Brands Readies The Hawks For ISU

Tom Brands spoke with the media on Tuesday as he readies his team for the Cyclones this weekend. Read what he had to say about an injury at 197 pounds, the battle between Slaton and Dennis at 133, the Iowa/Iowa State rivalry, the attempts to set the record and much, much more in this premium transcript.

Q: #1 vs. #2, is it about as big as it gets early in the season?

Tom Brands: I think it's right where you want it. There's a lot of reasons for fuel on the fire, and that's probably adding to it.

Q: How big is a dual meet in this part of December, in the big scheme of things?

Brands: You answer that question every day in your communication to your team, especially at this program. Where I come from in this program, the way that I approach competition my entire life. Checkers and Monopoly were important when you were playing them. Every match is important. Our guys know it, they love it, they rise to the occasion. They have believed that for most of their lives as competitors. It's been reinforced here.

Q: When you were wrestling, was there a certain dislike toward Iowa State more than other teams?

Brands: Rivalries, do they create more dislike? I don't know. From a fan perspective, I think fans love the rivalry and have their side of the fence, they're very passionate. Once that's over, I think they're rooting for both teams until they come head-to-head again. I think there's a lot of pride in the state of Iowa, wrestling fans in the state of Iowa root for both teams until they're head to head and pick a side. As far as a competitor, in-state rivalries are important. How much emphasis you put on them, I don't think has to do with whether they're down the road or a long ways away, either a plane flight or bus ride. It doesn't matter, a rivalry's a rivalry. Iowa State is a rivalry, but there are certainly others as well. This is a big match. This is a big match coming up and we have ten weights to contest. We have ten guys that we're going to put out on the mat and contest it the way that it needs to be contested.

Q: How much more fun does it make it when you could have a capacity crowd?

Brands: I think that's something that adds to the fireworks. The fireworks are important. It's not something that is a non-factor, I don't believe that. I believe that there's more excitement, more energy. There's maybe more reason to get fired up. You always need a reason to compete at your best, and maybe this adds to it one way or the other. The nth degree type thing. It's certainly much better than competing behind closed doors.

Q: You talk about how big the meet is, how important is it for the sport of wrestling to have a crowd of 16,000 people here?

Brands: I think it's important. I don't place big importance on it. I don't really look at this as a priority to break the record, from my point of view, even though Rick Klatt and his people have done a pretty good job in a short amount of time, really, to get this thing going. That's a tribute, also, to the guys that are going to be competing, the 10 weights we have. 1 against 2. Without a product, you don't generate the excitement. Winning is promotion. I've said that from Day One. Winning is promotion. We have to give fans a reason to come, and entertaining wrestling is promotion. Entertaining and winning go hand in hand, and you have a pretty good product. That's what we communicate to our guys, it's about how you go out and entertain. It's not about getting your hand raised, it's wrestling with a certain energy level, being able to go hard for the entire match, whatever that length is.

Q: What does it speak to about the series that most of the largest crowds to ever watch an NCAA meet have been Iowa/Iowa State meets?

Brands: It shows that wrestling is strong in Iowa. Wrestling's strong other places, too. When you look at two programs that are 200 miles apart or whatever, I don't know if there's any place in the country like that. Oklahoma/Oklahoma State? Not anymore. There's a lot to get excited about. What does it say about wrestling? It says wrestling is strong in Iowa and that we've done a good job of getting our team to where people want to come and be a part of a big event like this. They've done a good job with their team. There's fireworks there just based on the passion of what your opinion about who's going win is.

Q: You guys have looked fairly dominant in all your dual meets, you've dropped only 6 matches in dual competition. Will this be your first real test on the dual schedule?

Brands: As a team? For sure. You look at the schedule, this is something that you do target, you do get ready for. At the same time, every time out is a test and every time out is a barometer. You learn, you evaluate, you analyze as a coach, and you analyze alongside the individual. You just keep getting better. You don't let a day go by without getting better.

Q: What's your assessment of the first two competitions you've had?

