Wrestling Media Day: Tom Brands Part 1

Tom Brands spoke with the media on Tuesday. Read Part One of his extensive press conference where he talks about the attitude he's looking for from his team, trying to rebuild the Iowa program, and much more in this premium transcript.

Click here to read part 2

Q: Opening statement

Tom Brands: Comments are always a little harder than questions, if you guys give me a direction I can go with it pretty good, but the direction we're going with the program is this way (points upward.) No question about that. I think we made a statement hiring Gable, we want to do this the right way, but we want to do it in a quick fashion. We also have to be patient enough to realize that there is development to do. We're working hard on that every day. I think Gable made a comment that was real tell-tale about this team, and that is that we need as much time in the practice room as we can get before just sending them out to battle. It's not like you just send somebody out to battle in this sport. There is a high degree, a high level of preparation that has to take place, and we're doing that. It's positive for the most part. Cliché transition phrase, all that being said, there's a lot at stake. There's a lot at stake with these young men in our program. It's very important to the families of these athletes, these student athletes that they have success, it's very important for these student athletes that they have success, it's very important to our new Athletic Director, it's very important to the people that have been her for years, guys like Phil Haddy who sat behind the microphone and introduced even me and before me. I remember the Baltimore Butcher and Royce "The Fall Guy" Alger. Those were the days, the glory days, that caught me to this program. There's a lot at stake. My wife is a wrestling fanatic, Coach Gable's wife is a wrestling fanatic, you put your arms around all that, you encompass all that, it's important to a lot of people to have success. It's not just about, "I hope they have a good experience here and they graduate with a degree and a meaningful career, and away they go." It's about getting these guys, bringing them along every day, and having them feel good about themselves for the rest of their life because of their experience here and not having coulda-beens and shoulda-beens and what-ifs. What if I would have bought in? We've got to make them buy in, that's the difference. What if I would have done this or that. We've got to make them do this or that, it makes a little bit of difference. That's what it's about, putting your hands on these guys every day, bringing them along, making the right decisions. That's where we're at, we're in the middle of our season. You've been following it. We've had our wrestle-offs, I don't know how good we looked, I know we found out a lot about how our bodies feel with a 1-hour weigh in, I know that for a fact. That's why we do that. It's an important event, but it's not the end of the world. We're going to learn and tweak and get better every time we go out. This isn't something that we turn it over to the athlete. We work very hard, we find out why they feel like they do, and in this sport, the way the rules are since 1997, 1 hour weigh in, scratch weight, nutrition and hydration and feeling good and being prepared is paramount. It is top-notch importance of what we do when we go out there and compete. So that's where I'm at, I guess I'll open it up to questions, then we can get upstairs and you can talk to the guys who it's all about.

Q: When you wrestled, you were known for… the word "patience" wasn't in your vocabulary. Has it crept into your vocabulary as a coach now, just out of need?

Brands: I think you have to be a little bit different. It's hard because you're dealing with individuals that may be, hopefully not, maybe aren't as motivated as you were.

Q: Are you saying you were motivated?

Brands: I'm saying you have to be flexible and find the right buttons to push. It's not always about a hard line. I was raised with a hard line. I can handle a hard line. If the job isn't done, you're going to do it right, this is how you do it, you'll correct it under your own power. If you don't do it right this time, you're going to get kicked upside the backside. It was very effective with me, but it was consistent as well. Some of these guys, they need maybe a lighter hand, it's like stroking a $42,000 bird dog. A lot of praise, making sure that we're finding the right angle and the right little tidbit that makes all the different.

Q: What's it been like having Dan Gable back in the wrestling room?

Brands: It's been phenomenal. He's really the only guy that'll give it to me straight. I don't' mean that the other staff is not on board because they are, they're very valuable, but he's really the only guy that'll give it to me straight. When I ask a question I want a straight answer. That's why he's here. I need all the help I can get. I'll be the first one to admit it. It's also about dealing with individuals on an individual basis. Guys that are a little bit like a thoroughbred, they're different. There's a difference there. Like I said, you've got to get away from that hard line. The experience that he brings in dealing with individuals is critical as well. He's more than that, too. He's about organizing the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and making sure we get up to strength there in doing the right things and making sure that these guys, when they graduate and have opportunities to go on to graduate school and to win World and Olympic Championships as well. He's got a lot on his plate and he's been very instrumental.

Q: Some would say you've got a lot on your plate trying to bring this program back to up to the top where it sat for so long. Is that a tall order, the way this program is right now?

Brands: I think it's a tall order but it doesn't go above and beyond where I'm at, where I came from, what I believe in. We talk a lot about tradition. I'm not sure tradition makes a lot of difference. I'm not sure tradition makes a difference in anything because it's the past. What we want to do is what I talked about in the introduction is do a good job daily of bringing these guys around. I'll tell you what, if we do that, we'll be back where the fans are getting their money's worth and they think so too. It's not just about what I think, but it's about really what they think. That's important. That's important. They're a paying customer to a show. We want them to come in droves. I tell you what, if they're going to come in droves, we'll put on a program to put an entertaining product out there.

Q: What does it mean to you to become and be the head coach at the University of Iowa?

Brands: It's a big deal, it's a big program. There's a lot at stake from that point of view. There's a lot at stake with me being a Hawkeye. Virginia Tech borrowed me for two years. I was set there, we were going to win there, I approached it the same way. I reminded myself that this project is really no different than that project. Just because of guys want to train themselves a little bit. I'm not really answering your question, how meaningful is it to me? I said it in my press conference when I was hired. I don't believe that it was a "Dream Come True" that sounds kind of pansy. A dream come true. It's more like something you worked your whole career for. It's big time. It's the big time. This is the big time. I'm not saying that we weren't working out east to do that, but this is the big time. This is what I've worked my whole career for.

Q: I know you guys set your goals awfully high every year, is there talent in the room this year to win a national championship?

Brands: We have to have individuals believe, I think we have 30 on our roster at last count, 31, and we have to have 31 guys believing that they can win an individual national championship at their weight class. That's not rhetoric. That's not talking points, that's not something that fills the air between 3:30 and 3:35 when I'm sitting up and talking to these guys. I've said it a dozen times, I've said it two dozen times, I've said it 3 dozen times, that's what has to happen. That's what they have to believe. When they start hearing it and they start professing it, whether they believe it or not, eventually, enough times, they will believe it. And then everything else will take care of itself.

Q: Are they starting to believe it early on?

Brands: I don't know, it's too early to tell.

Q: What do you know about this team?

Brands: I know that we have a lot of work to do. I know that we have some guys that want to win real bad. It means a lot to them. I just don't think that they know how to do it. That's where it's a coaching job.

Q: How do you do that?

Brands: Daily. Minute by minute every day. I was in the room at 6:30 this morning. I put six guys through workouts between 6:30 and 8 this morning. That's a daily thing.

Q: Is the work in the head or the bodies?

Brands: It's work in the head and the body, it's working them together, it's working the spirit. I'm a spiritual guy. It's working not just physical, but physiological. Physiological isn't physical, it's everything. It's your adenosine triphosphate in your muscles, ATP, how you recover. Fast twitch, slow twitch. Nutrition, it's green vegetables because they heal your body. Communicating all that to them. It's making it not just mental or physical or head and body, it's everything. It's their fiber.


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