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March 15, 2017

Tom Brands

Tom Ryan

Brian Smith

John Smith

Cael Sanderson

New York, New York

THE MODERATOR: We have Tom Brands of Iowa, Tom Ryan of Ohio State, Cael Sanderson of Penn State, Brian Smith of Missouri and John Smith of Oklahoma State. We'll begin with Tom Brands and go to the end of the table.

COACH BRANDS: Three-day tournament. We're ready to go. We're excited to be here. If you ask any of our guys they'll tell you the same. And I'm not even speaking for them. We're ready to roll.

COACH RYAN: Great to be representing the Buckeyes here again. I'm sitting up here a guy with at the end that I grew up watching, and then a guy that I had the blessing to wrestle with, and then a guy that I wish was on my team as a coach, a fellow Long Islander.

I'm here with a great group of people, great group of men. And collectively, I know I mentioned something last year, but collectively we have three gold medals. We have nine world titles and nine NCAA titles. So it's good to be with this group. We are ready to wrestle. We're excited about it and look forward to a great weekend here.

COACH SANDERSON: We're excited to be here, just like everybody else. And we will find out in the next three days if our team's ready to go or not. But we're grateful for the opportunity. Thanks.

COACH BRIAN SMITH: Excited it's in Missouri. This is the eighth time it's been in this building. I think this year, Tom would agree with me, being on the committee and the seeding and the process that goes into running this tournament that I was here in the fall, and the people, collectively the people that put time into this event, it's amazing to me.

And I thank the sports commission and St. Louis and all the people from the NCAA for what they do. This is an amazing event.

COACH JOHN SMITH: As Coach Smith was saying, the sports commission here really create an atmosphere for the student-athlete that's really enjoyable. I mean, of course you're a lot more happier if you're winning, but just the environment for the student-athlete and how they go out of their way to kind of create a great environment has been really good for a lot of years.

So as far as our team, we're ready. We look forward to the NCAA Championships, and as we know, it's going to be a very competitive tournament.


Q. Coach Sanderson, coach with the news that Nick Suriano is not going to wrestle, that being over, can you give us a timeline from the injury at Oklahoma State, and what you guys were thinking at various times the likelihood of him being able to wrestle this weekend? And when ultimately was the decision made and why did the decision go that way?
COACH SANDERSON: Yeah, well, we were trying to give him as much time as possible. And it was going to be a day-before type of decision. And we were trying to get him to a point where he would be competitive enough to compete and to protect himself. And I don't feel like he's in that position. So he's not going to wrestle.

Q. Question for all the other questions, with Suriano being injured, it's obviously an impact on this tournament. Is it just something that part of the sport, is there anything that can ever be done with the season? They've talked about making this a one-semester sport, that type of thing. Should there be a limited number of matches to prevent this from happening, or is it simply wear and tear?
COACH BRANDS: Wear and tear, I mean that may be part of the sport. I don't maybe look at it like that so much. I think in this case and knowing who Nick Suriano is, we recruited him, I think he gets ready to go and sometimes bad things happen to good wrestlers.

It's unfortunate. And he'll deal with it going forward. I speak for him on that, I suppose. Not guessing his mindset. I'm sure he's not in the best spirits right now, but we know he's a competitor.

COACH RYAN: This sport is certainly growing and the season is long, but as long as I've been in this sport we've had student-athletes get injured the first day of practice. We've had athletes get injured in competition, midway through the season. We dealt with last year Hunter Stieber being hurt most of the year.

It's hard on the individual. It's hard on the family. Like Tom, we recruited Suriano, a great family. You feel for them. But he's a winner, I'm sure, and it's a tough situation.

COACH SANDERSON: Poor Nick. Press conference about him. You get hurt. Injuries happen. Life happens, but life is good. Life is good. Nick has a lot to be grateful for. And he has three years to terrorize college wrestling and international wrestling after that. It is what it is. He got injured. It happens and life goes on.

COACH BRIAN SMITH: I'm not sure if the length of the season is the answer. I lost a two-time All-American in the second duel this year of the season. So I think with the training and the knowledge of training that goes on now and the nutritionists and the strength coaches we have, these athletes are more prepared than I know when I was back wrestling.

