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March 15, 2017
New York, New York
THE MODERATOR: Beginning next to me and going to your right are student-athletes J'den Cox of Missouri, Gabe Dean of Cornell, Thomas Gilman of Iowa, Zain Retherford of Penn State and Kyle Snyder Ohio State.
J'DEN COX: I'm just excited to be here. I think we've got a lot of great wrestling that's happening this year. And I'm looking forward to going out there and being under the lights, putting on a good show. Just getting ready to rock and roll, I guess.
GABE DEAN: Just to second what J'den said, just happy to be here, happy to compete, happy for the opportunity that lays in front of me. And thank you to St. Louis for putting it on again.
THOMAS GILMAN: I don't have much to say, just ready to go, ready to be here, and let's get after it.
ZAIN RETHERFORD: Let's have some fun. That's it.
KYLE SNYDER: Similar to what everybody else said, just excited to compete. It's going to be a good team race this year. I think there's a lot of teams that, couple teams that can challenge to win this tournament, and I'm excited about that. Excited about the opportunity to compete for Ohio State and score a lot of points.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Kyle, just your thoughts about being named this morning as a finalist for the AAU Sullivan Award, the nation's top amateur athlete? And a secondary question about what, if anything, has changed in your life since you won the Olympic gold medal?
KYLE SNYDER: Thank you. Yeah, it's a big honor to be named, I think there's seven finalists, one of seven finalists for this award.
I think three other wrestlers have won this award before me -- John Smith, Bruce Baumgartner and Rulon Gardner. So a wrestler hasn't won in a long time, but a Buckeye won it a couple of years ago, Ezekiel Elliott. So it will be cool to win this award and join the company of some other elite athletes.
Since winning the Olympics, I would say things have been pretty similar. I feel like maybe some more people know me and I've had some opportunities to do some cool things and meet some new people.
But other than that, the wrestling is the same, practice is the same. Friends and family are the same. So for the most part life seems relatively similar, which is good, because before the Olympics I liked my life. So I'm glad I went back to that.
Q. Kyle, and then for you, J'den, related to what he's going to say. You've wrestled less college matches these past two years than you did that previous other year. Could you talk about, because you haven't wrestled as much college, do you recommend it to other athletes not wrestling as many college matches for the wear and tear and what it could do for other guys? And J'den, a follow-up for you, after seeing what he's done the past few years, the fact that you've had success internationally, would you wish that you would have done what he did?
KYLE SNYDER: Pretty much recommend -- I mean, whatever you feel like is going to make you the best wrestler is what I recommend. For me, personally, I felt like I needed to wrestle in some international competitions and to go to the training camps in Colorado Springs and develop technically in some areas that I needed to focus on.
And then competition, your weaknesses are always exploited. So it's good to wrestle the best wrestlers you possibly can. But I love competing for Ohio State. Every opportunity I can I try to. When I'm in Columbus, I wrestle for Ohio State, and if I can get back in time from trips, I'll try and wrestle as well.
But I mean NCAA wrestling, it is a long season. And I could definitely see how it could wear you down. But I think most of that is probably mentally how you approach the sport rather than physically, because we wrestle a lot all year. So but just the mental aspects probably wear you down if you value the wrong things.
J'DEN COX: To answer your question, if I wish I would have done it differently, no. Because I didn't wrestle for anything -- I wrestled for myself. I wrestled because I love to do what I do. And more so than anything I'm going to wrestle the way I want to wrestle, and I'm going to wrestle when I want to wrestle.
I think for me, especially when it's going towards the Olympics and all that, people can say, well, if he would have trained different, if he would have trained differently you might have been there. You don't know that.
I know for sure though that the way I train now and the way I've been wrestling with the folkstyle and freestyle background that I have, I got a bronze medal. So you can't change the fact.
It's the fact that I went through things was successful to a point. And would it have changed? We don't know if it would have changed for better or worse. But knowing where I am now, no, I wouldn't change anything for an uncertainty.
Q. J'den, for you to be able to be here in your hometown state and have an opportunity to capture your third title in four years and doing it here in St. Louis, what would that mean to you?
J'DEN COX: It would mean that I only have a two-hour bus ride back home, to be honest. No, it would mean the world to me. I came here two years ago and I didn't get what I wanted; I took fifth.
It's a great thing about life right now for me is that, you know, you don't always get chances to go back and redo things over again. And I get an opportunity to do that again. And that's really driving me to accomplish a feat that I wanted to accomplish two years ago.
And now I just have another opportunity right here in front of me, and I look forward to taking full advantage of it.
