Menu

The Brands Brothers Reflect on Representing the United States of America

Tom and Terry Brands at the 2022 Collegiate Duals (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)


We're in a meeting of the Intermat conference correspondents, and we are going over some things coming up, what we should be aware of, updates on when things will be posted, etc… Business as usual. I always enjoy these meetings because you can learn about what other people are working on, bounce ideas off of each other, and people offer to help network to get information or stories for other people. A generally pleasant collaborative environment. This particular week Earl Smith - Editor at Intermat, casually mentioned how we should come up with ideas for the Fourth of July. I had one! I'll ask World Champion and Olympians, Tom and Terry Brands, to talk about their experiences representing the United States. It'll give them a chance to talk about their accomplishments through their career, we can talk Iowa and Gable. Everyone wins! Sure enough, they were interested in the idea and I got my first chance to speak with these two legends of the sport. I started with Terry. It was a Thursday. I was nervous, but prepared. Let's go.

Kevin Claunch

I am very honored to be joined by Terry Brands, Associate Head Coach at the University of Iowa. I appreciate the opportunity today to speak with you, Terry.

Terry Brands

Thank you for having me.

Kevin Claunch

This piece is really around patriotism. I thought it would be really cool to talk with you and your brother about what it's like having the experiences you've had to represent the United States against the world. So is there a specific first moment, whether it's winning a match or, or getting over a hump or anything like that that comes to mind with your wrestling experience and representing the United States that, that, is top of mind for you?

Terry Brands

I think, you know, growing up and being an American, just the way that this country was founded or formed, was God and Country and everything that we were raised, everything that Gable taught. So it was kind of like a natural transition in about that. It was about representing yourself at the highest level, because it's not just about you.
It's about God, it's about Country. It's about your family. And so it goes back really to fifth grade when I started wrestling and we kind of figured out that the Olympics was the top level and we get to wrestle for the United States of America and put those warmups on, or those singlets on and go out and compete for the country.

And it was about God and country going back. As far as I can remember in the sport.

Kevin Claunch

That's awesome. I mean, is there a particular win or anything that comes to mind where you felt like you "did it", and you really represented the United States in the way that you had imagined?

Terry Brands

Probably the best or biggest victory was Gable, you know, seeing Gable on the podium. I was four years old and didn't really know anything about it until, you know, five years, six years, seven years later. But when you start investigating the sport, his name comes up and you see that picture.

That's really the moment. And you put yourself where Gable was. You put that gold medal around your neck. You know, so it's kind of like a visualization thing, it was kind of hatched or manufactured or manifested in my mind before it was a reality, or really in my mind and my heart.

And again, like I said, it's just one of those things that's the highest level in the sport of wrestling is to wrestle for your country in the Olympic Games. And. You know, that's what you aspire to do.

Kevin Claunch

Well, it's funny, you mentioned that I literally, in my office here have the picture of him with the, the gold medal around his neck and the, the quote at the bottom you know, gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of, you know, sweat determination and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. I bought that in 2012 in Iowa. When I was there for the Olympic trials, just watching obviously. But it's funny that that happens to be the, the moment you mentioned too.

Terry Brands

Yeah, exactly. It's a classic picture. It's a classic, it's an iconic picture of success. And you know, anybody that's got a brain can, can put themselves in that spot and, and they can aspire to be that. And they can become that even though I never did. You know, it was something that, that, that image was, is, and was imprinted in my head for forever.

Kevin Claunch

You got into coaching as well, and you had a lot of success coaching at the collegiate level, but also internationally as well. Is there a specific coaching moment, you know, where somebody got a big win or anything along those lines that really stands out to you that fills you with, with patriotic pride?

Terry Brands

Probably Henry Cejudo. You know, he was an immigrant. I don't know if he was first generation or second generation, you know, he was born in Mexico and then his mom brought him across the border. And so for him to be able to fulfill his goal of winning an Olympic gold medal and doing it at a very, very young age was really, really satisfying for him. And that was a very patriotic moment for himself as he named, his daughter America. So, you know, he has a lot of American pride and that was so cool to see him be able to stand on top of that podium, you know, with that gold medal around his neck as an American.

Kevin Claunch

Oh, it was, it was awesome in, in the moment too. I actually read his book and, and obviously have been following his MMA career after the fact as well. Traveling with team USA and everything that you've done throughout the years, you know, whether as an athlete or as a coach, I mean, are there any specific or fun experiences that come to mind when you look back on everything?

