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March 14, 2007

Joe McFarland

J. Robinson

Cael Sanderson

Brian Smith

John Smith


JOHN CARVALHO: I'll introduce each of the coaches, and we'll ask them to make an opening statement. First, we'll introduce Joe McFarland, eight years head coach at University of Michigan, host school.
COACH JOE McFARLAND: Thank you. Nice to be here. The day has finally arrived or the weekend has finally arrived, I should say. This all started back a number of years ago.
I got a phone call out of the blue from Dave Beachnau from the Detroit sports commission. He was interested in hosting the NCAA championships. I'll be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised because I just thought it would be -- instantly I thought it would be a great idea. Wow, bringing the NCAA championships to the state of Michigan.
I know what a special event it is for all of us wrestling fans. It's real nice to have it here and showcase it in the state of Michigan. We're real excited to be hosting this event. I can honestly say just from what I've seen so far over the years, the Detroit Sports Commission, the people in the palace, our administration, is very excited about hosting this event. I know we're going to do a great job. Thank you.
JOHN CARVALHO: Next we have Cael Sanderson, first year head coach at Iowa State, Big 12 champions, four-time individual NCAA champion.
COACH CAEL SANDERSON: Well, it's good to be here. We're real excited as a team, just looking forward to a great tournament. It's going to be a lot of fun.
JOHN CARVALHO: Next we have Brian Smith, head coach of the third-ranked University of Missouri team.
COACH BRIAN SMITH: Real excited to be here. This is my first time getting up here at the table with the coaches for this meeting.
I know I have a team that's real excited to come back. We came to Michigan earlier in the year to wrestle some duels. Now we're here in March when it counts. Have a good group of kids.
JOHN CARVALHO: John Smith, head coach of our fourth-time defending national champion Oklahoma State University.
COACH JOHN SMITH: I'm not sure why I'm here. I think our points projection is seventh, so I think I'm taking somebody's spot. When they recommend you be here, you have to come.
It's been a challenging year for us, no question. Nothing that hasn't surprised me. I do believe that our team's probably wrestled its best the last couple outings. That's exciting for me. I don't know what that means. I just know that you hope your team's wrestling at their very best at the end.
I think we've got that from our team. Although we finished third in the Big 12, I felt like we closed the gap a little bit there. We're going to have to do a lot more this week if we have an opportunity at No. 5.
JOHN CARVALHO: Finally we have J. Robinson, head coach at University of Minnesota for 20 years, two national championships.
COACH J. ROBINSON: I think for a lot of us this is the culmination of a long year. It gets exciting, exciting for our kids, exciting for our fans because it's a culmination, it's the end. Everybody wants to do well.
Our team seems to be getting better and better as we go through the year. We've been trying to focus on some different things as opposed to we were here last year and we're hoping to be ready to wrestle.
That's where we want to be. The kids are really focused, they're excited, they've got a lot of emotion right now. We're just looking forward to getting this thing started.
JOHN CARVALHO: We'll take your questions.

Q. Cael, you've been here four times as a player, first year as a coach. How is it different as a coach as opposed to as a player?
COACH CAEL SANDERSON: Well, there's a lot of big differences just because -- not just trying to control myself, we're trying to get a team ready here. That's what any athlete going to a coach would say.
It's been a real good transition for me. I've got an excellent staff that I have a lot of confidence in. They've done a phenomenal job with the team this year. Put us in a position where we can -- we're going to have to have a great tournament to contend for a championship, but we're here and we're excited for this opportunity.

Q. J., you entered last year as kind of the No. 1 team in the country, as well. You finished second to Oklahoma State. What has been the mentality this year heading into the same situation as the favorite again? How have you kind of talked with the guys and prepared them for this heading in as No. 1 again?
COACH J. ROBINSON: Well, I think every team you have, it grows and changes from year to year. Last year we had a lot of sophomores. They've never had that kind of pressure on them. They had a great year. They came here with high expectations and things didn't go right.
We adjusted some things in our training. But they've grown up. They're a year more confident. They're a year more focused. You bring a lot of experience back that makes a big difference. They've been here before. They came up short.
They know what it's like to come up short. I think they're coming with a different focus this year, based upon what happened last year.

Q. Brian, last several years your Missouri Tigers have been improving seems like every year. How do you feel your team is prepared to make a run at the title this year?
COACH BRIAN SMITH: I just think it's their attitude. It's a great group of young guys that just believe in themselves. They have great work ethics. They started a week after the Nationals. They met together as a team and decided they want to make a run for it.
They've worked really hard at that. We've had a great season. But we're going to find out how great it's going to end. They're excited about this weekend. They've looked forward to it. We'll see.
But there's a lot of talent in there, too. We've progressed as a program because we've been able to bring in better and better talent.

Q. John, regarding your unseeded guys, the draws they got, looks like they probably have the toughest among any team here. What were your thoughts when you saw that, and how do you deal with those guys the next couple days?
COACH JOHN SMITH: I probably shouldn't say what I thought right away (laughter). But other than that, you know, I think your first reaction is, did somebody handpick 'em? You know that didn't occur.
Your second reaction is, hey, when you're unseeded, that's where you can fall. This is the time you wrestle your best. Regardless of whether it's against the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the country or who it is. This is the time to wrestle your very best.
It is what it is. When you're unseeded, you don't know where you're going to fall. Who's to say you're not as good as him. We've had often in the past guys take over seeds, make a big difference and win championships. For us, that's what's going to have to take place.
First round is very important. Could be very, very tough. But regardless of what happens, there's nobody out of that tournament yet. You know, it's been a little process of how I felt about it. But in the end it is about wrestling everybody. You going to have to go through somebody pretty tough.

Q. Coach McFarland, the duel standpoint, you didn't have the most impressive record, but you come in with five really good wrestlers. What is your expectation of those guys and the top 5 and top 10?
COACH JOE McFARLAND: No question, I can't hide the fact we didn't have the kind of season we wanted to, duel-meet season anyway. We've been sort of talking about this all along. Obviously with it being in our backyard we're hoping that's going to be a benefit. I've got five quality guys here. I have four guys seeded in the top four.
We need to have a great tournament. Want to make a little noise here and finish up there among the best teams in the country, and I think we can do that if we have the kind of tournament we're hoping for.
The guys seem to be excited for. I've only had one guy that's wrestled in this arena before, that being Josh Churella, who won three straight titles in here. That might make him feel a little comfortable. Maybe not. I don't know.
I think we're going to have a lot of Michigan fans here. Hopefully we can give them something to get excited about. Last year I felt in Oklahoma City, I think Oklahoma State really caught fire, and those guys fed off that. As a coach, you'd kind of like that happens to us. Still have to wait and see.
But our guys are going to have to make our breaks, because the competition's real stiff. We just have to get out and get after it and take it match by match. That's the one things we've been talking about.

Q. Brian, someone asked a question of the wrestlers, Cole Konrad, Johny Hendricks and Askren, you guys are the dominant guys and Hendricks and Conrad demurred. But Ben said pretty much it would take an Act of God for him to lose this tournament. Where do you stand on that? Is it good to get people excited right off the bat, or would you rather have them play it cool?
COACH BRIAN SMITH: Ben has a lot of confidence (laughter). I knew that when I was recruiting him. When I was recruiting him, when I went to his house when I was recruiting him, he had a picture of Mohammed Ali on the wall. He said, That's my idol.
I think he believes in himself so much, but he's always backed it up. It's not something like he'd do anything bad. I think he believes in himself so much, that's what's coming out of it. I don't foresee it as a bad thing, I just think he's very confident of himself.

Q. Cael, did you guys do anything as a coaching staff with six new faces in the line in terms of preparing them for this pressure, the length of this tournament, coming in as the No. 2 team differently than you would have done for a more veteran group?
COACH CAEL SANDERSON: Well, I think, you know, with six freshmen, we cater to each individual, at least we tried to, to help each one of them prepare.
I think with our schedule, wrestling the best teams in the country over and over again, they've seen the best guys in the country, the best teams. I think that's great preparation. I think we trained 'em. I think we're ready. Now it's just a matter of going out there and taking a swing at it, seeing what we can do.
We've got six freshmen, only three guys ranked to be All-Americans. We're going to have to go in there fighting to compete, but that's the plan.

Q. J., CP Schlatter seems to be wrestling his best, not just this year, but perhaps the time he's been at Minnesota. Why is that? Is he feeding off his brother? Is he healthy?
COACH J. ROBINSON: It's probably a combination of all those things. But I think probably a part of it is disappointment last year. He changed some things from his freshman to sophomore year, won the Big-10.
He came here and he didn't get what he wanted. I think it's been a burning thing for him. We changed some things with him, very specific for him. They're working very well right now to where he is, his focus.
I think it's, like everything, as Cael said, you cater to the individual. He needs some specific things. We've done some things coaching-wise that I think really helped to bring him along that way.
JOHN CARVALHO: Thank you very much.

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