I think it's just unfortunate. It's a tough sport, and I feel for Nick and what happened with him. It's a part of our sport.

COACH JOHN SMITH: They said enough. Just sometimes we might think that our sport's grueling. There's a lot of sports that are grueling and tough. So we've all lost guys in February that didn't wrestle at nationals. And it's unfortunate. But it's what Cael said, as far as the sport, life is good, keep going.

Q. All of you can answer this, I know the NWCA Dual Championship Series has come under some scrutiny, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think another wrestler last year got injured in the series, same thing happened this year. But can you talk a little bit about what maybe could be done with that to where an unfortunate event like this wouldn't happen?
COACH BRANDS: Here's the thing with the National Duals. It's maybe a good event. Maybe needs to be tweaked a little bit more. I'm a big fan of dual meets. Dual meets are important. Just not sure that our format's the best. But I do know the impact that big marquee matchups have, and a lot's been said about Penn State and Oklahoma State at Stillwater at the end of February. That was a big event. That was a big dual, a big crowd. And that's important.

But I also think that timing could maybe be better and it's going to be discussed a lot. There's a lot on the agenda for the National Duals. Is the NCAA going to take it up and make it part of the team scoring, team component, where dual meets actually bring in points to this tournament? That's going to be discussed. That's not too far away. So it will be a lot more information going forward after this tournament.

COACH RYAN: I'm a strong proponent of adding value, greater value to dual meets. It's challenging. There's a lot of moving parts to it. But I do believe that somehow we've got to continue to be creative in the sport, to grow it, to increase our fan base, and I personally believe that the dual meet is the way to do it. A lot of great things happened this year. 42,000 people in Iowa City went to a dual. Penn State selling out -- we had 16,000 people at a dual meet. So we know they have great value.

The question is how do you add a season-ending value to a dual meet. I think that's the big question. So how do you add a sting, a greater sting to a loss during the season, rather than what it is. It's a loss that to some degree plays no role at all in the national championship. So going forward I'd like to see us solve this problem as a sport.

COACH SANDERSON: I don't want to talk about National Duals. I think this is -- numbers speak for themselves and this was by far, Iowa kind of messed that up by having a 40-something-thousand dual meet, but overall, I think, dual meet-wise, big duels, this has to be the best year in the history of college wrestling.

The sport's growing, dual meets are important to our fans. They're important to us as coaches. They're important to the student-athletes that participate in them. And I think we agree on a lot of things.

I think it's important for the future of the sport to keep those dual meets, but getting bigger and bigger and getting them on TV. And that's what's happening right now. Just keep rolling.

COACH BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, I'm a proponent for the duals. I really like seeing the growth of it, how -- I was watching a couple of duals down in Oklahoma State and the crowds and Iowa.

I know in our place, our fan base continues to grow. But I think it's important, just because of the team concept that it brings, and people coming in for a two-hour event that's made for TV, that we have to keep growing.

COACH JOHN SMITH: I think what Cael said, just from the standpoint it was a great year. Everywhere it was real successful. And sometimes we think everything's going wrong when actually it's going right.

You know, if we can't make a decision on dual meets between the coaches, then it needs to be taken out of our hands. So I think in the future, maybe we shouldn't be making these decisions of what we're doing, if we can't agree. And I think we can find a pretty mutual agreement if some common sense is made. And it may not help my team but in the long run to continue to grow the sport and continue to create exciting dual meets, that's what needs to happen. And if we can't get it done, then hopefully somebody will.

Q. Coach Brands, you guys have the number one recruiting class coming through, and this is your seniors now after five years. Talk a little bit about the impact those guys have had on your program and what you'd like to see, obviously, as they finish their careers?
COACH BRANDS: Great group of guys. Great leadership. Fun to be around, fun to coach. They are one of a kind. And when you say that and it comes out of my mouth, that's real, meaning you don't just say that they come from a great family. They have great morals and ethics.

But they do. And it's real. Couldn't say enough about them. And we'll have a banquet at the end of the year to honor them, and that's where all that will get said and demonstrated. There will be a lot of fun there.

But the other thing about this group is they're here to compete. So let your best wrestling shine right now.