Terry Brands

I think that I'll give you two there right away that comes to mind. When I was coaching, I remember we wrestled in Iran in a little community called Bander Abbas, and we were the first wrestling team over there in a while. And Mo Lawal captured the heart of the Iranian people and, you know, it was one of those deals.

And then we were going right from there to Krasnoyarsk, and we were staying in the UAE, the United Arab Emirates. And they didn't have any mats. And so we were gonna be there for a week without any mats. And so I called up Bender (Rich) and I was like, Rich, "We gotta get to fricking Moscow man, there aren't any mats here." And he's like, "Are you freaking crazy? You're in the greatest resort city in the world. And you wanna go to Moscow in January? What's wrong with you?" And, and our guys, you know, they, they were all in on it, , I remember Mo kind of raised his eyebrows at me a little bit.

That was one which is, which is kind of hilarious, but hey, we had to do it. We had to get ready. We were going to one of the biggest, they called 'em Grand Prix's back then, one of the top Grand Prix in the world in Krasnoyarsk. So, we had to get ready. That was one, and then the other one, which is hilarious, is the Dave Schultz story.
We had just won the World Cup team gold medal. He had won the individual and, you know, a lot of us had, I think seven or eight of us had won the individual gold medal, too. And we were marching to the podium and we just got done wrestling Turkey, and we were going to the top stand for the team podium. And this Turk is just screaming at Schultz and he's like is (insert incoherent yelling in Turkish here)
Schultz is bowing, and he's folding his hands, in a thankful gesture. And he's saying stuff back to him in Turkish, and then we got done and he's just giving him business. And I go "Schultz, what's he saying?" And Schultz goes, "oh, he's pissed. Because he says that I didn't wrestle him. I ran, I was passive towards him."

So I go, "well, what'd you say back to him?" He said, "I said, I told him that 'you're right. I was passive, you're way too tough for me to have to wrestle you so hard. So I had to wrestle you passively in order to win the match. You're such a great wrestler." And he just killed him with kindness in classic Schultz fashion.

That was a great witness to sportsmanship, you know?

Kevin Claunch

Oh, without a doubt. That's unbelievable. I hadn't never heard that story. So great. I wanted to ask you about Clarissa Chun joining the program, as the Iowa Women's Wrestling Coach. I was just reading the Sports Illustrated piece that they put out on her this morning and it occurred to that it must be such a cool thing to have somebody who, who has that shared experience of, of winning a World Championship and, and representing the United States coming into the program there at Iowa that, that has such support from, the athletic directors and, and everybody with pursuing those international.

Terry Brands

Yeah, I mean, you have like-minded people there and that's why it's a good hire and it's a good fit. And you know, it remains to be seen that we can get our program back to where we want it, and then they get their program where they want it and we run the table, but there's a lot of work to be done on both ends.

She's steering that ship over there. We do our thing here and we're in a really, really great relationship from a partnership point of view and any help that they need and any help that they have needed. We have offered our hands to them. And it's just awesome to have an administration that foresees the future.

And this isn't an easy decision, you know, you can say, "Oh, Women's Wrestling is here to stay." Yeah, it is. But to invest this kind of time, money and resources to a Division One women's program at, at this level right now, at this point in time in history, tells you what the University of Iowa is about.

And that's always what we've been about. It's always been about pushing the boundaries, wrestling's number one, wrestlings important. That's not a knock on our basketball or our football programs at all, because they are awesome people that run those programs and awesome programs that we have there.

But, wrestling is number one in our hearts and minds and a general Iowan and they know when you talk about Iowa, anywhere in the world, I've been to Denmark in a grocery store and a little farm community. And my wife had a Hawkeye shirt on it. A guy came up and was like, "Hawkeye Hawkeye I know, I know. Hawkeye" You know, I mean, that's out in the middle of nowhere, you know, and that's everywhere. Yeah. You know, you go to Russia and they say, "You wrestled for Gable, Gable, Gable, Gable was a hammer. He was a hammer." They know Hawkeye, Hawkeye. They know that word. They know that brand and its worldwide.

Kevin Claunch

And you guys have done a lot to get to that point.
Right. It's awesome. So when, when coaching athletes, right, I wanna get to some of the, the guys you've got competing right now and are gonna be representing you know, in U23's and some of the recent success there, but when talking to the athletes and, and preparing and training and everything, how much of the conversation is around, you know, what it means to represent the United States in a world championship?