Q. Zain, it was just announced that Nick won't be competing this weekend. What a blow that is for you guys, and have you had a chance to talk to Nick? And if so what are his spirits like?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: We're here for Nick. It sucks. It's not where he wants to be right now for sure. He wants to be competing. That's his competitive drive. But we're all here for him, and we still have stuff to do without him, but we're here for him, and we're excited to compete.
Q. Thomas, we just saw you warming up there before with Terry. Just talk about his influence over you for the past five years?
THOMAS GILMAN: We don't got that much time so I'll keep it short. He's had a great influence on me, very big influence on me, not only on my wrestling, but my life and developing as a human being, as a man.
So just in every aspect, Terry Brands has been there to help me along and help me develop, like I said, not only in my wrestling but becoming a better person on the mat and also off the mat.
Q. J'den, when you were in Rio this summer, how do you think it really helped you for this whole season as a whole? And what did you learn that you felt, I guess, has helped you this year?
J'DEN COX: I think I learned that the world is -- it's a small world. I think getting to know people like Kyle and other guys from all over the nation that you don't really get to hang out with. And having a few months to hang out with a bunch of, group of great guys, you learn that it's a pretty small world.
Everyone has kind of like either similar issues or similar struggles. And you have guys to back you in that. So you kind of, coming back, whenever I hit those struggles you know what, other guys got that, too; it's something I can get through. It's one thing that was kind of cool, I guess, on how I felt on the inside or how things were.
But also from a wrestling standpoint, it just gave me a boost of confidence, I think. Not to say that I ever lacked confidence, but like there's just -- it was nice to know that, oh, hey, we can go wrestle Salas and some guys from Mongolia or whatever and we do pretty good. It's like, all right, that's cool. If anything, it was just a great feat and just to do it.
Q. Gabe, since you're going for your third title, what kind of conversations have you had with Kyle Dake? And kind of following up, I know you're focusing on NCAA, but when do you think you'll make the decision where you'll go on the senior level?
GABE DEAN: I've been blessed to have a lot of great role models around me, Kyle being one of them. Damion Hahn and Mike Grey as well.
I'm taking it a step at a time. I plan on wrestling internationally for this as long as I can after college. It's something I want to pursue. It's something that I hope to do some day, just like Kyle and J'den and I'm sure these other guys sitting next to me, too.
I take one opportunity after the next that comes my way and try not to get too ahead of myself. So whatever happens, I'm focused on this tournament right now and whatever happens after that I'll take it as it comes.
Q. Zain, with the news that Nick Suriano was going to miss the tournament, does the team feel any more pressure to chase bonus points or perform, or has the mentality stayed the same? And how long have you guys known that Nick probably was not going to be available for this tournament?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: I just found out, so I mean I knew as you guys know. I think the team's going to compete the same way regardless. We want to score as many points as we can in the amount of time that we have out there on the mat. So that doesn't change at all.
Obviously we wish he could be out there competing with us. He's fun to compete alongside. He competes hard and gives it his best every time he's out there. But we've gotta do what we've gotta do.
Q. Zain, how do you assess your wrestling this year compared to last year? After last season you took third in the Olympic trials and you wrestled a full college season. But do you feel you've improved in certain areas? And what was that journey like for you to get to this point as far as your abilities to wrestle?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: Yeah, I think I've learned a lot this past, since last year, just about my style and just adding things, always adding things to your wrestling.
You have to. You have to keep growing and learning. So I guess everywhere I've been trying to add new things, trying new things and matches if I can. And I guess that's the way I've grown and mentally as well, being a little more patient. Being patient but still scoring at the same time.
Q. Thomas, regarding the story being out, you guys always want to face the best. So what is your reaction to one of your top competitors this year not being in the tournament?
THOMAS GILMAN: Obviously, I'm sorry to hear that. You never want to hear someone getting hurt or not being able to compete. That's no good. Like you said, I always want the best to compete against me.
But the way the bracket laid out we would have met in the finals and he would have had to make it to the finals. So no disrespect to him or anybody else, but I just wrestle whoever they put out there and whoever makes it to the finals, whether that would be him or Dance or anybody else.
It's not a given I would make it to the finals either. So just gotta take it one match at a time, and whoever they put out there and whoever steps out there, I'm ready to compete against. And, again, I'm sorry to hear that he's not going to be competing and I hope he gets well soon.
Q. Kyle, Thomas, Gabe and J'den, it's your senior year, last go-around kind of things. Talk about that process going through and what you've learned in the past couple of years. It's not your senior year, my bad, but for the other three guys. Let's start with any senior that's down at that end of the table.