Q. Coach Brian Smith, J'den is very genuine in response to this being the last time to wear the black and gold on his shoulders. For you being his coach and being around him for so long what's your reaction and emotion to coaching him in a weekend like this for the last --
COACH BRIAN SMITH: Good weekend. I've known him since he was four, hanging out in my office reading children's books. He grew up in our wrestling room. I coached him in football. We have a strong relationship and he's a special young man with what he's done not only for wrestling but for the University of Missouri.

He went through some hard times and here's a kid that shines a light because he's willing to write songs and sing them for fundraisers and be an outspoken person on just how to live your life and making an Olympic team. He's just a special young man that just does it the right way.

Q. Tom Brands, you talked about your recruiting class. The centerpiece of that class, Spencer Lee, suffered his first loss of his high school career on Saturday. Have you spoken with Spencer? It's probably one of the first big disappointments in his wrestling career. And what's your plan for him preliminarily going forward to next year in terms of a redshirt or not?
COACH BRANDS: Did I misunderstand your question? Okay. Well, good. First of all, I mean one comment on that: Spencer Lee is a competitor. He's going forward and he'll be just fine.

Q. Coach Smith, you mentioned after Big 12 that you guys had some record-breaking performances this year, that scuffle in that Big 12. Do you guys feel that you're going to need to tie a record this year as far as Minnesota's 10 All-Americans to get the national champion here?
COACH JOHN SMITH: I think you're probably right. I think we're going to need to count on all 10. I'm not sure where they place is going to make a big difference.

We have some numbers here. And we have positioned ourselves well after the Big 12, gave ourselves an opportunity. That's all I was asking for. And then they responded.

So, yeah, I think for us we need to count on all 10. Anything less, it may be a little bit tough for us.

Q. You have a relatively young team. Can you talk about the mindset that for this year where you guys were on a roll, then you have a roadblock? Have you had this talk with them, anything differently as well as any other time this year?
COACH SANDERSON: It's been a great year. We've had a lot of fun, had some great dual meets. And we have just an awesome group of guys. And most of them are back.

We lose, I think, our 41-pounder. Yeah, we have some exciting years ahead of us. But this year's not over. We have as good a chance as anybody to win right now. And to win the national tournament, you've got to wrestle great. If we wrestle great, we're going to win. If Ohio State wrestles great, they'll win. Oklahoma State. Iowa. So that's fun. That's what we want. So we're not looking forward to next year yet.

Q. Was there any doubt (indiscernible) injury and this type of thing with this team, to maybe not win in the Big Ten (indiscernible)?
COACH SANDERSON: I think anytime you have somebody get hurt -- Nick Suriano had very lofty goals. And he's wrestling great and getting better. So you want to see him -- his goals -- he's not a guy that hopes he can win when he's a senior, right, he wanted to win as a freshman. And he's doing awesome. It's tough for him. Tough for his family. Tough for the team, because we're a close team and we feel bad for each other.

We want to see each other to be successful. It's also a chance for the rest of the guys to step up and score additional points. I don't think we wrestled terribly at the Big Ten. We just got beat. We had a couple of guys who could have won a match or two that they didn't. But we won some tough matches also.

So it's not that we didn't wrestle well, we just got beat. Ohio State wrestled great. And to win this tournament you've got to wrestle great. That's the way it should be. It's a national tournament. You want to be national champions, you've got to wrestle great the weekend of the national championships.

We're excited and grateful that we still have a chance to compete for a championship. We have individuals with goals just like everybody else up here. And we'll see what happens over the next three days.

Q. Coach Ryan, can you talk about the importance of your upper weights? Seems like the team is built from the top-down, so to speak. Could you expand on the importance of 74 to 285 as far as your guys' title hopes this weekend?
COACH RYAN: We have nine here, and we need for all nine to score. And all nine can score. Two weekends ago, at the Big Tens, we happened to win some really tight, close matches. That's what this weekend will boil down to as well, the quarterfinal matches, semifinal matches. Last weekend we felt we needed six in the finals to win, at least five. We happened to get six.

This weekend I think it will take four. So as you look at the brackets, we're going to have to beat some really good people. Our guys are excited about it. When you have an Olympic champion on your team that's a junior, the standard is incredibly high for the rest of the guys.

