BOB BOWLSBY: This has been a very difficult ten or twelve days and yet having said that, it culminates in an event that we are very excited about. As most of you are aware, I have been around wrestling for a long time, so it was easier to have a short list available of those that we would like to consider at the University of Iowa.
We undertook that process. We looked at mostly Iowa people with Iowa backgrounds, but there were a few that did not have Iowa backgrounds. I visited with a lot of people that I have known a long time in the sport of wrestling; some locally and some around the country. As we worked our way through it, we came down to one candidate and that was Tom Brands.
He has done a terrific job at Virginia Tech. He was a known commodity; he has the kind of fierce competitive spirit that we are looking for. He is an accomplished coach, a tremendous person and a great family man. He is exactly the right guy to put Iowa back on the traditional pedestal that we were at for so many years.
I am not sure there is a more difficult job in sports; there is no room for error in the expectations of the Iowa wrestling program. I don't put those expectations there, you don't put those expectations there. A tradition of very high achievement is what put those expectations there, at the very apex of the world of sports.
Tom understands that, all of us close to it understand it and it makes it a very difficult environment. I can't think of another job anywhere that if you don't win the National Duals, go undefeated, win the Big Ten and win the NCAA's, you have had a less than successful year. We understand that and we know that we won't get back there overnight. But I have every confidence that we will get back there.
Fred Mims and I are both proud today to announce our new coach as Tom Brands.
Tom Brands Opening Statement:
Thank you very much. First I would like to say back to the folks at Virginia Tech, they did everything possible to make it a great experience, to build a program; they gave us tools and they were more than fair, and I appreciate that first of all.
Second, not a fun thing to say, to Jim Zalesky, he has given a lot to the state of Iowa and to Iowa wrestling. He coached me when I was in college. I wish him and his family the best.
That being said, it is an enormous challenge. North of us, you have Jay Robinson and the Minnesota Gophers who are doing a good job. South of us, you have John Smith in Stillwater, Oklahoma doing a good job. To the west, the buzz going on with Cael Sanderson being hired at Iowa State. To the east of us, in Columbus, Ohio, a potential hotbed at Ohio State looking for a new coach, it could create a dynasty with the right person in there. We are surrounded, but we are up for the challenge.
Because of that challenge, we have to put everything aside as far as hard feelings, which there always are in this process. Everybody. That won't come easy. That is my biggest challenge, but more than that, my biggest priority is to unite the program. Unite everything, because when you are talking about domination, because this is Iowa wrestling; when you talk about domination, and that is the idea. That happens by training in the room and competing on the mat that way. Competing on the mat to dominate.
In order for that to happen, we have to have people feeling good about themselves and their futures. Student athletes, staff, the bosses, family and fans. And of course everyone that has ever wrestled and competed for the University of Iowa.
That is what I wanted to say in my opening statement. I am excited for the challenge, I am excited for the opportunity. I would be a liar if I sat here and told you that this isn't what I have worked my whole career for, going back and watching Gable's boys on TV in junior high and high school. Watching the Iowa Wrestling god's perform on that mat, bigger than life. I was late for some things as a kid, but I was never late for Iowa Public Television broadcasts of Iowa wrestling. Getting into high school, it meant more and more, I had a little bit of success. There was only one place that I wanted to wrestle. Once I got into this system and started to get maybe a little bit better, from a winning point of view, it becomes addicting. There is no place that I wanted to coach other than Iowa.
Q: Is getting this job a dream come true for you?
Brands: I don't like to say it's a dream come true, because I don't believe in dreams I believe in going after them; but it is great gratification to me. Thanks for listening to me. I guess I take questions now.
Q: What did you learn about yourself in your two years at Virginia Tech?
Tom Brands: The biggest thing is patience more than anything. I have also learned what it's like to be a head coach, what it's like to really, really work for something, as far as when the resources aren't what you are used to. I spent five years here as a competitor and 12 here as a coach, where it is very big time. You go from the big time to somewhere where they expect you to make it big time, but you start from scratch. You learn patience and you learn to work the system, you learn to get along with the bosses and that sort of thing.
Q: Did you ever have any doubts that you would be back here at Iowa?
Brands: It's one of those things that I probably thought that I would always be here, but it's much quicker than I thought. When I left here, I thought it would be much longer.
Q: There are some parents here of some of your wrestlers back at Virginia Tech. Will any of them follow you here?
Brands: We will cross that bridge when we get there. There are processes and steps that have to be taken and that is the NCAA guidelines and rules that govern one time transfer exceptions. We will cross that bridge through the end of the school year and into the summer. One more thing about that, when you develop relationships like we have done at Tech, our staff and myself, you would expect to have dad's here. There are local dads. We don't just recruit their kid and forget about them. (He listed some parents of several kids that are at Tech). Iowa wrestling is important to people.
Q: Can you talk about your future coaching staff?
Brands: Terry has a job to do at Colorado Springs, and he has to beat Russians, Iranians, Turks and Bulgarians. Right now, we have to go through the process of hiring a staff. That is one of our next steps. The immediate step is to address the issues with the athletes, make sure they have a chance to talk. I need to hear from them.
Q: Has the landscape changed on the national wrestling scene, and does the hiring of you and Cael bring the spotlight back on the state of Iowa?.
Brands: For maybe the short term, but what puts the spotlight on you is doing what John Smith is doing and what Gable did. That is what I am talking about. We want to be in the spotlight, not just because they are hiring some hotshot guy from Virginia that won an Olympic championship. We want it to be because of something that is lasting, and that starts with individual championships, team unity and then it carries over into individual championships. That is the way that I was coached. Take care of yourself, win your championship; when you have 10 guys thinking that way, you will be where you want to be shortly…shortly.
Q: Bob (Bowlsby), will Dan Gable's role change at all? Will he be more involved?
Bob Bowlsby: I think that is unknown at this point. I don't know that there is a person around in any sport that enjoys the kind of icon status that Dan Gable enjoys. How we harness that and how we put it to work for the betterment of the Iowa wrestling program is yet to be seen. I know that Tom embraces having coach Gable involved as do the rest of us. I think that process is going to be concurrent with the one that Tom described earlier. He has to put his staff together and he will think long and hard about how to employ the greatest wrestling coach in history.
Q: Iowa was always known for its toughness and physical style. That seems to have been lacking in recent years. How do you get that back?
Brands: You start with unity. It's something I thought about since this situation occurred. It's something I thought about as an assistant here. There is maybe the mystique lost. We don't need to talk about that, but it is a fact. You do that by getting student athletes on board where they become more independent. That doesn't mean they are doing it by themselves, but that they are becoming more independent. So when something does go wrong, they can dig themselves out of the hole. There are a lot of tools here and they need to use those tools. That will prepare them better for life and also domination on the mat.
Q: Can you assess the talent that is in the Iowa room right now?
Brands: I know from afar, I have good relationships with Mike Zadick who is training for the US Open next week. I am somewhat up to speed on it after talking with him this week. I think it's phenomenal. I think it's young, but you have to be able to harness that. It's not automatic. It's not about having the best talent in the room, it's about having guys there that are driven to do the right thing. I tell you what, when you are doing the right thing, it affects the areas of your life that are important. It's not just doing what you feel like doing, it's doing what needs to be taken care of, making the best decisions that way. That is carrying on and impacting your future in a positive way. The future is really what we are talking about here; it's March 2007 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Q: Do you believe that you can do what Gable did in his career here and what do you want to take from him to be that type of coach?
Brands: I don't think about duplicating anything. I think about giving the athletes a chance to hear from them. In a couple minutes here, then we will go to the next steps. As far as Dan Gable, I have always used him and maintained a relationship. He has always been able to push the right buttons on Tom Brands and I am sure he will continue to do that. The relationship has grown more professional. Me being an Olympic coach and before I left here as an assistant, I sought and still do seek to this day his counsel. Not only is he an icon, an icon is useless if he is not up to speed on current matters. He is, he is current with wrestling and he is a valuable resource.
Q: You said that Gable pushed the right buttons for you; do you do that with others?
Brands: Yes, I believe that I do a good job of that.
Q: Do you think you can get Iowa wrestling back to its glory days, where it won 25 straight Big Ten titles…..
Brands: Like I said, the next step for me is to make sure we have athletes that are on board and we will go from there. Can you? You bet you can. You bet you can. Can you? Yes. You can.
Q: Is it harder to do now than it was back then?
Brands: No. No. Parity has been talked about a lot. Parity is not being 60 points out of first place. I don't believe that parity is Oklahoma State running away with the title last year with five champs and having it over by Friday night this year. That is not parity; that is someone dominating the scene of college wrestling. There might be parity 2 through 10, but nobody remembers 2 through 10. I am happy inside, though I might not look like it. (Laughs).
Q: Talk about Cael in Ames, about the future rivalries with that program again. This used to be the biggest rivalry in the country. Would you like that to be the same?
Brands: I would like for this program where it's the best in the country. As far as rivalries, that will depend on each school. I think that Cael brings a lot of things that are fresh and exciting for wrestling. He is out to do a job just like all other head coaches are out there to do a job. Except he has a lot of people that he has to prove wrong because of his youth. I think the spotlight is on him as well. He is a competitive guy. I have had a lot of association with him in 02, 03 and 04. He is competitive and does a good job.
Q: What will your schedule be like in the coming weeks?
Brands: Officially take over here on April 25th. There is a transition period there, back and forth from Virginia a couple of times. My boss at Virginia Tech, he has been more than kind to let me stay out as long as I need to as far as that transition. It will take through at least the late part of April and the finals are over the 13th there and the 15th here. That is a lot of work to be done between here and there and now and then.