Zalesky Hopes that the Hawks Can Repeat

Iowa head coach Jim Zalesky is excited to have the Big Ten's in Iowa City, and he sizes up his team's chances at defending their Big Ten title. It's not going to be easy, as Illinois, Michigan and several other schools will certainly stand in the way. Read Zalesky's comments from Friday's press conference.

Iowa Head Coach Jim Zalesky:

Jim Zalesky: It took us a long time to get here, as we have been on and off the road. It's good to be home, in front of the home crowd, not having to travel; it's an advantage for our team right now. For our team to be successful, we've got to win those tough matches we lost during the year. In a lot of our dual meets we lost, we lost a lot of close matches, and this is the time you've got to turn those around, close doesn't count anymore. We're looking forward to getting some of those matches turned around. Our first round matches are real important, we've got a lot of 4/5 seeds, tough matches right away that we've got to be ready for. We've had a good two weeks of practice and I think our guys are ready to wrestle in this tournament, excited to wrestle in this tournament.

Q: Are you going to need another Trent Goodale, have someone come through and do something you don't expect?

Zalesky: Yeah, I think so. We've got two guys unseeded at 174 (Luke Lofthouse) and 197 (Adam Fellers), and I think the different between last year and a couple years ago, not winning the tournament was (last year) all ten guys scored points. Both (Illinois Head Coach) Mark (Johnson) and (Michigan Head Coach) Joe (McFarland) talked about that, that's important at this tournament. If you can get 10 guys scoring points, your chances are a lot better of winning the tournament.

Q: Do you look at this year like last year? Peaking at the Big Ten Tournament?

Zalesky: This is what you work for, this is what it's all about. Dual meets are nice, but right now you wipe your record clean. It doesn't matter if you're undefeated, if you've never won a match, now is what counts, now is what you try and wrestle for. The Big Ten Tournament is a qualifier, you want to do as well as you can here, and that will take you to the national tournament. This is kind of where you want to be wrestling your best.

Q: Do you see similarities to last year's team in this team at all that could help them?

Zalesky: I think they're ready to wrestle, I think they're excited to wrestle in the tournament, I think that's the way they're looking forward to this tournament. I think you've got a lot of guys who have big tournament experience, which I think helps, whether it be a state or national tournament, that always helps you.

Q: Do you see someone on your team who is ready to make that step? Anyone who's not seeded now or seeded lower that can come through for you?

Zalesky: I think where we're unseeded aren't the deepest weights, 174 and 197, those are weights that maybe guys can step up (in). There are 4 or 5 pretty good guys and then it tails off, so hopefully in those weights those guys can step up. I think a lot of the young guys are excited to wrestle in the tournament. Charlie Falck is an 8th seed, but he's excited to wrestling the tournament, so we need some of those younger guys to step up and pull out some of those matches.

Q: Will you talk about your freshmen and how tough it's been for them this year, have any hit the wall, perhaps Tsirtsis?

Zalesky: I don't think they hit the wall, I think it's just going through the season. In high school, you're used to maybe getting one tough match every 2 or 3 weeks. In the Big Ten season, if you're in the right weight class, and 141 is a pretty even weight, you could hit a tough guy every match. To me, that's the difference, the intensity of the college schedule compared to the high school schedule. It's different.

Q: You already said you liked how you don't have to travel, what type of other benefits do you have hosting this tournament?

Zalesky: It gets our guys fired up, they get the home crowd in front of them. Sometimes in those tough matches when you've got to suck it up, maybe a home crowd could be worth a couple tough matches here and there. I think they're excited to wrestle in front of the home crowd, that's a big key.

Q: Is the fact that the teams that are favored have never won (the tournament), is that an advantage for you guys?

Zalesky: I don't know if it's an advantage. When you haven't won before, maybe it will put a little more pressure on you, or maybe you want it so bad, sometimes you might not wrestle your best. I think Illinois is probably the favorite, then Michigan is right there afterwards. Then after there it's up for grabs. Once you win something, you've got a little more confidence you can win it.

Q: Do you worry about the fact that Illinois and Michigan have so many number one seeds (four #1 seeds each) and you're just kind of scattered throughout the rest of the seedings?

Zalesky: You know, you earn your seeds. They earned those during the year, we didn't really earn a lot of number one seeds. The seeds you have right now you can't worry about, you just have to go out there and wrestle who steps on the mat with you. It'd be nice to get the number one seed, but a lot of times that doesn't matter here. I don't know if you can say at a weight class "This guy is going to win for sure". I don't think there's a lot of weight classes like that in the Big Ten. It'd be nice to be seeded number one, but it doesn't matter right now what your seed is.

Illinois Head Coach Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson: ...A lot of people have asked me, at home in Champaign and my home in Champaign if it's special to come back to Iowa, I spent 8 years here as an assistant. It's definetly different, and I think the best thing is because wrestling is treated as a major sport here, and it'll be treated as a event. It'll be neat for kids to be able to compete in that kind of atmosphere. It's one of the (reasons why) you look forward to wrestling at Iowa, because they put on a great show, it's important, there will be a lot of people here, and really that's what our conference tournament deserves.

Q: How much of a benefit is it to the Hawkeyes that they're hosting the tournament this year?

Mark Johnson: It's always a benefit when you're at home. You've got your home feel, you're not traveling, there's just less to prepare for, I think it's always better at home.

Michigan Head Coach Joe McFarland

Q: Mark talked about coming here and wrestling in a place where wrestling is important. Is it different when you come here for a meet like this?

Joe McFarland We always appreciate the fan support they have here, no question. I think every school in the country would love to have fan support like they do here in Iowa City. I think the fans are very knowledgeable about wrestling as well. I think everybody comes in here with a lot of respect for the kind of program the Iowa coaches have built here, that they have, and we appreciate the fan support.

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