Brands: Progress, and we need to shore some things up. You know what? You sound like a broken record saying it, but there's work to do. That's a positive thing. When you haven't leveled out or topped out, we never will. This sport is like any other endeavor in life. You can always do better. It just goes with how your nature is about being restless and a sense of urgency. You're irritable in a positive way. Something back there just isn't right. Let's made progress, let's make a statement here. We've got a big stage to make a statement. Something's bothering you? Let's eliminate that. Winning helps to move on, remember that. That's why it's important. That's why every event is important.

Q: What do you know about Iowa State? Do you even look at the team, or just the individual match-ups?

Brands: We know their coaching staff, we know their program, we know their tradition. We know our coach wrestled there, we know that Dr. Harold Nichols had a pretty tough program, tradition-wise. They're strong as well. We know their individuals, and we believe in what our guys bring to the table when it comes to a fight against that entity, that machine, whatever you want to call it. We're aware of what we're up against. I can speak for the entire program when we say we wouldn't trade one ingredient. Not one ingredient. That doesn't mean that we're content and that we don't believe that we have work to do here, but it means that we believe in our guys.

Q: How has Alex looked this year, after the redshirt year?

Brands: You look at his results, there are close matches. You look at his opponents and how they're wrestling him, and he's done a good job of coming out on top and making progress, getting himself ready to wrestle when it's time to wrestle. Right now, he's the guy at 141. Again, you look at it like any other weight. He's chomping at the bit, never satisfied, but he's coming along like he should be coming along, we feel.

Q: Beatty's not listed. What's the reason there?

Brands: Nobody knows that reason?

Q: (Silence)

Brands: Injury, Central Michigan.

Q: How long's he out?

Brands: I don't know. He could go Friday, if it was March. It just depends on if you're going to heal him, doing the right thing by the individual.

Q: Is there any chance for Saturday?

Brands: I believe in God and his son, if he touches him in a miraculous way, which I don't think God really works that way, I don't think he's necessarily an Iowa Hawkeye, but I know we're in favor with him. I don't think he works that way, though. I think he's got bigger things in mind. A bad thing happened to Chad, but there's redemption there. I believe he's looking out for Chad Beatty. That kind of guidance will make the right decision by the individual.

Q: What part of his anatomy got hurt?

Brands: Nobody knows about the injury, huh? I don't talk about injuries. It's fine if he talks about it, but I'm not going to talk about it. Is that alright with everybody?

Q: How about Slaton/Dennis? Is that still a battle?

Brands: They're battling, but not necessarily head-to-head. Someone asked me about a week or so ago if they're auditioning every time, I don't look at it like an audition. That would be a good way to describe it, maybe, but that's not it at all. In the Press Citizen on Saturday, I read that article before I came down here, there were some good quotes by Daniel Dennis about what it's about. It's about standing on the top of the stand in March and doing what I need to do every day to get ready to go. That "I" means Slaton, Dennis, Tsirtsis, whoever. Is there a head-to-head battle? No. Are they auditioning? No. At the same time, we're evaluating. We're evaluating as we go down the list in this thing. There's no automatic. There is no automatic. There's nothing personal here. This is all about making the best decision based on how we analyze going forward, for sure.

Q: Have you guys made a decision there for Saturday?

Brands: No.

Q: Is this a good chance for some of your questionable weights to maybe….

Brands: (interrupting) This is a great chance for a guy at 197. This is a great chance. You're wrestling the #1-ranked guy in America. He looks, appears to be pretty solid. This is a good opportunity for guys that maybe aren't proven on the national stage as being ‘the guy to beat.' We want more Metcalfs, so to speak. We're adding to that, but we can keep adding to that. This is a good opportunity.

Q: Is there a lot of difference in the wrestling styles between these two teams?

Brands: The wrestling fan knows the answer to that question, I know the answer to that question. I don't think I need to talk about it. That's what I meant when I said I wouldn't trade one ingredient. Not one individual. Not one coach. Not one iota of the style we wrestle. Not one iota of the way we communicate. Not one iota of how we approach this sport. These guys are about the lifestyle. They're geared toward doing the best they can every time they step out on the mat. They get themselves ready. The one thing about this team I like is that when they get ready to go, they're pretty good.

Q: (Silence)

Brands: Thanks.

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