Feb. 28, 2012
MADISON, Wis.-- Wrestling head coach addressed the media at Wisconsin's weekly Monday news conference as the Badgers enter the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on March 3-4. Davis answered questions on the Big Ten tournament, his young coaching staff and Olympic redshirts, among other topics. A full transcript follows.
View the archived video footage.
Barry Davis: I think we're looking forward to the Big Ten tournament, had kind of a tough dual meet season, but (we have) a new coaching staff. A lot of young men made it through in our lineup. I mean, maybe (it is) not quite right as it should be, but (we have) come a long ways. I think there's a chance (for) our team to redeem itself a little bit, so we're looking forward to it. We had about three weeks to prepare from our last dual meet. I think they did a good job preparation-wise, and, hopefully, we (have) a chance to bounce back and get some guys in the NCAAs here later in March.
QUESTION #1: You know, we know about the three wrestlers trying to get ready for the Olympics, but how difficult was it with a new coaching staff for you and for the guys to get used to these guys?
DAVIS: Two of the guys I've known, Trevor Brandvold and Kyle Ruschell, they wrestled for me. But, again, you've (have) three kids that are 24 years old coming on staff. They're young. They're green. Again, you're losing three of your best guys to redshirt. But, overall, I think they've grown as a staff, and we've grown as a team as well together. They've learned a lot.
It's been a rough year for them. They're not used to this type of a season, but as the guys learn from it and move forward, and when the season gets done, we'll sit down and take notes. When you're young like that, you can get frustrated with a season like this, but they've hung together. They've learned a lot about themselves, about the team as well, and you get situations like this right here (when) things don't go like you want them to go. It's tough as an athlete and a coach.
As an athlete, you can control things. As a coach, you really can't that much. But they've done a good job (mentally), staying in touch and doing the right things. I think they'll grow from it and I think they've done a lot better job as the season's gone along too.
QUESTION #2: What do you expect from the tournament coming up this weekend, and is it sort of a new season, sort of a new life sort of now for your guys? Do they have that mentality?
DAVIS: I think so. I told the guys the other day, everybody's 0-0 going into the tournament. And I've done a lot of film watching. At their last dual meet, as a staff, we sat down and planned things out and made sure guys were taking notes.
And the key is we (have) to kind of tighten things up. We (have) to make our own breaks, a chance for some of these guys to redeem themselves and get to the NCAAs, and, hopefully, making big improvements for the following year. But (we did) a lot of film watching. (There were) a lot of technical things to watch and to make sure we do things right. But I know I'm excited. I think they are too. Again, (it is) a chance for us to redeem themselves from the dual meet season.
QUESTION #3: I asked about your assistant coaches. How have you handled this?
DAVIS: Pretty well. I mean it's something that you don't really plan on going through. But I think as a coach, with those three young men that are sitting out for the Olympics right now, that was the right move for all three of those guys. Obviously, it's going to be tough on your program. But I think giving those guys a chance to wrestle in the Olympic Games, to reach that goal that they have as an athlete, as a coach, I think you have to make that move.
By doing that, they'll come back better overall, more mature, (and) more experienced. That's a great thing. Of course, it's tough. (I had) a lot of sleepless nights, late night walking around thinking about things, taking a lot of notes. But I've learned from it myself too, from the young staff, young athletes, you learn from it. You make changes, and you move forward, and you improve from it.
So I think it'll make me a better coach (and) make them better coaches at the same time, but it is difficult. As a coach though, you (have) to do what's right for the athletes in that situation with those three main guys, and we did that.
QUESTION #4: Who do you think's shown the most improvement individually for your team this year?
DAVIS: I would think Ben Jordan probably, our 165 pounder who was at 174 last year. Actually, Andrew Howe was 165 last year. He's dropped down. And I think Cole Tobin over at heavyweight, as well as Jackson Hein. Those three guys there have probably shown the most improvement overall, and I think that they've got a great chance to hopefully get in the NCAAs.
QUESTION #5: To get to the NCAAs, what do they need to do?
DAVIS: Well, each weight class is qualified in itself. But new NCAA rules, the top 29 guys in the country have an automatic slot to get there, so right now, as of the Big Ten Tournament, we have 74 spots available for our athletes. Some of the guys have five qualifying spots, and heavyweight has ten. So you've got to meet that qualifying spot. So right now, we've got to have one guy seeded in the tournament. That means the other nine guys have to step up similar and (take) that opportunity to be in that slot, be it seven guys, five guys, or six guys. So, hopefully, we can get that done.
We (have) three guys wrestling for the Olympic team (and) we had two coaches that qualified already for the team, Ryan Morningstar as well as Trevor Brandvold, so I'm trying to put three others on the team. And then we're still trying to get one more guy to qualify as a coach on our coaching staff. So it's been a busy year all the way around.
QUESTION #6: What is the process for those three guys that are redshirting in terms of them trying to qualify? What do they have left, and how often do you stay in touch with them and help them out?
DAVIS: Two of the guys have already qualified. They have a qualifying spot, Andrew Howe and Tyler Graff. And Andrew just took a second in a tournament in Russia, beat the Olympic silver medalist in 2008, so I think he's hitting his stride right now.
Tyler Graff did the same thing (at a) different tournament up in Russia. He took second too. We're still trying to get Rutt qualified. He has a last chance qualifier in Waterloo (on) April 1, as well as one of our coaches, Eric (Bugenhagen) trying to qualify as well. So if they qualify, they meet the final trials, and it's all in one day down in Iowa City.
So on that day, you'll be at your best. If you're not, it's like, almost like hockey and basketball . . . one match and you're out. So, hopefully, at that time, they'll be at their best and see what happens in the trials there in April.