March 7, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, Iowa head coach Tom Brands and Minnesota head coach J Robinson spoke at today's press conference prior to the start of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript can be found below.
Question: Coach (Barry) Davis, Isaac Jordan has had a breakout year, he's a freshman. As far as I know, he's the No. 1 seed, unless something just changed. Was that a surprise how much success he had this early on in his career? Did you expect him to be this successful as a freshman?
Coach Davis: Well, I think last year he took third at Midlands. You know, I think he got a lot better last year. I think now this year here, he didn't do as well as Midlands. I think he got beat by Tom's (Brands) guy earlier. But I think he's a very smart wrestler. He's made some great adjustments. I think that experience -- experience has helped him out quite a bit this year, obviously more matches and in better competition.
Am I surprised? Not really. Somewhat. But I just think he's did developed really well, figured things out, and he's able to make adjustments very quickly. I think that's the key to being good is making that fine tune adjustment, and he's able to do that.
Question: Cael, and for you the same kind of question, at 149 you guys had a few different guys; I believe (James) English is the guy, right?
Coach Sanderson: Yes.
Question: Can you tell us how that decision came about and why you decided to go with James English?
Coach Sanderson: Well, yeah, I guess we just went back and forth. He wrestled early. He injured himself in November and just was having a hard time getting back. Finally, he's feeling good, and so we sent him to an open tournament to show that he could wrestle five matches in a day, and he was able to.
So we ended up just having the guys -- it was definitely a tough deal because we were very happy with Zack Beitz and him stepping up for us this year as a freshman, had some big wins, And then we have Andrew Walton who was coming back off an injury.
So we just thought the right thing to do is just let these guys wrestle, and they wrestled. And English -- English earned the spot. He's healthy and he's feeling good and he's a kid who is in his sixth year. He's been injured a lot of his career and he's paying to go to school just to wrestle.
You know, it's really a great story, and you know, he's here. This is his -- where he wants to be. So that's about it.
Question: There was a wrestle off?
Coach Sanderson: Yes -- and that would have been the short answer. Yes, they wrestled off.
Question: Just making sure you said they wrestled.
Coach Sanderson: Yes.
Question: 125, you have two studs; how did you guys come to that decision for starting Cory Clark?
Tom Brands: I don't think it's a secret; I've said it many times throughout the year: We have two really good guys there that we believe in. You cannot go wrong with either one of them. And I want to keep emphasizing that.
It came down to where one guy gets hit by a nose, and sometimes you make those decisions. And the great thing about it is, is Gilman has been on board. And sometimes you worry about that.
But not with either one of those guys. I think they are both bought into the point where it's all good; not that you're not disappointed, not that you don't want what you want, but still, a bright future.
Question: Coach (J) Robinson, you're sitting up here with the teams of the top three ranked teams in the nation. What are your expectations going into this meet and what are you kind of expecting?
J Robinson: Well, I think it's like any Big Ten tournament; that you've come to realize that this is the premiere -- premiere conference in the country, and that basically, it's not getting any easier.
Twenty-eight years ago, it was a lot easier than it is now, and you have guys here that come here and everybody wants the same thing. These guys are basically about the pursuit of excellence and they bring that with their team and they bring that attitude and their philosophy.
So when you come to this tournament, you have to be prepared. It's, in essence, at some weight classes, if you look at the heavyweight class, it is a mini-national tournament, right, and that's the quality that the conference has.
And so it's a great thing, because it prepares us for the national tournament, and it gives us a chance to see where our guys are and make any adjustments for the very, very end.
But I think it's exciting. It's exciting, because when you get around these guys, is that -- the kids on your team, that's what they want. They want competition. They want excitement. They want to be the best.
And when you get that in a very confined area, okay, it becomes an explosive thing and emotions will run high this weekend. And Steve Combs told me when I got in coaching, he goes: You'll either be very, very ecstatic and high, or you'll be very, very, very low and there's nowhere in between. And you'll run all those emotions here in the next two days, but that's what we do and that's what we love and that's what our kids do.
I think that being here in Wisconsin is a great thing with Barry here at the Kohl Center is pretty exceptional. And to think that there's 8,000 tickets, Barry Alvarez said that there's 8,000 tickets been sold, it means it's important here and there's going to be a lot of people coming to make it even better.
Question: I guess for Coach Brands and Sanderson, just saying what he said about the 8,000, you guys probably wrestle in the two biggest home arenas. What do you think that environment leads to this week and the wrestlers and I guess the overall for this tournament?
Tom Brands: I think it's a good thing to say or to repeat what J said; I think it's good and there's going to be a walk-up and they will be even better, and you know what, keep bringing them in.
I don't know where it ranks with Big Ten attendance, but it seems like they have done a good job, facility looks good. Those are things that I don't think you notice too much, but when it's easy to get around, you're not noticing things, then they have done their job and I feel like they have done their job.
Coach Sanderson: Yeah, I don't have much to add to that. It's just exciting. I think the more fans the better. These guys in the Big Ten are used to that but I think it just gives you an idea of what people are expecting from this weekend. It's going to be a lot of fun and very competitive.
