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March 14, 2007

Ben Askren

Josh Churella

Sam Hazwinkel

Johny Hendricks

Cole Konrad

Nick Simmons


JOHN CARVALHO: I'll ask each athlete to make a brief opening statement about their excitement to be here at the NCAA championships. We'll start with Sam.
SAM HAZWINKEL: I'm excited to be here. It's the senior year. I have a little bit of senioritis, being happy to be done. Getting excited about winning a title this year. I've had three-thirds. Something about it being your last year, you're excited about coming in to win. I'm excited.
JOHN CARVALHO: Nick Simmons, three-time Big-10 champion from Michigan State.
NICK SIMMONS: For me, it's really exciting especially being in our backyard you know. Just came down this morning, see the venue. I'm just excited to get it going and hopefully walk away with it this year.
JOHN CARVALHO: Josh Churella, NCAA All-American and team captain for University of Michigan host school.
JOSH CHURELLA: Like Nick said, real excited, especially to be back here in our hometown. It's where we both wrestled in our high school state championships. Feel real comfortable.
Just good to have your family and friends supporting you here. Just kind of a motivator. Happy to be here, pretty excited about it.
JOHN CARVALHO: Ben Askren, defending NCAA champion at 174 pounds, Big-12 champion from Missouri.
BEN ASKREN: Also really excited to be here. I definitely will be sad when it is over because it's my last NCAA championship, something that I really enjoyed a lot while I've been here.
Also very excited about the team race and everything else that's going to go on this week.
JOHN CARVALHO: Next, Johny Hendricks, two-time defending NCAA champion at 165 pounds from Oklahoma State.
JOHNY HENDRICKS: Just like everybody else is saying, I'm excited to be here definitely in Michigan. Excited with any NCAA tournament. Last tournament of the year. Everything boils down to this tournament.
To be able to walk in with the No. 1 seed, coming in here with the goal to win it, can't get much better than that. Finished last year on top hopefully, and we'll see how it goes.
JOHN CARVALHO: Thank you. Cole Konrad, three time Big-10 champion from Minnesota, defending champion at 285 pounds.
COLE KONRAD: Not sure what the question was (laughter).
JOHN CARVALHO: I apologize. Just a brief opening statement about coming to the NCAAs.
COLE KONRAD: Yeah, just like these guys, excited to be here. Last tournament for a lot of us guys, for college anyway. It's exciting. Tournament's always exciting, never know what's going to happen, so...
JOHN CARVALHO: We'll turn it over for questions.

Q. Ben, Johny and Cole, can either of you three guys be stopped in this tournament?
BEN ASKREN: Like I said all year, I don't really plan on being stopped. I definitely have it in my mind that there's no way anyone in this tournament can beat me, barring serious injury, which I also don't feel like will happen. I take pretty good care of myself. The answer to that would be no.
JOHNY HENDRICKS: I think anything can happen in this tournament. You know, whenever you step on each time you got to make sure that that guy wants to beat you just as bad as you want to beat him.
So that's what's great about this tournament. You're getting the best out of everybody. Each match you step out there, you got to make sure you're your best or you're going to be going for third or fourth.
Anything can happen. That's why I love this tournament. You have to wrestle your hardest every match and come out.
COLE KONRAD: I agree with Johny. You have to be ready to go every match. Anything can happen here. I'm not going to make bold statements like Ben (laughter). Yeah, you just got to be ready to go every time you step out there. I think if all of us step up, focused, ready to go, no, I don't think anyone can beat us. But that mental edge you have to have when you walk out there.

Q. Johny, the last time you were in the NCAAs, a lot of people from Michigan were probably not happy to see you win. What kind words do you have for the fans of Michigan?
JOHNY HENDRICKS: It's last year. I want to look positive on this year. Yeah, it happened the way that it happened. I really can't get into it, you know. But it did happen the way that it did. I won.
But, you know, coming in here, wrestling in Michigan, I think it's going to be great. I think that a lot of people are going to be wanting to see me fall and also wanting to see me win. I don't know which group they're in.
I just want to come out here and wrestle my best and give the fans what I've always given them.

Q. Nick, you alluded at the beginning of the press conference, talking about like Sam wrestling the last couple years. What are your feelings about not being in the same weight class this year? Were you looking forward to wrestling him this year? Are you happy you don't have to face him again?
NICK SIMMONS: I always like wrestling Sam. He's a great competitor. It shows where you both are at. We're both going to train after this and everything else, there's, Olympics and so forth. Now I can just root for him this year. Now we now we both have a chance to win it.