Terry Brands

To represent yourself first, get ready to go and represent yourself at the highest level and everything else falls into that. And that's kind of what I was talking about earlier. We talked about timeless principles or biblical principles that are timeless, you could say. And the, the biggest thing is we had one of our coach's talk about this the other day at a meeting and he was saying that when you say timeless, a lot of these guys, they think like it's old fashioned and that's not the case.

Timeless is old-fashioned, modern day and futuristic and it never will be outdated. It never has been outdated. It never, it never will not be relevant. And that's what we talk to these guys about. It's about God, it's about Country. It's about your program. It's about our administration. It's about your family. It's about your siblings. It's about your teammates. And, and most importantly, it's about yourself. But if you, if you're struggling and you need to find a little tiny piece of something that can get you through that struggle, get you to persevere, then maybe it is something, you know, with. More with God, more with country, more with team, more with family that can really make that importance and make that desire go to that level where you're ready to compete, to win at all costs.

Kevin Claunch

Very, very well said. Now more specifically Patrick Kennedy just won the U 23 spot as well as Anthony Cassioppi. You know, Patrick, unfortunately, the way that they've got the system set up right now with Carr (David Carr) accepting his spot there, doesn't get the chance to compete for that. But, you know, he obviously had an excellent showing at U23s and, and beat a lot of really tough competitors out.

Terry Brands

Yeah. And he's getting ready to go for that world championship. And just because Carr accepted doesn't mean that he's gonna, you know, let his guard down, right? You never know what's gonna happen.

And, he's the next man in. And he knows that. So we'll, we'll be ready to go and we'll see Carr down the road. And if Carr's the guy, then we wish him well. The ultimate best in representing the US. You know, I remember the most recent thing was when Gable Steveson won that gold medal. And he let the guy up, in a sense, and took him down again to win that gold. That's a thing where, you know, you look at that and it's somebody that you compete against several times a year. You're so excited for him though. You know, because it's not the Gopher anymore. It's not the Hawkeye versus the Gopher anymore. It's Gable Stevenson, Team USA, baby! And you know, I just remember the elation that I had, and the chills, and the goosebumps that I got when he won that match. My wife was outside, blowing off the deck or whatever. And she's like, "what happened? What happened?" She thought like I got hurt or something, you know, because I was just going crazy. Cause I was so fired up for him. Oh yeah. It's the same thing with Carr, you know, if Carr's the guy, if he decides to go, then we wish him the best, but we're getting ready. We're getting ready for the next time or for this time. Right now it's this time.

Kevin Claunch

I woke up my whole family, I think, celebrating when Gable won that match in dramatic fashion too, obviously. But Anthony Cassioppi gets the spot to go defend his World Championship there. Has anything changed as far as how he was preparing for the first trip versus going to this title defense?

Terry Brands

I think the reigning champ is a reigning champ and he knows how to do it. Really like the first time you can say, but you spend so much time in your head and in your heart, you know, wrestling those matches and I know for, me and for Tony, he works hard at being a student of the sport. So he knows where he is going in Spain. He knows what the community is. He knows the population, he knows the climate. You know, and that's how you do it. And then you put yourself there and your brain and in your heart, you connect your brain and your heart, and you get that mental toughest routine working for you. And it doesn't really matter if he's a reigning champ or not. It doesn't really matter if he's never wrestled there before, or if he has, or if he's been on a world team or not, because you get yourself, you have the pieces that are, that are touchable, that are available to you. To make sure that you are ready to go and compete at the highest level. It does not matter. And, and he's that way. He's just an awesome leader of this program and, and we're fired up. We're fired up to go to Spain in October.

Kevin Claunch

Well, and the last thing here, I can't talk to you and Tom about, Iowa wrestling and representing the United States without asking about coach Gable as well.
When you guys were competing and, and he was working with you, what was some of his messaging around what it meant to represent the United States and preparing you guys for your international careers.

Terry Brands

I think that your question is really awesome. Also, with that, he, it's kind of with the way the program is now, and maybe that's our fault, but you know, with Gable he didn't have to say it. When you look at him, when you look at him, you see excellence. You know, when you look at him, you see Iowa, you see Team USA, you see World and Olympic, NCAA, Big 10, Midlands.

You see undefeated dual meet seasons. You see things that are just that are just around him, that are in him, that come out of him. You know, like, like moon beams coming out of his fingertips. It's something that these guys understand and that we understood when we were wrestling for Gable, that it is about the highest level. And by gosh, all mighty. You better be ready to compete at the highest level. And if you are, you will have what you want at the end of the day.

Kevin Claunch

Yeah. That's an unbelievable answer. It's funny, you, you know it, but it doesn't get talked about, you look at coach Gable and you're just like, that's the guy who's done everything that people talk about wanting to do. Got everything started for where the expectations of excellence should be set. Perfect answer.

Terry Brands

And his example, and, you know, the way is just everything you ask, any one of our current guys about that. They're probably gonna say the same thing, that we don't necessarily talk about, representing your country, like those World War II banners or something.

And so that's, that's kind of where we're at with it. And our guys have a very, very clear understanding of what's expected in this program. No question.

That was the end of my conversation with Terry Brands for that day. Hearing Terry laugh when telling stories was really interesting. Clearly it's insane to think that Terry Brands isn't able to laugh, or even think that it doesn't happen with regularity, but in the context that we usually see Terry Brands it is infrequent. He was really forthcoming with his stories and easy to talk to. Another piece I thought was interesting was how he sort of steered the interview away from his own accomplishments, and really focused a lot on the preparation aspect of competing. I had expected to get a story about standing on a podium, or winning Pan Ams, or making the Olympic Team, but that was not the case. This theme will continue as we continue our journey with the Brands Brothers. Monday morning, I got to speak with Tom. Here is that interview;

Kevin Claunch

I am lucky to be joined here by Head Coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes Tom brands. Thank you for joining me today, Tom.

Tom Brands

Awesome. Fired up.

Kevin Claunch

I'm really excited to talk with you and obviously I spoke with your brother last week about what it meant to represent the United States and, and everything that goes along with that. Is there a moment specifically from your athletic career that comes to mind when you think about your wrestling experiences representing the United States?

Tom Brands

Well, I think the biggest thing is, as a competitor, you're so zoned in that there's not a lot of noise that you hear. I remember environments where the crowd got into it. I remember the environments where the temperature was maybe off and very unusual.
1993 Toronto, there were record highs there. The mats were soaking wet. They wouldn't dry, record humidity in Toronto. And remember that environment. I remember being in Russia wrestling and what I call it a money challenge, where it's a money match. You know, you make more money than if you don't win you, you get paid to show up. But when you win, you get paid the big bucks. And I remember. Those crowds were so gracious to the foreigners. It surprised me, especially the first time I went. I mean, actually the first time I went, I went with Dave Schultz. And so I saw how revered he was. It's different from a tournament when you're in a money challenge or a money dual. It's different from a tournament.

It's more intimate. There's, there's maybe only, you know, 10 matches and maybe up to two matches. So maybe there's only 20 matches for the whole event. And you see how that crowd's right on top of you, but they, they really are gracious. They're a lot more gracious than you know, I would be to foreigners coming into our domain to compete. I wanna win everything. Those are the things that you remember. Wrestling's a big deal overseas. So the environment with pageantry with the high-powered politicians, and I'm not even talking about mayors and governor's level, I'm talking about, you know, big ambassadors for little countries, but they're the President. It was a big deal. So that's a general overview of, of what I've seen, you know, Atlanta was packed. But you don't remember those things.

I remember Travis Fiser, , having a big win at Carver Hawkeye Arena in the 1991 national tournament. Then my match was over. And I had gone back to the hotel and I listened to it on the radio and the radio announcer…you couldn't even hear him because the crowd was so loud. When Fiser got that take down, I believe it was against an Arizona State wrestler. And that was a big, big match for Fiser, a big win. And obviously in terms of the team race. So that covers a lot there.

Kevin Claunch

It certainly does, but it's cool because I didn't really realize that they were still doing those big money matches, back then. Obviously, they've gotten a lot more of those going now.

Tom Brands

Well, the first one I went to was in Vladikavkaz. That's in a city that's in the Southern Russian Caucasus mountain region. I remember one of the people that was with us, I wanna call 'em a native, but the people that were our hosts that lived there, they pointed over the mountain and they said "the war in Georgia, right there Tbilisi war right there." So, you know, 40 miles over that mountain was the war going on in Tbilisi and that was in the mid-90's there, maybe 94, but great people, great experiences. The fanfare is incredible over there. The fanfare here is incredible. It's just different.
It's really different because you know that wrestling is so important over there and so popular. So that's where the difference is in the United States, wrestling is kind of a niche crowd, the spectators. You know, when you're in Iran or Russia or those old Russian republics you know, wrestling is the sport, along with soccer. So it's different, you know, I mean, you're, you're really heralded as an important figure I guess, would be how to describe it.

Kevin Claunch

Is there a specific moment off the map that you look back fondly on as like, 'Hey, this is so great. And, such an awesome experience representing the United States in this way?'

Tom Brands

I remember in Toronto winning the World Championship, and then Terry had to wrestle, I wrestled for two days. Then on day three of the tournament, Terry had to wrestle and I remember he was wrestling the Cuban. And you talk about off the mat. I watched that whole chaotic scene take place where stuff was being thrown out on the mat. It was bloody, when I say bloody, not literally, but it was a very hotly contested match and an important match. And the reason why the stuff was coming out in the mat, the bottles and the trash was because the Cuban had beaten the Iranian and the Cuban needed to win to bring the Iranian back in. And Terry was wrestling the Cuban and the Iranian crowd was very, it was very numerous, there was a lot of 'em, and they were very boisterous, I guess, is the word. It was an off the mat thing. And Terry had to persevere through that and I look back on it. It's no big deal. I mean, we wrestled like that in our basement for, you know, 15 years prior to that. I mean, things getting thrown and you have to overcome a lot wrestling a twin brother.

(Side note on this match, if you haven't watched it before, it's crazy. Singlet pulling, crazy cheering from the crowd, and ball grabbing… This was not the ball grab era of International Wrestling.)

When you talk about off the mat stuff off the mat is coaching off the mat. If coaching's off the mat you know, then there's, there's a lot of moments. I remember the Penn State dual a couple of years ago where we got ourselves in a little bit of trouble. Marinelli lost a match to (Vincenzo) Joseph, and then our back was against the wall and Kemerer had to go out there and wrestle Mark Hall and he ended up winning a tough match. He got a take down late to go ahead. I believe it was a one point match and he got a takedown late to go ahead 7-4, and then kept him down and ended up getting riding time to win that match 8-4. But I remember Assad was up next, Abe Assad. So I didn't even see the end of the match.

I took him back into the training room, which is in the tunnel of Carver Hawkeye Arena to get away from the noise because he was a true freshman. We went into that room and there was no difference. I mean, right through the concrete and the walls. The noise of that crowd was coming through, that's an off-the-mat moment where you try to do best by the athlete that's coming up next.

I could see that he was getting a little wrapped up in it, coming up and all that crowd. And so I tried to get him away and there was no getting away. I mean, you could have walked him four blocks down the street, it would've been the same. I mean, the roof in Carver Hawkeye Arena literally came off in that match with Kemerer and Mark Hall.

Kevin Claunch

I remember exactly where I was watching that match. I was down here in my basement and, and going nuts as well, but well. Speaking of coaching too, because obviously you've coached a lot of athletes to World Teams and Olympic teams and everything along those lines. Is there a coaching moment from, you know, coaching on the freestyle or, or Greco scene that stands out to you or, or a moment where somebody, you know, got over the hump and, and made that team that, that, you know, you really look back on fondly?

Tom Brands

I mean, all of 'em, you know, they're, they're all fond. The fanfare, if you're talking about crowds and fanfare you know, that's a little bit of a different question. When you're in the moment, whether you're coaching or competing for the most part, I'm not sure that you really, really notice the crowd unless it's just over the top deafening or something just crazy happens. So you know, I remember, as a coach, probably the one I remember the most, I was in the corner and a lot of times when you're, when you have memories, it's when, when your other staff is in the corner and you're watching from afar. But, this one in particular, I was in the corner and Dan Erekson went out and had a big match and the consolation round and our backs were against the wall in the 2009 National Tournament. It was us and Ohio State. And we were neck and neck. And it was the first match of the consolation round for Dan Erekson. And he ended up getting a big fall. He got a big pin in that match, it was huge bonus points moving on, All-American status. And it was literally a shot heard round the world.

I remember our crowd was very loud and they, you know, there was, maybe 2,500 - 3000 people in that 20,000 seat arena. It was as loud as I've ever heard. Danny Erekson from Idaho, a very big heavyweight and he was dangerous. He was one of those guys that could get you, but this was a tough match and he was ready to go. He was as good a heavyweight as far as low level attacks go. He ended up having a pretty good attack and the guy tried something a little bit funky on the counter, like a roll, and Erekson caught him. It was big for the team race implications.

So I remember that one that was 2009. You're talking international more you know, international crowds and trials crowds. Like I said, it's a niche crowd, and you know, a lot of times there's not 10, 12, 15,000 people. So yeah. The World Cup in Iowa City, that was a big crowd, the Olympic trials in 2012 and 2016, those were both sold out. It was a loud crowd. The Dennis v Ramos match, you know, there's a lot of polarized emotions in that one. Two stablemates going at it, but anyway, it was one of those things where, when you reflect, it's not really about the crowd, until someone asks you, then you look at it like from what people's experience and their experience is the crowd. I mean, the experience at Carver Hawkeye Arena is the crowd.

Kevin Claunch

Are there any specific experiences that come to mind or fun stories that come to mind just from traveling with team USA?

Tom Brands

You know, you get off the plane in Russia in January. And it was cold and snowy. And they had literally, the red carpet rolled out for you and they had a band playing and they greeted you very well. And they gave you an escort to the hotel from the airport. So the fanfare was big. It was important there. That was in Russia. That was my first time in Russia.

My first time in Iran. Very similar except the entourage was visibly armed. There was visibly more of 'em and, and our protection was paramount when we were there. Nothing but great things to say about them. Those places, Iran, Russia and, you know, you get into all the politics of the world. People aren't politics. So, that's what I remember. The fanfare of the environment. The fanfare of the cities you went to, the countries you went to, and how important wrestling was. Their fans would openly embrace you. You know, you'd get kissed on both cheeks, or one cheek being greeted by total strangers. All good man. It's all good stuff.

Kevin Claunch

Speaking of traveling and representing the United States, I did wanna make sure we highlighted Clarissa Chan joining Iowa as the Head Women's coach. Just talk to me a little bit about how cool it is to have somebody who has those shared experiences of wrestling in the Olympics and winning a World Championship to, to join the, the Iowa wrestling community.

Tom Brands

I think that it has hit the ground running. When we announced that we were gonna add women's wrestling there were plans for a two-to-five year plan in the works anyway. It got sped up. That's a great thing. I'm a huge proponent; we've had women in our room for five years now.

You know, and we had some really, really high powered Women in our room with (Forrest) Molinari and (Alli) Ragan and (Kayla) Miracle. Michaela Beck came as well. You know, and we continued that and we had three women in our room this year, Jordan Nelson, Victoria Francis, Rachel Watters, this year and last year. It's important to us. It was important to us, back when it wasn't cool to have it important. We really were trailblazers in having 'em in our college room. And, then the stipends that we gave them and that money match that we had in Coralville in that COVID year. We had two women's matches. We paid 'em the exact same as the men, I'm proud of that, you know? And so we continue that with our administration; adding intercollegiate women's wrestling to our athletic department. I mean, this is a big, big deal. We're excited.

Kevin Claunch

When you have athletes making World Teams and getting ready to go travel overseas, or get ready for international matches. How much of that in the conversation is around what it means to represent the United States, or is it mostly focused on just the wrestling piece, and the rest works itself out.

Tom Brands

It's focused on winning National, World, and Olympic Championships. You don't recruit the caliber of athletes without mentioning those three things. In addition to the education part. The hard part for me is that the world is changing every day and it's changing very quickly.

But the easy part is, the standards of excellence, the importance of discipline and work ethic, and attitude, and hustle. Those haven't changed. So it's easy. I mean, you can talk about all the things that you wanna talk about and complain about it. NIL, and this and that, and, you know, the transfer portal. The bottom line is, the world's gonna change. But there's the standards of winning, what it takes to win at the highest level, how important those ingredients are, that does not change.

The conversation is about the attitude, the hustle, the work ethic. How important it is at the University of Iowa to be a student athlete. But the athlete part of that is the international piece of it. That's important that that gets communicated from both ends. I mean, I know that Larry Lee and Kathy Lee, forget about Spencer, I know where his mind was, but Larry and Kathy Lee, it was important to them; the international aspect. What we could give their son. But you look at the other side of it. We have to communicate that to the parents. We have to communicate that for our own self as well, because wrestling is very serious here. It's very different here. There is a great, great commitment that comes with wrestling here. And you know, some of the guys that we recruit might not be quite up to that so they have to have an understanding. So it really goes both ways. Having that detailed conversation. And like I said, it's easy because the standards in being the very best, they, they have it changed.

