I had a chance to sit down with Iowa Associate Head Coach Terry Brands for an interview.
Coach Brand’s, first of all, I would like to get your comments about the Hawks performance against Illinois and Northwestern.
Terry Brands: The Illinois match, let’s put it this way, the Northwestern meet after the Illinois meet our guys did a really good job of understanding what was communicated to them after the Illinois meet. Based of how the performance went, maybe the score looked lopsided and how we looked against Illinois, there were not a lot of healthy things going on, they got the message. I think part of that is because of the layover from Midlands to the Illinois meet, first weighin, all the things factor in and I think it did catch our team off guard a little bit.
At 125, Thomas Gilman has been lights out all year. He continues to look dominating with a quick tech fall against Illinois and a pin in just 0:56 against Northwestern.
Terry Brands: He was good all weekend. Going back to my initial comments about the Illinois meet. Gilman had his opponent on his back four or five times and the kid wiggled out of it. And that’s what we’re talking about. And then he heard what we were saying and then corrected it in his own little way. He had the same exact thing happen to him against Northwestern in a headlock and the kid got out and then the next time he got a cradle locked up and put him away. It showed progress. I am not going to judge the quality of the opponent. The bottom line is that you are getting those bonus points when you can get them because you are wrestling to display your best wrestling every time out and that’s the way it went with him.
At 133, Cory Clark had a setback against Zane Richards of Illinois, his first of the season. Clark then came back with a dominating win at Northwestern where he was ahead by fourteen points I believe and scored the fall. Where do you see Cory Clark moving forward from this.
Terry Brands: He’s gonna have to move forward. The Zane Richards match, he did a good job of getting the overtime, but he really did not have any action in the match. So you look at the situation, he forced the overtime with the right call, but you are not going to get that call nine times out of ten. So you’re in a situation where it’s 3-2 and you have to get a takedown there in regulation. And then he had a leg for a brief moment in overtime and he is just not penetrating to the legs, securing the legs, and finishing. He was trying to shoot and finish all at once and he kind of got in a straight line and Richards just kind of went around behind him for an overtime win. He has his hands down on the mat and it was two. Two years ago it would not have been a takedown. With the rule change, it was a takedown. So he’s gonna have to move forward and he will have to figure it out. We talked to him pretty hard just again yesterday after the win against Northwestern. The first seconds of the match his opponent was in on his legs. That’s not really moving forward. I’m gonna be hard on him and he’s knows what expectations he has for himself and from us and we’re on the same page there so he appreciates the candor.
Topher Carton had a hard fought win at Illinois and then received a Forfeit at Northwestern. Any comments on Topher Carton and your 141 pound spot.
Terry Brands: Logan Ryan has kind of moved to the side for awhile until he works on some things. Topher Carton is doing an OK job. In the practice room he does a good job. But doesn’t make the connection between practice and competition. What I mean by that is in the practice room we see the same things that happen there that happen in the match against Illinois where Ervin was starting to fade hard. He must have had a hard weigh in or he wasn’t ready to go and felt Carton’s strength. He was ready to be done. He was ready to break. And we didn’t sense that. We were more focused on us. What I mean by that is Topher was more focused on how Topher feels and not worrying about that and focusing on what’s next. He did a good job of getting the win but there should have been a wider gap there from the way we see it moving forward with him.
Another situation was with Brody Grothus this weekend. It was his first time back since shoulder surgery in July. He wrestled at the Pat Flash Flanagan Open in Dubuque. I think he had three matches. It’s really, really important that we get him plugged in not necessarily because he’s the guy, but because we will need depth there for the entire team.
At 149, I have been very impressed with Brandon Sorensen all season. He had a solid win against Illinois with a Major Decision and he was leading his match against Tsirtsis in an unfortunate situation with an injury. I thought it was great to see the shot that he was going to finish in the second period instead of overtime like in the Midlands finals. There were some different tactics with Tsirtsis being on his knees the first period that kind of threw me for a loop as a fan because it looked so different.
Terry Brands: I would agree with you with the change in tactics a little bit. I think that Brandon maybe did not have the action that he needed to in that first period. I know that he feels that way. If you read his comments in the press and what he said he was spot on. He said that I got to him earlier than I did at Midlands, I rode him longer than I did at Midlands, now I have to get to him multiple times each period and ride him more. So he’s moved from hitting that shot off in overtime after he was in three or four times deep at Midlands, and finished that high crotch in overtime. Now he’s in on a single in the second period. He’s aware of it and that shows a lot of thought about what his goals and aspirations are which is to be on the top stand at the NCAA Tournament and to not just be there, but to dominate. To widen that gap against his opponents. We really like the way he approaches the sport and how he gives us feedback and how he is proactive in talking to media and press the way that he did. That was really positive in what he said.
Edwin Cooper responded from the Illinois match with a quick fall against Northwestern in just 1:22. He was very aggressive and sharp against Northwestern.
Terry Brands: The most important thing with Edwin Cooper is believing in his abilities regardless of his opponents. You can clearly see on his face that when he wrestles an opponent that he believes he can win, it is different than when he is wrestling the number one ranked guy Martinez. I can see it because it is very clear to me. He has to decide than he can be the guy and beat anybody when he approaches the sport in a really, really confident and positive way. You have to go out and wrestle hard, you have to wrestle fast, you have to wrestle explosive. You have to be able to react and bring those qualities to your opponent regardless of who he is especially Isaiah Martinez. If you’re going to pick who you are going to be your best at, it would be that guy, the proven best guy in the country this year and last year. He never gave himself a chance in that match. So maybe that’s the situation where he knows he has more. At Midlands kind of the same thing with Gantt of North Carolina State where he did not have that confidence like we have seen with Northwestern. He came out with a different look on his face and he smashed him. We have seen it on our duals and that’s what we need to get out of him.