Young guys coming in, we're not talking about a group of guys that want to qualify. They've got someone walking around the room that's won an Olympic gold medal. So the standard's high.

When you have a guy like a Logan Stieber that won four titles, the standard isn't get one, it's get a lot. It's get multiple.

So the culture in the room right now is really strong, and that's critical for us. And hopefully this weekend these guys wrestle with the grit and the fire and the excitement they did two weekends ago. If they do, we have a chance. If they don't, we don't.

Q. Coach Ryan, did you discover anything about your team two weeks ago at the Big Ten Championships that made you sit there and go: Man, we really do have a good chance to win this thing in St. Louis?
COACH RYAN: Not really. I think throughout the year we knew we had a really good team. We had some guys that get hurt during the year and really never put a full lineup out there until the Big Tens. But we knew some guys would really step up.

But when you have a Kyle Snyder -- the expectation lies when the person or team continues to deliver in multiple situations.

When you have a Kyle Snyder, you feel pretty good about him. Bo Jordan has always been really good when he's been in there. So same thing with Nathan Tomasello. When you've got guys like that, you feel really good about your team and where you are.

So we're going to have to wrestle really tough this weekend. And they should trust their preparation and be excited about it, because it's an exciting time.

Q. Can you guys address your training cycles as you guys kind of move from your conference tournaments into the NCAAs and what are you doing now or what have you learned kind of throughout the season?
COACH BRANDS: Peaking is a mindset and most important time of year, three-day tournament. Gotta feel good and you gotta be at your best. So however you adjust and get those things accomplished, that's what you do. A lot of it is individual. But a lot of it is pretty much common sense, too, maybe.

COACH RYAN: So, yeah, I would say three components: You've got a physical component. And we watch that closely as a staff. You've got an emotional component. You can't say one thing to somebody at the beginning of the year and then just kind of change the way you talk to them at the end of the year. There's always love. There's always a positive element to what they're doing.

And then I believe there's a spiritual element. And I think that the guys that really have that sense of just something bigger than them and greater than them, those guys in the past, those are the ones I've seen really do well.

It's a wrestling tournament, they love the sport, but it doesn't define them. That reduces stress. So we focus on all three of those components.

COACH SANDERSON: We're confident in our system, but every year is a new year. Every tournament's a new day. Kids have to make the decision to wrestle great. And so for us it's just making sure we have a clear purpose and focus. And we know it's our responsibility to make it happen if that's what we choose to do. So we'll find out. We'll have to find out.

COACH BRIAN SMITH: I told my team the story, one of my guys texted me the other night and he said: Coach, I remember this story -- he wrestled for me 10 or 12 years ago. And he said: I remember you telling us the story of the first singlet you bought for your son and how he would put it on every day. And he'd put it and I'd get home from work, and he would run around the house, and we'd have to wrestle and wrestle and wrestle.

And I told my team this story the other day, I said: You've got to remember that. We've been doing this training your whole life, you've been competing your whole life. Let's just have fun.

Remember when you put that first singlet on, go to this event, wrestle with energy, and have fun, like dad's coming home from work and you get to wrestle with him and enjoy it, and remember how you felt like that, putting that first singlet on.

And I think that's our team right now: The mindset is they're very relaxed. Enjoy it. They enjoy each other and they're ready to have some fun this weekend.

COACH JOHN SMITH: It's the same attitude: You just get to the end of the year and you need to be different, you need to have a different athlete, different wrestler, that's what I call peaking.

It's not so much what you do. And if your training is different, I don't know that we're training any different, I think it's just a matter of an athlete recognizing he's had a full year of competition and has dealt with adversity, whether it be injuries or defeats or even trying to make the starting team.

So I just think that attitude needs to change in postseason. And when you see that attitude change in an athlete and recognizing I'm going to wrestle better than I've wrestled all year, it's that simple.

I think that's why guys like Kyle Snyder or Cael Sanderson or Tom Brands here at the highest level at our sport can go and win Olympic gold medals is because when they get there, attitude changes and they're prepared and have had a season of issues that have strengthened them.

And for us I think that's where we're at. We're ready to wrestle our best we wrestled all year.


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