Kevin Claunch

Speaking of chasing down Gold Medals, you've got Patrick Kennedy and Anthony Cassioppi winning the U23 spot. Obviously Kennedy is in the number two spot there, but Cassioppi going to defend his title. Talk to me a little bit about Patrick Kennedy and his mindset right now, and, and having a, a really impressive U23s as well as Anthony Cassioppi and you know, how he's preparing to, to defend his title.

Tom Brands

Start with Cassioppi number one. What a great thing to be able to go defend, the highest honor at the U23 level. And, it's an age group tournament. You don't take anything away from that. It's a World Championship and absolutely. And now, "Hey, go, go do it again, stud. What have you done for me lately?" type of mentality, you know, and yep, that's where his focus is. He's a super disciplined guy. He has great morale, like he's upbeat. He's great and even when he doesn't have success, he can move forward. Because of his attitude and, and things that doesn't mean that he, just brushes it off, but it does mean that he gets back to work and he analyzes and self analyzes in a healthy way.

Those are important things to be able to do. So we're excited about that. We didn't really know what he was gonna do, he wrestled in Coralville, he qualified for that event and he was planning on being in Final X, I'm sure. It probably would've put the U23, off the schedule, but the Coralville results were final. We talked and right away, it was about looking for maybe going U23 and he made the call, we had a conversation and left it open-minded. You know, that conversation for him was easy it seems like. So that's important to me, as well, that guys wanna get right back into it. So all really, really good stuff there.

Kennedy, he's getting ready to go, , we don't know, I don't know that it's been official, official. I saw some posts that a couple of our guys put in front of me that he wasn't gonna be able to wrestle because the other guy had accepted or whatever, but I haven't heard anything official from USA Wrestling.

Doesn't mean that anything isn't official, Kennedy's training. Like he's the guy and he'll be in camp on, up on July 3rd with Bill Zadick and Joe Russell. He'll go to that camp and he'll get ready like he's the guy and if he's not the guy, then he'll be the best alternate he can be. And that's all you can ask. And those are the things that are important to me. Earlier I talked about the fanfare and stuff, and it's funny because that's foreign to me, you know I'm a little bit single-minded in my focus, when it comes to competition. So it's a little bit hard to embrace the foreign crowds and you know, how much they respect and love you and they roll out the red carpet, they roll out for you. But that's hard for me because to me, it's like, "Hey, we're competing here and it's, it's serious." and, you know, that's just how I am.

And then, you go back to what your grandma said, you know, "it's not whether you won or lost, it's how you played the game." And I say hog wash, so, being embraced and celebrated as a retired athlete, I'm not there, it's foreign to me, because it's not important that my past be celebrated. What's important is that we're getting ready to go, and when you have guys like Cassioppi, and Kennedy, and Assad. Obviously Spencer Lee and you can go all the way up down our lineup, 149 Murin, we got a transfer coming in at 141 Real Woods, the way these guys operate. We're gonna need a 157 pounder, Nelson Brands, Jacob Warner's a national runner up our highest returning placer, and he took it really hard. You've got all this going on and when you have guys that are, moving forward, like Cassioppi and Kennedy and then all the other guys kind of more behind the scenes, cuz you know, Assad he gets third place in a tournament that, after getting beat semis, he could have folded up his tent. Those are all signs that our fans are about to flock to Carver Hawkeye Arena, and there's gonna be a high powered lineup in place for them to be entertained. And, you talked earlier about what your agenda was gonna be and, that's one thing that Gable talked about a lot. He talked about, "go out there and be an entertainer you know, go out there and be a point score."

And when you do that, it takes great commitment to be able to do that. It takes great commitment in your training. And great commitment to a philosophy, commitment to a mindset where it is about scoring points and kind of the Randy Lewis mentality. The Royce Alger mentality, where those guys were true warriors and they did it for the crowd, they did it for themselves, but they loved to perform on a great stage.
Some of those matches, where guys would come into Carver Hawkeye Arena. It was a heavily billed match. And he ended up having two Titans going at it and the crowd kind of favored the home guy and the home guy persevered and then scarred him down the road, for the future.

And that's what Gable used to talk about.