Question: Coach Robinson, Tony Nelson comes into the season, two-time defending champ, that said, because it -- he didn't have a great season I guess, considering he's a two-time national champ had probably as many losses as he did in the two years prior; he didn't wrestle at National Duals, I don't think. Has he been dinged up? Has it been a confidence thing?
J Robinson: No, he got dinged up a little bit and he could have wrestled in the National Duals and he could have wrestled against Iowa State. We just kind of let it heal.
You look at the year; the year is just a preparation for this weekend and next weekend. That's it, okay. If he does what he's supposed to do these two weekends, everybody will forget the rest of the year.
And that's what -- that's what we do. That's what we are taught as wrestlers our whole lives. That's what we practice, right. You pretty much ask any wrestler, it's all about if you're standing on the podium in the end. You know, nobody talks about the season and nobody talks about all the other things. They only talk about one thing.
So that's what everybody is focused on here the next month, whether it be the Big Ten or the MAC or the Pac-10, it's getting on that podium and then getting to the national tournament. Tony has been there before. He knows what he has to do. Now he's got a chance to do it and he's got a long road, there's no doubt, but every other heavyweight has got the same problem.
So it will be fun. A lot of people walk away when the heavyweights come on, nobody is walking away this year, when the heavyweights come to do battle.
Question: Coach Sanderson, you have five of the top seeds, and as you go for your fourth straight title. How are you feeling about your team?
Coach Sanderson: Well, we feel good about our team, but this tournament, you've got to hit the ground running, the one through five is usually -- there's not a huge difference. So they settle it out there.
You know, it's -- it's just a matter of just like anybody else, you have to get out there and get the job done this weekend. The past is the past and the present is now.
Question: You coached at Iowa State and now here; can you compare the Big 12 tournament to this one and how it might prepare you for two weeks later? This is bigger and tougher, you would think, or more of a grind, anyways. Does it mean matter?
Coach Sanderson: I think you adjust accordingly. Obviously the Big Ten tournament is more of a griped, so you have to be a little -- you have to do things a little differently.
But also, there's a higher expectation with that, and I think that makes your kids tougher with the dual meets throughout the year. So I think it's a give and take, but if you look at history, I think as the conference gets tougher, our guys do better at the national tournament.
Yeah, it's a tough weekend but it's also great preparation for our guys, and it starts from -- it starts from day one.
Question: I'll ask you what I've asked the others. You come in, I think you have eight wrestlers seeded within the top four. How are you just feeling about your team and preparation coming into this?
Tom Brands: We feel good. I think we always feel good. We believe in our guys, and I think that's what you do as a coach and you train and you get ready and you send them out to battle and they love to battle and rise above. It's about beating the competition. You know, we have not done that in the past every time, and we want to get back to that.
Question: Coach Davis, can you talk to us about your 157-pounder, the emergence of the young man named (Isaac) Jordan?
Coach Davis: I got a question on that earlier. I just think he's done a great job throughout the year. He's got high goals, high expectations. Obviously he comes from a family background. His dad, Jim, won two state titles here at UW. So his uncle, Jeff, two-time All-American. His brother, Bill, was an All-American for us two years ago.
People talk about him being No. 1 seed, is that -- he's nervous about that, how is he going to handle that. You watch the kid running around the room, it's like an 18-year-old kid having fun in there. But when it's time to get serious, he gets serious. Again he's very smart, can make adjustments very quickly, learning new skills as well as making adjustments during the match. But he's able to hold position and concentrate for a long period of time. I think he's well beyond his years.
Question: Cael, I asked him the same question, Zain Retherford, phenomenal season. Would you have foreseen this happening, him being as dominant as he has been so far?
Coach Sanderson: Well, I don't think you could ever predict that. I think we are obviously very happy with him. We knew when we were recruiting him that he was a tough, tough kid, and you know, the reports that we got and what we saw was that, you know, he was the hardest working kid in the room, always -- he was always running the fastest and wrestling the hardest.
So you add that with just poise and a kid that loves to compete and a great family, and you have a competitor. So we are very happy with him. More than just his wins right now; just the way he competes. You know, just the calm and the poise that he brings, and that's a big deal.
Question: Has there been any game planning for a potential -- not to give away his game plan, but is there any game plan for a potential rematch with Logan?
Coach Sanderson: Well, I think he's preparing for the best every day, and you know, Stieber is pretty straightforward. He's going to come at you and everyone knows what he's going to do. But it's easy to know what's going to happen; it's another thing, you know, to stop it and to do what you do.
So he's been preparing for that without question. You know, so if we see that match up, I'm excited to see a rematch I think, just like anybody else.
Question: Coach Davis, you've talked about Isaac Jordan, but what has to happen at some of the other weight classes for your team to make noise in this tournament?
Coach Davis: Well, I think I told our guys, being a great team, I think these guys said the same thing, get teams wrestle above their seeds. So we talked about that. All ten guys got to hit on all ten cylinders at the same time. I think if we can do that, we can have a great tournament. But the key is that every guy steps up to the mat, wrestles above his seed. If we do that, we're headed in the right direction.
One last thing, I just want to say thanks to Dave Miller and Dalmer Match (ph) for the job they have done with the mats out there, etc., and looking forward to, I know Scott Casper, our announcer of the Big Ten, has some great things for us on Sunday afternoon, as well, and I give a shout to those guys, we appreciate that very much.