At 165, Patrick Rhoads also responded with a win against Northwestern after a setback at Illinois.
Terry Brands: Pat Rhoads, the thing with him is that he is so fast and explosive, he’s a very. very fast twitch guy. But he waits for his opponent and then reacts. That doesn’t make sense to me. If you have that type of explosion, that fast twitch ability, why not have your opponent react to you. Then you’re there, then you’re gone, then you’re in on him and you put him down hard. Instead of kind of being there, the guy goes, then I react, and I try and get to a guy. That was really the difference in the match against Rodriguez of Illinois. He was ranked high and we were in the match, we were in on a leg and working for a go behind to make it close and we fell over because we were thinking too much instead of having our opponent on his heels.
I was very excited to see Alex Meyer at 174 this past weekend. Regardless of his level of competition, I liked seeing him come out more aggressive and rack up 24 points against Illinois and then score a 15-0 Tech Fall against Northwestern. I really liked his energy that was the best I have seen from him this year and I found that to be very encouraging.
Terry Brands: He’s similar to Sorensen, to Burak, to Gilman, they are very coachable and open minded and proactive in their development. What I mean by that is that all of those guys mentioned know and coach themselves. They take the feedback but they also take the feedback from their matches quickly. Meyer, what he did at Illinois was a really good job in that the quality of opponent may not have been there, but he made adjustments from the Illinois dual that helped in the Northwestern dual. Meyer faced the backup from Illinois because of an injury but then he had Sliga of Northwestern and hammered him (15-0 Tech Fall). That was a really, really good sign with him being proactive with himself and taking responsibility for himself for his wrestling, and then understanding what is being communicated to him and applying it.
At 184, Sammy Brooks picked up a couple of wins. Brooks looked real solid on his takedowns and looked the best he has looked in a month in the top position.
Terry Brands: Brooks needs to go forward with that, especially in that first dual. He got that first takedown and rides him for 1:50 and picked him up on multiple occasions, a great, great learning tool for our guys because it showed that when an opponent stands up, we put them down, they stand up again and we let them go. Well, Sam Brooks picked his guy up seven or eight times in the first period alone and dropped him back down and was ahead 2-0 going into the second period. That’s big. Especially in that tough of a match. It ended up being a 6-1 match where is could have been a 2-1, 2-2, or 3-2 type of match, and he didn’t let it be that close. He did a really good job of slamming the door against a really good guy. Now we have to go forward with that, we have to keep picking him up and putting him down flat. He come back up and you put him down. He comes back up and you put him down. He comes up again, you pick him up and put him down flat! Put him flat so you do not have to deal with it. But good job with great follow up. He got the pin. Had the tech, buried the half and decked him. We set history with that. The largest margin by an Iowa team ever against a Big Ten school. That’s big. The big reason why is it was not just about the tech fall to him.
Nathan Burak at 197, as I mentioned earlier with Thomas Gilman, has just been lights out this season. He is scoring more points and putting people away. After solid wins against Illinois and Northwestern, Burak was my Wrestler of the Week. I believe Burak has it all to win a National title this season.
Terry Brands: I agree and going back to Midlands in the finals, he could have easily been in a 5-3 type of match. He’s widened the gap there. It’s big, it’s big. In the Illinois match he had a buzzsaw opponent that was explosive and he did a good job of shutting him down. Close match for a while and he just kept coming and kept coming. To win that match 13-6 when he it could have been close if he had got conservative it would have been a 5-3 match. He slammed the door on him. We really like that way that Burak is slamming the door on his opponents. He is scoring more points when he has the lead late in the match and that is huge. Matches that would have been 5-3 or 5-4 last year are now 9-3 type of scores. That is huge and we love seeing that.
Sam Stoll had a strategic match won on mat wrestling against Black from Illinois, who was a huge recruit. He then won a typical Sam Stoll type match by pushing the pace to tire his opponent from Northwestern out and recorded the fall. It was easy to see on TV that that guy did not want to wrestle anymore as Stoll got the pin.
Terry Brands: The Black match at Illinois he came out in typical Illinois style to strategize by running around the mat. I don’t know if he understood that you can go across and get ahold of a guy and start to do the things that you want to do to an opponent. Or it was more of him being frustrated with the guy kind of darting here and there and poking him in the head. He was more frustrated and didn’t deal with it maybe the way he needed to. That was what happened to him when we got him on the mat and rode the living dog out of him and that was the difference in the match, 2-0 against like you said a quality opponent. There are points being left off of the board there. He got ridden a little too long there. I’m not being negative, I’m being honest. I’m being forthright. I want him to be accountable for his wrestling and understand that there are a lot of situations that he can get better at and he does do that and it showed.
Same kind of thing at Northwestern where he is getting wizzard down and the kid kicked through on the edge of the mat a couple of times and then limped down on the edge of the mat the third time and got the takedown and rode him the rest of the period. The opponent chose down in the second and he pins him. It shows progress and that he’s working on it and that he is aware of it. From a team perspective, that was the number one positive thing that happened this weekend. What we saw is that guys worked on the areas where they were maybe a little bit off and where they were not very sharp on Friday. To see that in a two-day turnaround is huge.