Kevin Claunch

And that's, it's funny, you mentioned those two guys. That's how I was gonna position the question, was, you know, you and Terry making World Teams and representing the United States, but I was gonna throw Randy and Royce in there as well. But that was the messaging from, from Coach Gable? "Hey, go, go put on a show for the fans?"

Tom Brands

Yeah. And when you train the way you train, it makes total sense. I mean, you did that as a youngster, before you were even in Gable's room, just because you were such a competitor and it was so important for you to represent. And so when you talk about Gable's philosophy, it was a real natural, but the other piece of it is, and the hard piece is, is that you gotta have commitment to a lifestyle, and lifestyle is not seven months a year. And that's the difference. You can look at it where Randy Lewis was born to be this guy or Royce Alger was born to be this guy that was going out to compete in front of packed arenas, but look at Brooks Simpson. I mean, he seized the moment in a huge match against the number one ranked National Champion in a big dual meet and ended up getting the fall. And then Mark Sindlinger followed that up with another fall, and it was more of a mismatch, but we had to win the 197 pound match. And not only did we win it, we caught the guy in his back and didn't let him off and pinned him. And then the rest is history. We win a huge number one versus number two dual meet. I was a true freshman on the bench. Watching that with Reiland, and Chelesvig, and Terry and Doug Streicher. Those were the freshmen, that was that recruiting class, Don Finch was my roommate. We were all on the bench watching that happen. You feel the energy coming out of that crowd. I didn't even know if you hear it, , it's more, you feel
it.

Kevin Claunch

Wow. No, that's unbelievable. And, and you know, it's funny cuz like when I think of coach Gable, I don't necessarily think of showmanship. But, the way you put it is perfect. If you're training and living the lifestyle that it takes to get there, then putting on a show is just a byproduct of those ingredients.

Tom Brands

Well, you want people to pay attention? This is not a sport where you get to be anonymous.

I mean, especially back then when the sport started, there was a bracket drawn up and the winner brought everybody's name on that bracket home and put it on their wall and he owned everybody on that bracket. And that could be in 1910.
Now all of a sudden, you get VHS. So now somebody gets to bring home a VHS. You know, do you wanna be the guy that you know is basically shamed? That's how I looked at it. And then nowadays, hell it's it's eternity. You're on fricking YouTube, 10 seconds after the match is over for eternity.

I mean, which guy do you wanna be? You wanna be the guy that got your ass whooped or do you wanna be the guy doing the ass whooping? That's a hard, stark reality, that's a hard question right there. And if, if you answer it the way that everybody's gonna answer it. The other things in your life have to line up, and then that's where, you know, you lose guys.

Kevin Claunch

There's a bill to pay at that point.

Tom Brands

And Gable was that way himself, he, he just was more committed than anybody else. He was willing to suffer more, to endure more behind the scenes, so that when it was open to everybody's eyeballs, he was the guy that was, not scored-on the Olympic Games in 1972 and the Russian searched high and low and far and wide and East to West and North to South to find a guy to beat him. And he ended up winning that match 3-0.

Kevin Claunch

I love it. Coach Brands, I truly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today. I very much look forward to covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for Intermat this year and, and moving forward. I really appreciate it.

Tom Brands

All right. You're freaking awesome. I love it.

Now it makes sense. The whole premise of my project had a fatal flaw to begin with. These guys aren't focused on looking into the past. They don't have time for that. They are focused on the task at hand, which is preparing their teams and individuals for their matches. Even when they did look back, it was either about someone else's successes, or about environmental aspects that they experienced. Schultz talking with the Turk at the end of the World Cup, getting off the plane in Russia, having to move because there weren't any mats for them to train with. These are the things that stand out. I remember standing on the podium for a JV tournament that I won, and I am more than happy to share that story, but I guess that's what makes us different. These two guys were the best on planet Earth as representatives of the United States of America, but when asked about their accomplishments it's credited to seeing Gable on the podium for the first time. It's about the environment they were in at that time, not their personal accomplishments. You know why? Because the next fight is more important than the last one. Making sure that they are on the right side of history in the future is what matters, not what happened in the past. That's the mentality that has helped these two brothers achieve all that they have as athletes and coaches. So this year on the Fourth of July, instead of honoring a Bald Eagle, I will choose to honor two Hawkeyes with tremendous heads of hair.

Comments

Login or Register to post a comment