. If he's here. I don't know. Today's Wednesday. I don't know what his schedule is today. But you get that sense.
Krutsinger, a couple of knee issues. Learned to be a smarter wrestler. He's done a good job. He factors in at 133, scrappy. He's scrappier this early season than he's ever been. He's always been capable. He's a very balanced man with academics as well. So sometimes you wonder if his priorities are the same as mine, which is probably more healthy if they aren't the same as mine.
But he's shown this preseason for sure and through the summer that his priorities are in line with the program. Maybe it's because it's his last shot. He's going to do very well.
And Ty Clark, another senior, you didn't mention him. He's had a long road. He wrestled as a true freshman at Iowa State, right? That's tough. That's tough to do. I'm not sure that was as fulfilling an experience for him as maybe he thought. Now he's had his last chance. So a lot of maybe extra effort coming out of those guys just because it is their last chance. So good stuff there.
Q. Do you see any lingering affects from McDonough after his loss in the championship? Just because of the guy he wrestled, it was all over TV, all over the country?
COACH BRANDS: No, I think if anything, not that he needs it, but if anything, he probably -- I don't know if he makes fun of himself or what. It's kind of like he'll laugh about it. Not really laugh, I got to be careful how I say this. But he's laughing like here it goes again.
Then we watch the rules video and there's McDonough getting kilted by Robles. So there are constant reminders of fueling the fire. It's kind of like the Metcalf loss. The back flip was shown over and over and over again. Then there was some controversy with the push.
Then we had to go through the process with the NCAA Rules Committee where they were going to sanction Metcalf. So it just kept carrying out and on and on and on, constant reminders. Those two guys don't necessarily need them, but that helps him more than it hurts him.
But it wouldn't be any different if he didn't see it frequently. He's a unique fellow when it comes to competition. Like I said earlier, he's the most dedicated fellow I've coached in a long, long time.
He abstains from alcohol, puts the right stuff in his body. Is constantly tweaking and figuring out how his body and mind and emotions run at optimum. Always bouncing things off the coach.
When I was talking about leadership, I'm not saying that he's not a coachable person. I'm not saying that he's not an all-in from an energy point of view. I'm talking about that he could be more. That is the only thing I would say to him, and I have said it to him. You can be a little bit more hands on.
He's a junior now. First year he was a freshman, he had a lot of success. Second year, well, he's a sophomore. You've got some other seniors in the lineup. Lofthouse, maybe was our seniority leader last year, Janssen, et cetera.
But now he's a true veteran, even though he was a veteran last year. Appreciate it. Our guys will be available.