Q. Question for Sam. You were out a bit this season with an injury. Can you talk about that and what kind of effect that's had on your season? Obviously you came back at the Big 12 tournament.
SAM HAZWINKEL: Yeah, I think it's a blessing in disguise kind of thing. It's upsetting when you miss out on a duel season. That's where a lot of the fun part of the season is, getting to do the duels. It's only one match. You don't have the same kind of wear and tear.
At the same time last couple years at NCAA, I've been going in just kind of worn down, sore and tired. I think this year I get to come in with lots of energy. The difference I feel is great. I got no complaints.

Q. Cole, you have wrestled all season like a team that is hell-bent on winning the national championship. What has to happen the next three days for you to finish the deal?
COLE KONRAD: Man, we just can't overlook anyone. It's an individual tournament obviously, but everyone's just got to step up and wrestle their potential.
We overlooked a team at the beginning of the season and it burnt us. None of us have forgot about it.
We're focused coming in here. We're going to be looking for a lot of bonus points. If we can do that, hopefully we can spread the lead on some of these other teams.

Q. Ben, what has this year been like for you? The team has been fun to be a part of. You were ranked No. 1 for a while. You're defending champ. What has this senior season been like for you?
BEN ASKREN: The team has had its ups and downs. We had a lot of ups in the beginning of the season, a few down at the end of the season.
We're back on the upswing. I think we had a great Big 12 tournament, even though we didn't win. Everyone wrestled well, always had a few calls not going our way. Could have been us champs and Iowa State second, it was that close.
The senior season for me individually has been a lot of fun. Like a farewell trip. We traveled tons, going to Vegas, Michigan. It's been fun everywhere I went. I've had a good time doing all the interviews. It's just been a blast. Couldn't ask for more.

Q. (No microphone)
BEN ASKREN: I hope I get their best shot. I wouldn't want anything less than their best. You guys may have seen me this year. I get frustrated when people try to lay on their bellies and not try to get pinned. That's people not giving me their best.
I expect nothing less than people's best this weekend and I'll be more than ready for it.

Q. Josh, you're from a family of tradition, not just Michigan but the NCAA. Can you talk to me about your father and brothers, what it's been like for your family?
JOSH CHURELLA: Yeah, it's really been a pretty good experience for all of us. I've watched the tapes and stuff of my dad. It kind of motivates you, influences you growing up and stuff like that.
Yeah, it's just been a good thing being able to wrestle with my brother for three years in college and stuff like that. Just a motivator really 'cause I haven't really had the success I've been striving for. Hope for change this year out, so...

Q. Johny, everyone has been talking about Minnesota winning this thing, being favored and everything. You guys won the last four. Should people be counting you guys out of the team race at all, or are they overlooking you guys?
JOHNY HENDRICKS: Yeah, they're overlooking us. We were 15 points behind Missouri and Iowa State last week at Big 12. We finished, what, a point and a half behind Missouri, two points behind -- three points, something like that, behind Iowa State. A lot of our guys stepped up and wrestled really good. They had to. We needed 'em to, and that's what they did.
That's what we need this weekend, as well. They're very excited. They've worked out as hard as they could, and their mind is where it needs to be. That's all you can ask for at this point.
When the tournament starts tomorrow, that's a different story, you know, because anything can happen. Like I told 'em, I'm going to tell y'all, each match you got to step out there and wrestle your best and act like that's going to be your last match because it may be.

Q. Ben, do you think the comments you made is going to help motivate your opponents during this tournament?
BEN ASKREN: Like I said, I would hope it would motivate them because I want their best. Actually I usually get -- when I motivate them like that I usually get more than their best. The more fired up they are, the more likely they will be to make a mistake. Any mistake they make will be capitalized on.

Q. Nick, you're the No. 1 seed here. You're favored to probably win the title at 133. It's just you and your brother. You don't have any other teammates here. How hard is that to compete in this tournament without sort of a team presence?
NICK SIMMONS: I mean, it's hard, you know. We expected more to come out through the Nationals. But I got my brother there. Like I said, we're close. I know a lot of fans from back home are going to be here.
I know for the most part my whole team is going to be here anyway watching through the tournament, whatever days they can make it down.
Me and Andy are pretty close anyways. We live together and everything else. We always support each other, help each other through everything. So, I mean, it's really unfortunate we didn't have anyone else make it here. But me and Andy push each other. We're always there for each other. That's about all we need.
JOHN CARVALHO: I want to thank our student-athletes for taking the time for interviews.

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