I’m here with Terry Brands in his office in the Iowa Wrestling facility.
To start off with Coach Brands, what are your thoughts on the team so far this season?
Terry Brands: My first reaction is probably feeling pretty decent about where things are. It’s one of those things where I’ll say to ask me in March after the NCAA Tournament to see how we are doing. So you know I’m optimistic in that I like our lineup and I like our guys. I wouldn’t trade any of our guys for anybody out there. I think the key is to get the consistency out there week in and week out then they are capable of getting that to come out of them in their wrestling.
OK, let’s just jump right in to 125. Thomas Gilman, after having a great off season looks pretty tough. Gilman looks like a National Champion to me.
Terry Brands: Great leadership qualities there. He’s just a doer. He keeps his mouth shut and his ears open and goes to work and gets done what is expected for that National Championship mentality. He carries that.
When you have a wrestler like that, do you convey to them that you expect them to win the National title or do you know that a National title is his goal? How do you work with a wrestler like that to communicate to them what you expect of them?
Terry Brands: There’s no question that it is his goal and that probably does not need to be said. We talk about more of getting better in certain areas like in on a single or high crotch and being able to do certain things. To give yourself the best chance to be at the top stand. I would say it is a pretty good connection their mentally between him and the coaching staff about what he’s after. There’s no question.
Cory Clark at 133. I was very high on him last year when he placed fifth at 125. I just think the best is yet to come from Cory Clark in competition from what I have seen from him in the room.
Terry Brands: He’s gonna have to figure some things out with his wrestling as far as you see him in the room scrapping it up with guys and even two days out of weigh-ins he looks really, really energetic. He’s big, his weight is not too low. And then as we approach competition we have to get him where he has a good schedule and he is carrying that same type of physicalness that he has in the practice room just prior to the weigh-in and into his match. We gotta tweak some things there for him to have that energy that he has in the practice room in his matches.
So is 133 a good weight for Clark then?
Terry Brands: It is actually not a big cut for him at all. What I mean by that is eating schedule. He’s never more than six or seven over during the week and then you bring him in for a weigh in and figure out that you cannot go from eight o’clock in the morning until six at night without eating. We gotta figure that part out and get him where he is on a good schedule for weigh in. I thinks he’s doing a good job of nailing that down. We’ll see.
At 141, you have had both Josh Dziewa and Topher Carton in the lineup. Is that going to be a wrestle-off situation or will you evaluate as you go?
Terry Brands: I don’t think it’s going to be a wrestle-off situation. I think it will be more of a Midlands performance for who we put in their. Dziewa is our guy right now and Carton is somebody who we think very highly of. It’s really a question of what does he think of himself. It’s one of those things where you see him show up in practice and he does some really good things and then the next practice we have to keep that consistency. He’s one of those guys that we have to keep him thinking that he’s the guy and keep him motivated and then have him come in and have it manifest that he wants to be the guy in the practice room.
But Dziewa is doing a good job, he is keeping his weight down probably for the first time since he has been at Iowa that we have seen his weight under control this early. And that is only going to be big going down the stretch into March.
Also at 149, we have seen both Brody Grothus and Brandon Sorensen in the varsity lineup. What are you looking at for in progress at 149?
Terry Brands: Both are capable. We like them both. Again, it’s going to be a Midlands thing more than likely. Here’s the thing. This is what we say. If Sorensen is upset because we go with Grothus or Grothus is upset because we go with Sorensen, than we tell them it is on them. That is what we tell them as coaches. If you want to be the guy, then be the guy. Go to Midlands, do your job, win the dog-gone tournament and then display Championship kind of wrestling through the Big Ten schedule leading to Nationals Duals and you’re going to be the guy. Don’t give that spot back.
You know it’s one of those things that we communicate to a fan that is asking and that is what we tell our wrestlers. The same thing with Clark and Gilman last year. You know they kind of made us be the “bad guy” in choosing one of them. We needed Clark to come to the front at Midlands. When Gilman did then we needed him to manifest that level of wrestling throughout the dual meet season. Neither guy really took that spot over. They made it tough on us. If we have to make a tough call, then you know us. We’ll make it.
