March 5, 2013
• Watch Davis' News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head wrestling coach Barry Davis spoke about the upcoming Big Ten Wrestling Championships and the Olympic's desision to cut the sport in this week's Monday press conference.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Davis’ remarks can be found below.
Davis: We leave on Thursday for the Big Ten championships. The seeds come out later this evening, so we'll know where our guys are seeded. Tyler Graff is our best guy going in. Connor Medbery is a redshirt freshman. Those guys are both from the same high school. So 133 lbs. and heavyweight from the same high school.
So we'll see what happens. It should be an exciting tournament. It's probably -- it's probably the toughest tournament in the country there. Maybe tougher because it's so compact with ranked guys at each weight class.
Question: I know you competed at the national duals a couple weeks ago. This is a long time between competitions, isn't it?
Davis: Usually have a two week break. We had a three week break. The other days in practice, we brought the guys in, did some matches. Get a little break in between. Beat up physically a little bit, so it gave our guys a chance to heal. This is very important.
Now we're back on track. Guys are ready to go. Had a team dinner last night with the coaches and the athletes, had a great time. Talked about what we need to do as a team. This week here is just fine tuning week, technical skills, position wise, and should be off and ready to go.
Question: What can you accomplish as a team at this meet?
Davis: A lot better than last year. It's a different year. We had a good year this year. The guys have grown quite a bit. Have some good young kids. Take some extra kids down there. We're taking three extra freshmen, four extra freshmen with us down to the event as well, thinking ahead about next year.
I think we're looking to probably get -- taking nine guys down and hoping to get four or five guys through. We'll see what happens. Definitely got to wrestle above our seeds. If we do that, we'll have a great tournament.
Question: Looking at your schedule, looks like you guys are wrestling some of the top teams in the country every time out. Eventually -- I know that toughens you up, but eventually does that become more of a hindrance because you're so fatigued by the end of the year?
Davis: I think what the Big Ten tournament does is make sure your guys are ready week in and week out. We've done well this year. Our guys stayed pretty healthy. We had great competition. I think this can help us in the long run with the Big Ten because we've seen these guys before. Give us a chance as a coaching staff to watch film, break film down, give us a chance to get ready for certain situations.
In the long run, it's going to help us. It's a tough schedule, one of the toughest in the country, but the Big Ten is the Big Ten.
Question: Tyler's (Graff) had a heck of a year, and so has Connor (Medbery) for that matter. Overall, are you surprised by the success you had, or did you figure, okay, you know what, we're going to be we will be better this year in the Big Ten?
Davis: I knew we'd be better. Probably had four guys that are redshirt and could start for us and really help us out during the season as well as NCAA tournament time. We as a staff thought it would be better to redshirt these guys and get together with the last guys we have coming in in the fall.
But maybe the older guys have stepped up, done well. I think we've built as the year's gone along. Obviously, a few upsets in there. Couple of dual meets where we went two or three matches, with six, seven matches, especially against Michigan and Nebraska. Nebraska was seventh at the time, and we beat them as a team at Nebraska.
It's been a good year, an up and down year. It was a tough weekend at the national duals. I think we improved as a team and a staff. Hopefully, we'll have a good weekend coming up and just build from there.
Question: Heavyweight seems to be one of the toughest weight classes you'll participate in this weekend with nine automatic qualifiers. Can you talk about Connor Medbery and the performance he's put together this season?
Davis: The heavyweight is probably the toughest class in the country. We have nine guys probably in the top 50 in the country at that weight class. I think he's developed well. I think the redshirt year definitely helped him out quite a bit.
I think by having Tyler Graff on the team with him and them working together with Ty's experience, et cetera, has been a plus for him. That's going to be a weight class that is up for grabs. You've got the defending national champion in there. No idea if he's going to win it. That, along with actually 174. You've got eight guys of the top 12 in the country in that weight class.
But I think Tyler Graff has a chance of winning the tournament. We'll see what happens from there.
Question: You mentioned it earlier that Tyler Graff has had such a good year. He's had a couple of top five finishes in Big Ten before. What's it going to take for him to break through for his first title?
Davis: In his weight class, you have the number one, two and three ranked guys in weight class. The kid from Ohio State, (Logan) Stieber, defending National Champion. You've got Ramos Amaya, who took third. You've got Tyler Graff. He's got to wrestle a mistake free match and stay within himself. I think a redshirt, the last year was a big plus for him, got him ready for big matches, understand how to train at a high level week in and week out.
He's got as good a shot as anybody to win it, but that weight class is up for grabs. Did a lot of preparation work and mental work with him. Again, he's got to wrestle well. Got to beat number one or two guy in the country. Is that possible? Yes.
Go on there and compete and see what happens and move on to the NCAA championships. That's the real thing right there. The key is to get through the Big Tens into the NCAAs, and that's where you get your chance to win a National Championship.
Question: It's been said before it's a mistake to mess with a wrestler, and it seems the IOC might be attempting to do that with what they're doing right now. What was your reaction when you heard about trying to eliminate wrestling from the Olympics and the reaction you've heard from others in the community?
Davis: I was surprised by that. I guess it's a wakeup call for us at the international level. I think we kind of let our guard down a little bit and didn't do what we were supposed to do as far as taking care of business.
They have a new guy in charge of FILA at the world level. (Raphael) Martinetti stepped out, which is good. In the long run, it will do our sport better now. Definitely going to make some changes at the top. Again, I was surprised by that, but now we've got to regroup, get what we can with IOC to move forward and go from there.
I think it was a wakeup call not only at the international level, but at the college level too for all those coaches.
Question: Just to follow up. One of the traits of a lot of wrestlers is a never say die attitude, whether it's on the mat, training, whatever. Do you see the same thing off the mat in dealing with this issue in the wrestling community?
Davis: Yes. I think there's been a lot with USA Wrestling. Mitch Hall is a former Badger here. We've done a lot of stuff with the college coaches as well as former Olympic athletes like (Dan) Gable, (John) Smith, a couple of guys there. They had the World Cup at Iran two weeks ago, a lot of top teams in the world. A lot of talk there how we're going to approach it with the IOC, things we have to do to move forward. Very positive stuff coming out of that conference there.
I think the real leaders of the movement with the IOC -- the U.S. is somewhat of a small player in this situation. I think Russia, Iran, some of the countries that are going to be a bigger player in the whole thing. Again, they made some changes up top with FILA, got some new people in there, moving forward.
I think we as former athletes, former Olympians, people involved in the sport, we have to show them how important the sport is not just here, but worldwide. I think that's going to happen.
Question: Does the sport have to change at all to maybe make it a little more appealing for TV and all those kinds of things?
Davis: You're talking about at the Olympic level? I think what they've got to do is change the rules again and go back to the 1980s where there's more scoring that way.
If you look at it now, it's a little too much like judo in that way. Hopefully, there's new things going on with the sport. With the new guy coming in with FILA, talking about rule changes, how can they make the sport more exciting, put it more in the athletes' hands.
If you watch it now, it's hard to follow. Need to make it more simple that way too. That's a move in the right direction for us as a sport, from the FILA point of view. That's what we need to do. We're covering that right now.
It's a work in progress. Have the meeting in May, I believe. Have another meeting after that. Hopefully, we can get new rules in at that time and make those changes to make our sport more appealing at the Olympic level all the way around. I think they'll do that.
But, again, it's all a process, and I think that, again, we've got to make sure we're all on the same page moving in the right direction doing the same thing. I think it will happen, but, again, it's going to take some time.