Pre-NCAA Wrestling Q&A: Brands and more

Tom Brands, along with the head coaches of several other contenders at the NCAA Wrestling Championships spoke with the media on Wednesday, the day before the tournament begins. Read what they had to say in this Q&A.

Head Coaches

Rob Koll: Cornell

Tom Brands: Iowa

Brian Smith: Missouri

Mark Manning: Nebraska

Tom Ryan: Ohio State

Opening Statement

Koll: "Wow, it's an honor to be in this group of coaches and teams."

Brands." We have nine guys here that are motivated and fired up and the next three days will define where they are in the history of our program and we're excited as well."

Smith: "Obviously we're excited to be back in St. Louis, hosting it.  We have eight qualifiers and we're very excited to be here wrestling before the home crowd."

Manning: "We have seven wrestlers here and if you're not excited now, you're never going to be.  We've got the right seven guys here now.  We're excited about going.  I think they're in the right frame of mind and ready to rip through tomorrow."

Ryan: "I'm very excited that Ohio State is here among the universities that are fighting for a title here.  We qualified nine student-athletes.  Buckeye nation is really founded on programs that fight for championships.  We're excited that we're one of those schools now."

What's it Going to Take To Win a National Title…

Ryan: "If we wrestle to our seed we're going to be about 20 to 25 points behind Iowa.  Our student athletes have to wrestle better than what they're capable of wrestling.  Iowa is not a school that's going to lay down."

Manning: "It's going to be a tough tournament.  They've got seven wrestlers ranked among the top five.  If they wrestle up to their seed, and potential, and they've got the one guy that's not seeded that's wrestled in overtime with our guy, they're going to perform well based on their seeds and performance of their team this year.  They're the heads on favorite. 

Smith: "I'm just going to worry about the eight guys I've got (competing).  Just like Tom's worrying about his guys, I'm worrying about my eight guys.  If they go out and wrestle the way they can, we'll have a great tournament."

Koll: "We're Cornell.  We're an Ivy League school.  We've got a lot of biological engineers.  We're working on a little cloud seeding, minor influenza, nothing too serious, just keep the guys out for a couple of days.  (laughter).  Like Brian, I'm not too worried about Iowa, just who we have on our team.  We can't control what they've got."

What Would Have To Happen For Iowa To Lose

Brands: "We have to do what we do best and what the wrestlers can do best to compete and get ready for each match that comes up.  There's not any more important matches than tomorrow morning.  We don't have any pigtails so the first round, those are the most important matches of the tournament at that point in time.  That's where our focus is, and has to be.  Otherwise you'll get yourself into a lot of trouble putting your focus in other places."

On the Big Ten Tournament and Preparing for the NCAA Tournament

Ryan:"For one, I like the mentality of the team right now. I think I'll take a quote from Woody Hays and the last two Big Ten Championships, ‘basically sometimes it takes a butt whooping to cleanse a man's soul.' I think that at the Big Ten Championships the last two years we've had some performances that have done that. We're excited about this tournament. We have some people who in their careers have shown that when the stakes are the highest they perform. J. Jaggers is one of those.  He was third in the Big Ten, first in the country last year. He's third in the Big Ten this year.  This isn't something that in the last two weeks we've changed things.  We've trained 365 days for this tournament.  So, we're excited about it." 

On the NCAA Qualifier Process

Koll: "I was willing to sit back and see how it plays out here and ultimately we ended up doing very well. But even before we ended up getting nine qualifiers, I was actually very pleased with how it was playing it out. I thought it was fair.  I thought if you look at the first matches you're going to get this year, more so than any other year, it's not going to be as many slouches out there, guys aren't slipping through the cracks. So I think this is a pretty darn good system. There's no way they're ever going to have a system where everyone is happy. The person who doesn't get someone in is always going to be disgruntled. Let it go for a couple of years and see how it goes and then evaluate it."

Brands: "It's fair. No complaints here yet.  You wait and see how it goes down the pipes and then evaluate it later.  There's no more fair way to get the best guys in the tournament than to do it based on a formula on same year results."

Smith: "I really miss those Big 12 wild card meetings" (laughter).  No.  I think it's the fairest system we've had in the 19 years I've been involved with this.  There's always going to be somebody left out.  But, this took the kids and their rankings and the three coaches rankings, every coach in the nation got to vote, so probably this is the fairest system we could come up with. "

On scheduling your season

Manning: "Well, there are a lot of those teams at the Las Vegas Tournament and the Reno Tournament of Champions.  I know a lot of Western schools are very involved in a lot of those events.  Wrestle in those events because those are ranking tournaments.  I know a lot of good teams go to those tournaments.  Get your guys in there and hit up.  Or, raise some funds and get to the Midlands, if you can't schedule dual meets with other top programs to increase your RPI.  You've got to get in those tournaments, or go to Midlands, or get entered in the National Duals."

Ryan:" Overall, I think this is a great system, because one, you're basing a student-athletes performance on an entire year and I think that's something important for student-athletes to realize.  Your season shouldn't be measured on one good weekend alone.  I like the fact that you get to look at a guy for the year.  The other thing, is that by wrestling schools out west or out east, if you lose to someone who's got a good winning percentage and has a lot of good wins, it doesn't hurt you as much as losing to someone who doesn't.  If that made any sense at all.  So, they not only look at your winning record, but what quality wins that individual has.  There's a lot of tournament around the country that teams can get in as Coach Manning alluded to. 

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