At 157 we have seen both Michael Kelly, a senior, and Junior College transfer Edwin Cooper in the starting lineup. Will that be the same situation as at 141 and 149?
Terry Brands: I think so. I think that Kelly has the nod right now. The thing with Mike Kelly is he has to realize what he is capable of. He has realize the brawn that he brings to the mat. What I mean by that is like the Iowa State match. That match is a situation he had a chance to bury that guy. If you are looking at it from a fan perspective or from a coaching perspective. But for whatever reason throughout his career where he is having a hard time putting the nail in the coffin sometimes. And even when he was a freshman he was in those matches with the best guys in the country by one or two points. Now it is time to figure how to get my hand raised if I am Mike Kelly. If you want to be the guy Mike Kelly then get your hand raised and get it raised in a very, very convincing way. We like him, we like his style. The “Brawler” type and he brings a lot of physicalness to the mat and that’s a good thing and he has to make that work for him.
Will Cooper also be wrestling at Midlands?
Terry Brands: Cooper will be at Midlands and it’s not like he’s out of it my any means. If he goes to Midlands and wins the bracket going away and does the things we’re talking about through the Big Ten schedule, well then he’s gonna be the guy. It really is that simple. As far as being judged what is fair and what is not fair, that is as simple as I can say it. Go out, dominate, and keep dominating and the spot is yours. It’s really that simple.
Nick Moore at 165, a senior. Disappointing season last year the way that it ended but he looked real good during the regular season. Any changes that are going to made? How do you deal with that to change the end result?
Terry Brands: We Really like him. We like what he is capable of. Now again it is one of those things where Nick, do you know what we see? Do you want to get outside of your body and see how you wrestle? Because you can get the job done. You are explosive, you are extremely powerful, and you have good lungs. Now let’s get it together upstairs between the ears. If that’s where it’s at. Otherwise let’s figure it out. Because he is capable and he is fun to watch when he is on and we like him. It’s gonna be one of those things that I was talking about up front, consistency. Let’s keep it consistent and get you going. We wound you up, we’re gonna let you go do it, now go do it because you are capable.
Senior Mike Evans at 174. He came so close to being a finalist last year. He is kind of carrying the torch of being the tough guy on the team. Is his health all the way there?
Terry Brands: He’s healthy. He’s never not been healthy. He’s had a few tweaks here and there but everybody does and he has done a great job of dealing with that. The thing with Mike Evans is this year we have seen a lot of leadership qualities emerge. In his practices it is showing up where he is all about dominating. He is nothing short of just scoring points every second of the practice. That will serve him well. The thing is that he has to carry that from the practice room and take that into his matches. And you see spurts of that and the Iowa fans love him and he is close to a crowd favorite if not the crowd favorite. We like what he is capable of, we like what his potential is, and we have seen it in the practice room and now we’ve gotta make sense of that on the mat all of the time.
184, Sammy Brooks, a sophomore who made a World Team two years ago and is an exciting wrestler to watch. Fans like me are really excited to see Sammy Brooks in there. Big recruit out of the Chicago area. I think he is really going to be a fan favorite after wrestling at 184 and 197 last year. What are you looking for out of Sammy Brooks?
Terry Brands: He’s doing it. If there was another guy at his weight he would be the guy because he is doing it. He’s coming in and working hard. His weight is under control and manageable, his mindset is right. When you talk to him in frustrating circumstances he listens and he has an open mind and makes corrections as he sees fit. Out there on the Carver Arena floor and in enemy territory on the road he does a real good job of being rock solid. We have not been tested a whole lot this year. Leland Witherspoon came in here and tested us a little bit but this Big Ten schedule, if he keeps doing the things he’s doing, and we are going to see a lot more out of Sam Brooks, that’s for sure.
At 197, most fans are probably ready for Nathan Burak, who became an All American last year, to crack the lineup. Will Nathan Burak be the man at 197 this year and will he be wrestling at Midlands for Iowa or will he be wrestling unattached?
Terry Brands: He will be wrestling at Midlands unattached and he is healthy. He could have went against Iowa State. It was one of those things where we had not used him and we had the redshirt and it was a situation where we could have rested him one more week. And then Michigan State, it’s the same thing where we could rest him one more week and see where his mindset is and then wind him up and send him out on the mat at Midlands and see if he’s ready to go out and win a National title. He might be the best guy in our room but that does not help us much if he is top twelve or off the podium in March or even eighth or a small All American as they say. He should be above and beyond that in his mind and looking towards being the title contender at his weight.
Of all the Iowa wrestlers that I have seen in the room so far as a fan in the bleachers this year, the most impressive has been Bobby Telford. I think he looks healthy and onery. A healthy and ornery Bobby Telford looks like a winning combination to me. How do you feel about Telford right now?
Terry Brands: I would have to agree with you. He’s one of those seniors where we have seen a lot of great leadership qualities in him going back into the Spring. He did not get what he wanted last year. He lost that match in the All American round to McMullan of Northwestern and he’s gonna see him in at Midlands. We like him. We really like Telford. We like his power, we like his lungs, his shape is very strong right now. The thing I like best about Telford is his response. He’s comes out if things are not going his way he wants them to or if things are a little slow in practice and you talk to him or bark at him to pick up his hand fighting or pick up the pace, it’s automatic and boom, he just does it. And that’s critical.
Overall as a team, I wanted to mention that when you had Alex Meyer go up two weight classes to 197 and had a tough kid that was the best conditioned wrestler that Michigan State had. That guy wrestled Burak close last year. Tough kid. Meyer won such an exciting match. To me that took me back to the past to the Old School days when Iowa had the depth to take a second string wrestler who is an up and comer, and bump him up two weight classes to beat a quality Big Ten opponent. I just thought that was a great example of where your program is right now.
Terry Brands: Well I appreciate that and I agree with your evaluation of Meyer going out here and doing what he did. Like you said, against a very quality opponent. The thing with Meyer is that he’s business. He comes in and he’s not late for workouts. He’s like a majority of ours guys in that he is extremely disciplined because this is very, very important to him. It doesn’t matter if you put him up to heavyweight, you’re gonna get the same out of him. Because that’s the way he is, he wants to wrestle. He wants to be in the lineup. We’re going to have him back down to 174 for Midlands. We will hopefully have him test Evans and push him. From Alex Meyer’s perspective, we’re looking for him to win the Midlands. From Mike Evans’ perspective we’re looking for him to win the Midlands.
So you can have ten total point scorers for Midlands, but they do not have to be at the ten different weights?
Terry Brands: Correct.
You can take how many total wrestlers for the University of Iowa?
Terry Brands: They are giving us fifteen spots his year.
Freshman can now wrestle at the Midlands again?
Terry Brands: Freshmen can now wrestle and we are going to see freshman wrestling unattached from his program in the Midlands. We’re still looking, we’re still waiting for certain things to emerge at certain weight classes.
So what do yo have for a schedule coming up?
Terry Brands: We leave on the 28th for Midlands and then compete on the 29th and 30th. We come back for one night. New Year’s day we fly to New Jersey and wrestle Rutgers on the 2nd. Transport over to Columbus, Ohio and wrestle Ohio State on the 4th. Come home and travel to Stillwater and wrestle Oklahoma State the following Friday on the 9th. Great, great challenges and really, really fired up to hit those road trips.
So you will know a lot more about your team after the Oklahoma State meet?
Terry Brands: We’ll know a lot more about our team at 5 o’clock tonight. We’ve got guys coming through and we learn and see how they progress every day. We have an awesome working environment to be in right now.
Thank you for your time.
Terry Brands: Any time. Thanks for having me.