THOMAS GILMAN: A comedy there, we don't know quite where we're at, I guess. Yeah, I mean, it's my senior year. It's my last hoorah, and everybody wants to talk it up it's no different. It's a competition, another match. Although it's a marquee match, it's been on all our calendars, it's highlighted for our season and whole lives. It's no different -- the way we look at this is no different than the first match of the year.
We've still got to be ready, still got to be fired up, still gotta be motivated. So I look at it no different, stayed disciplined and stay focused and just take it one match at a time. The season's not over yet. My career's not over yet. So, like I said, take it one match at a time.
GABE DEAN: Same what Thomas said, I think when you're thinking this is your last thing, get yourself worked up about it, it just becomes a distraction. It's just another tournament. Just happens to be our senior year, and wrestling has been much more to me than just a sport. It's prepared me for the rest of my life, for those really important things when you're a husband and you're a father.
And the things that wrestling has done for me are much more than national titles and All-American statuses and stuff like that, those are just accolades.
So I really look forward to take what the sport has done for me and applying it to some of those big-time responsibility things, when you're older and raising a family and that kind of thing.
J'DEN COX: I don't know. I think of this kind of differently. I do, I let it seep in a little bit. This is the last time. But I committed to this place four years ago, 18, 19 years old, I committed to a place, and this is what I said, I was going to commit my heart, my life, my drive to.
So this is the last time I'm ever going to wear this logo on me ever again as a competitor, on a mat at least. This is the last time I get to do these things and be around these guys in a warrior fashion where I'm going to be standing side by side with them as we go on as teammates.
So for me, no, I let it seep in, because that gives me -- I think it's a fire underneath me. Put the passion behind what I do, put the passion within myself, and hopefully that passion will spread throughout my team as well.
But that's what I think about. It's a final time that black and gold will ever be on my shoulders on that mat.
So it's something that I hold with pride and I hold with a lot of passion.
Q. Zain, Thomas and Gabe, relative to what I talked to Kyle earlier about how many matches. The fact that Suriano got injured, this is part of the sport. Do the three of you recommend that there should be a limit of number of matches you guys have during the college season to prevent this, the wear and tear of it all?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: No, not at all. I mean nothing out of the ordinary. I think what Kyle said earlier, if you're not -- I think it's more of a mental thing than the physical wear of the season. If you're not enjoying it and wrestling for the wrong reasons, then obviously you're not going to feel your best. So if you're truly loving the sport and wrestling out of passion, there's no need to limit yourself on how many matches.
THOMAS GILMAN: I definitely agree with what Zain's saying. We only wrestle maybe 30 matches, 35 at the most. I mean, that's really not that many matches if you think about it.
I think the way our society is going, people maybe want to change it. People are getting a little soft. They want to say you shouldn't do this, shouldn't do that, but we're wrestlers. We're tough. I mean, we should be wrestling maybe more. Let's make the season a little longer. I'm just kidding maybe a little bit (Laughter).
But seriously, I think that you're kind of talking what society is talking. The wrestling community, we shouldn't be talking like that. The season's long and hard. The sport's hard. The matches aren't necessarily what is mentally draining and physically draining, it's the training. But that's what we embrace and that's why we wrestle. I just agree with what Zain had to say.
GABE DEAN: Yeah, I agree. Going back to what Kyle said, I think you've just got to do what makes you happy and what is best for your career in terms of yourself and your team. I don't think it's too long or too short.
I think guys approach the season differently in all different types of ways. The sport's unique. You control your own destiny in this sport, and you just do it the way you want to do it.
It's a tough sport. It's a grind. We all know that. But there's a team aspect and we need those matches anyways.
Q. Zain, two years ago the tournament was here. You were in a redshirt year. Back then, were you visualizing coming back to this place and dominating? Is that something that was on your mind at the time?
ZAIN RETHERFORD: Not specifically this place, but I was definitely looking forward to the next thing that I can compete in, yeah, because I was missing competing for sure.
And I was looking at the next NCAA Tournament which was in Madison Square Garden last year. Always the next thing.
Q. J'den, you've expressed in the past that you want to play football. Obviously your mind is focused on winning NCAAs. How long after a NCAA Tournament do you feel that you're going to make a decision whether or not you're going to play football this year or next year?
J'DEN COX: As far as how long, I'm not too sure. I know that I have to focus on this right now. I also know that, and Coach told me, at least Coach Olen (phonetic) told me to focus on what I have to do for the NCAAs and for this season.
As far as how long after, I'm just not sure. I still have to have meetings and talk to people and figure out things as well. But I don't know. I know that I'll take a rest period for sure. And then as soon as I can be out there and everything and then I'll definitely be out there.
So hopefully everything just goes according to plan, be healthy coming out of this and in the future and just do what I do, have fun and enjoy life.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports