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Tom Brands Speaks: Wrestling season is back

Tom Brands spoke at Wednesday’s Media Day and actual lightning bolts were in Carver.

Rachel Jessen

Wrestling season won’t officially begin until the Hawkeyes compete Nov. 12 at the Luther Open, and won’t really begin until Nov. 18th’s Iowa City Duals. In the meantime, however, we have Tom Brands to hold us over.

As always, Brands had plenty to say about the Hawkeye program, college wrestling, and life in general. Let’s hop on in, starting with 125-pounder Thomas Gilman, who was a huge topic of conversation.

Gilman is more of a militant type guy that if you don't pick up your towel when you leave the locker room and it's laying there, you're going to hear about it and you're going to pick up your towel. And that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing.

And we sometimes say, you know what, mamma is not around anymore, so you're going to have to pick up after yourself. Things that don't seem like they're a big deal add up to a big deal.

Without getting too deep into Brands’ coaching style and what he expects from his wrestlings, it’s clear right off the bat who the heart and soul of this lineup is going to be, if anyone didn’t know by now. Brands went out of his way to guarantee this isn’t a knock on Cory Clark, rather a compliment to Gilman.

Gilman is what we need more of. He's what we need more of. And that's not a shot at Clark or Brooks or Meyer or Sorensen … [during the NCAAs], we were fighting for scraps, because anything less than the champion is fighting for scraps in my mind. And you know, I remember that press conference was not so frustrating that way because we were already out of the team race. It was frustrating because we were 0 for 3 in the championship round, with Sorensen, Clark and Gilman. And you gotta have champions; plural, not singular.

As he’s prone to do, Brands strayed a bit when answering this question about leadership, but you get the point. Gilman is front and center in that department.

Let’s go to a candid and real answer Brands gave about his team’s national standing. Rarely one to mince words, the head coach was open about his team having its work cut out for it, like he alluded to earlier.

The polls have us second, third and maybe fourth in one poll. Mostly it's second and third, I would say. Oklahoma State is No. 1. I know FloWrestling really likes Penn State as a champion. I read something they put out just recently where they like their bonus point capability. I happen to agree with the bonus point advantage. I agree with that.

That's how you put good teams on the mat. That doesn't mean that we're in admiration of Penn State or we're envious of them. That's the philosophy that I was raised with, coached by Gable with, and the way that I competed. The challenge is to drive that home to these guys. And these young guys also have to buy in and it has to be driven home to them as well.

This is the kind of open and honest discussion that’s so refreshing to hear after listening to Kirk speak for weeks at a time. The Nittany Lions have obviously been at the top of the college wrestling world for the past six years — you don’t beat a team like that without laying out exactly what has to be done, which Brands does here for his team in a public manner.

And of course, it’s going to take more than a few returning All-Americans in Gilman, Clark, Sorensen, etc. to get that job done. I’ve promised you full post(s) on the newcomers, which will likely happen next week, but just wanted to get the important lineup notes out there before we part ways for now.

Marinelli likes to wrestle hard. He likes to wrestle with a big motor. He prides himself in that. He's very hard on himself. He wants to be the best all the time. That's a quality that's not lost on me or something that he strives for. That's not lost on me.

…He'll be wrestling in the Grand View Open along with the rest of our freshmen, and we'll see. And our timeline with him is see how he goes and make progress and then make the decision. I like where he's at in his thought process, and I'm reading his mind, but I'm also talking to him and I have a pulse on him as well. There's just little signs where he's kind of maybe gone more toward this might really happen this year. This isn't just something where we're going to talk about it. So giddy up, giddy up and get going.

…[Michael Kemerer] been tough all the time. He's growing up more. I think the way he talks to himself in frustrated situations, he took some good steps this spring or last June, I guess, at the University Nationals. And there is a lot of good there. We knew he could wrestle. He was always a high-level wrestler. We didn't recruit him as a wild card. We recruited him to do a job, and he embraces that as well.

…[At 197] we got Wilcke and Bowman. Holloway could go down there. And we'll see what shakes out. We're going to know a lot more after this weekend. We'll know a lot more after a week from this weekend, and as we go into it, hopefully we're not doing things by committee where we're trying to decide who the best guy is and we gotta flip-flop. That's not a fun job to have. Let's get this thing solved early, take ownership of it and away we go. And then we've got good depth there for backup, but the biggest thing is is that we got a guy that's a whirlwind.

[At heavyweight, Sam Stoll’s timeline] is pretty much day to day. Is he practicing? Yes. Is he on the mat? Yes. Is he ready to go right now today? No. Is he making progress? Absolutely. Holloway is up at heavyweight right now, Steven Holloway, yes.

One more nugget to leave you with regarding potential changes in the Big Ten wrestling landscape.

I think the rivalry thing is they give you their rival, which is like Minnesota for us. That's the traditional rival, Nebraska geographically. Wisconsin is only two and a half hours away now. And so that's probably what they're going to stay with, those regional rivalries, but you might even see wrestling go to a division. I'm not saying it will. I'm just saying there's been discussion of that.

When [Penn State’s] not on the schedule, we work to get them back on the schedule. As a matter of fact, I made a deal with Sanderson this year. It was a different deal, but it was a side deal. He wants four pristine tickets for four of his fans. I don't know who they are. But I said, no problem. You reciprocate and we'll do it. And he said, no problem, man. So we're getting along. So we'll work it out.