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March 17, 2017

Brian Smith

St. Louis, Missouri

BRIAN SMITH: This is a good day, good round. Friday night, you go 7-0, it's a real good round. I know we scored some bonus points in there, and our freshman Jaydin Eierman knocked off two really good kids with the Princeton kid and a Stanford kid, so getting three in the finals. Coming into this tournament, I talked with my staff and we've had a bunch of guys make the finals before, and we've never had two in one year, and to get three at home here in Missouri, that's fun.

Q. Coach Smith, I was talking to you out in the hallway, 2012, you guys had all 10 guys qualify here in St. Louis. You were the host as a matter of fact. You had zero All-Americans that year. Explain the swing of emotions from 2012 having all 10 guys and not getting what you want to three finalists from Mizzou in front of your home crowd and just the wave is rolling 7-0 on the night. What are the emotions like? What's that swing like and how have you built it?
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, 2012 was a hard day. That Sunday after, I wanted to quit coaching. I thought I just -- we win the Big 12, we finally do it and get our first Big 12 title and come out and lay a big egg. Obviously the blame had to be on me, and I just remember how I drove 12 hours. I bought a puppy, and I've still got that puppy, and he reminds me that I've got to coach them up because I don't want that feeling again. But I love my dog.

But I drove and got that puppy, and I said, I've got to find ways to improve because that can't happen. We can't get so overjoyed about winning a conference tournament that you go lay an egg like that, and it can't be that big of a deal, and since then we've won five straight conference tournaments.

But the focus is the national tournament, and our guys stepped up today, and the feeling is much better today than it was in '12.

Q. When Jaydin Eierman jumped into your arms after he made All-American, what was that moment like for you?
BRIAN SMITH: It's just fun. He wrestled really hard. He started at 33, and he was miserable with it, and I just said -- he said, I'm going to go to the Scuffle at 41 and see how I do. And he did okay, placed like fifth or sixth. But it wasn't him yet, and then since then he's just wrestled would with energy in the practice room, and I saw it. And I said, he's going to be really, really tough to beat at the National Tournament because he's hard to score on and he scores a lot of points, and he's done that. His only loss right now is to Heil on riding time, so he`s on a roll right now. Exciting. I've known him since he was a young kid. He's a local Columbia kid. To see a kid out there like him and J`den Cox stepping up in front of the home state, it's fun.

Q. It's been a bumpy road. How did you hold it all together?
BRIAN SMITH: I told them -- - I won't tell you exactly the words them, but I said you guys have been not a good word to me this year and a bunch -- and I said, but the adversity you've caused me and yourselves through the season with -- when we went down and had a missed weight and this and that and lost to Oklahoma and then we laid an egg at home against Northern Iowa and got beat in the dual, it's frustrating.

But every time they would bounce back and come back stronger. I kept telling them, you guys are very talented. This is a very, very talented team, may the most talented team I've every had, and you believe in the process that we've coached you all season long, good things are going to happen, and it showed tonight. It definitely showed through this tournament so far.

Q. Lavalle's match was kind of strange because the kid has a weird style, and he just kept at it. Talk about why that ended up going his way.
BRIAN SMITH: Game plan. I told him before the match, we're not going to ride him. You're going to cut him. Don't even get -- when you take him down eventually, don't get excited, you've got to cut him immediately, and we did it. And we gave up a takedown off -- we scored first, he scored another takedown off a scramble, but he stuck with it and kept pulling on the head and pulling on the head and kept shooting, and you could see Palacio getting a little tired there, and then at the end he just found a way. In those late scrambles, the guy that's wrestling with the energy is usually going to win it, and Joey ended up on top and had to ride him out and then gets the back points, which that was awesome. That was a very exciting win because Joey at a point last year, I asked him to leave. I asked him to leave the program. This is the truth. I said, you know, you're just not doing it right. Your redshirt year has been not great. I said, if you want to stay, you've got to come and give me 10 things that you're going to change. He showed up with a haircut the next day. He showed up and just changed, and it's been every day in practice, smiling, working hard since that day last year, and to see him make the national finals, ooh, man, you've got to love it. You've got to love that as a coach when a kid changes his life like that and here we are seven, eight months later, 10 months later and he's in the national finals. I knew if he did it right, if I could cause that, if he chose the right road at that point as a coach, it's exciting, and he did, and I'm so proud of him.

Q. Throughout this conference you've mentioned energy several times, and one of the things -- that's one of the things that several people have noticed, highlighted by Eierman's match against Dean Heil. He just never quit. Where is this energy coming from?
BRIAN SMITH: We believe in our training and our guys have wrestled well, and I told them -- I peaked them one dual meet against Oklahoma State, and if you watch that dual, we wrestled our asses off, and it was a war; it was a 5-5 dual and it was a battle, and here we are, I think we're tied right now with them, and I knew at that point the way I peaked them, at that point, I said, I'm going to do the same thing for the conference and the national tournament and you're going to feel like that, and of course they trusted me because it worked, and you have to have trust with your athletes, and these guys have believed in me. Sometimes they test me and they don't listen, but they believed in this process and I saw it the last couple weeks when we went into the conference and had six champs and weren't even favored to win the conference and set the record, and I said we're going to do the same thing for NCAAs, believe in it, we're going to have lots of energy. The longer the tournament goes, the stronger we become.

Q. From Syracuse where you obviously got no support from your administration to Mizzou where you've built a Tiger-style brand and your son was on the team with you guys, how have you been able to do this, and what's it like going from opposite ends of the spectrum, from no administrative support to what they've done for you at Mizzou?
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, I mean, I've had 19 amazing years. There's been some difficult ones, I think the first three, but 16 of them in a row now where we've been rolling, and everybody is like, Mizzou is this new power. We've been pretty darned good now 16 straight years. A lot of it is Mike Alden, who was my AD for like 17, 18 of them, really believed in what we were doing and the philosophy of Tiger style, and now the school is really kind of stealing Tiger style, and it's called Mizzou-made, but if you look at it, it's very similar to Tiger style, and we love that. We love it that they're using that because we want the athletic department to be successful, and if we've had the success, steal from us, use it.

No I'm very -- I love the people at Missouri. I've been able to raise my family. They've been really good to me, and you see that crowd. I think the first year it was in Penn State where I took one guy, and the reason I got one guy, John Smith said, we've got to have one guy go to the nationals from Missouri; it's important to the program. I've never forgotten that, and from that, we had maybe two fans at the nationals, and you see we sold about 800 tickets for this event.

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