NCAA Division I Student-Athletes and Coaches Pre-Championship Press Conference

2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships Student-Athletes and Coaches Pre-Championship Press Conference – Wednesday, March 18, 2015 ─ Scottrade Center

Student-athletes featured at today’s press conference were Iowa’s Bobby Telford (HWT), Minnesota’s Dylan Ness (157), Missouri’s J’den Cox (197), Ohio State’s Logan Stieber (141), and Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer (165). Head Coaches featured at today’s press conference were Iowa’s Tom Brands, Minnesota’s J Robinson, Missouri’s Brian Smith, Ohio State’s Tom Ryan and Cornell’s Rob Koll.

Iowa’s Bobby Telford

On his team and their chances this week…

“I don’t have much for you guys. We shared the Big Ten Title two weekends ago. We’ve been getting ready for this tournament all year and we’re ready to rock and roll.”

On if he thinks Iowa needs to have individual champions in order to help them win the team title

“Well, obviously you give your team a big advantage if you personally win it all. Coming in with 10 guys is a good way to give your team the best shot at the team title. You have some high-power offense guys, and this is something our program, and most programs in the nation have focused on all year. The best way to win a team title is to have 10 guys come to the tournament and 10 guys win the individual titles. It definitely wouldn’t hurt our team title chances for me to win the title here.”

On if he would want his team’s National Title chances coming down to his match

“Of course. You always want to be the guy that it comes down to. Everyone is a competitor here who didn’t come here by chance. You want to be on the big stage, and be the big player making big time plays. Everyone wants to be that guy.”

Minnesota’s Dylan Ness

On how he’s feeling about the team race

“We’re excited for tomorrow and this weekend. I think our team chances are looking pretty good right now. We have five seniors who have all been here before and one freshman and two sophomores who are all first-timers here at the NCAA Tournament. We just have to stay focused.”

On if there is added pressure on being a senior and being a two-time runner up…

“This past week has probably been the calmest I’ve been. I haven’t been thinking about it much. It probably hasn’t quite settled in yet. It has been frustrating the last couple of years getting runner-up as an individual and as a team, but everything happens for a reason and I’m hoping to come out on top this year.”

Missouri’s J’den Cox

On what it means to be the host school and having the opportunity to compete on in St. Louis, Mo

“I think it means the same thing it always has. It’s just wrestling. It’s just another match. You have to do what you do. That’s been the motto since I arrived (at Missouri) and probably before. We don’t change and our style doesn’t change. The only thing that changes about wrestling is the venue. It’s just another day to have fun and go out there and win.”

On the prospect of Missouri winning their first team title in program history

“It’s exciting, yes, but like I said before, we just have to do what we have to do. In this tournament, in each bracket and each weight, the numbers don’t mean anything anymore. The rankings don’t matter anymore. Who you are and what you’ve done throughout the season doesn’t even matter now. Everyone’s record is clean. It doesn’t matter which teams beat who. It comes down to you stepping on the mat with somebody and when the time runs out, who’s on top. The team score goes how it does and we have to do what we do. It’s that simple.”

On if he thinks his weight class (197) is tougher this year than it was last year

“I approach every match the same. I do what I do. I’m not focused on (Kyle) Snyder, (Nathan) Burak or (Scott) Schiller. I have to focus-in on me. In each match, I’ll focus on the guy that steps to the line against me. It’s just the way that it has to be. They’ve had good seasons and they’re great competitors, but my focus isn’t on them and theirs shouldn’t be on me.”

Ohio State’s Logan Stieber

On the opportunity of winning a fourth individual National Championship

“I’m excited. It has been a long journey. It’s going to be fun. We have a good team, and I think we can be in it for a team title. I’m just going to take it one match at a time and enjoy my last weekend.”

On what would mean more: Winning his fourth individual title, or winning the team title

“I think in order for us to win the team title, I need to win [the individual title] so I don’t think it’s a one or the other situation. For us to win the team title would be very special. It would mean a lot to me, my teammates, and to all of the coaches that I’ve ever had.”

On his feelings towards this week being his last NCAA Championships as a competitor…

“I enjoy it all. It goes so fast. I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’ve all said ‘stay focused but enjoy it all’. I’ve been having fun. I love my team so we’ve all been hanging out a lot. I’ve been feeling great. I’m sure in a month, a year, or ten years, I’ll look back and really think about it, but for now I’m just living in the moment and having a great time.”

On his opinion about the seeding process and how Illinois’ Jesse Delgado (125) did not get seeded

“I probably wouldn’t care too much. I know Jesse is an awesome competitor so he’s probably thinking that being seeded would be nice, but he’s a champ, so I’m sure he has confidence in himself that he can win it all. If I wasn’t seeded, it would be okay. Everyone here is pretty good so anyone is going to be tough no matter where you are in the bracket.”

On what it meant to co-win the 2015 Big Ten Championships in front of their home crowd

“It gave us a lot of confidence. We’ve had an up and down year. We lost a couple of dual meets that were tied based on criteria. It seemed as though things weren’t going our way. We wrestled a pretty good tournament at the Big Tens and got the team co-championship, but like Bobby (Telford) said, it’s all about how we do here (at NCAA’s). Winning the Big Tens was great for us, our community, and university, but the big goal is the National Championships.”

Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer

On how winning a National Championship last year helps him going into this year…

“Obviously you gain confidence, but I’m just going to go out with the same mindset that I always have. Attack, attack and attack. If I do that then I think I’ll be good (to win).

On moving up a weight class this season…

“I feel good. I moved up a weight, but my body got bigger so it evened out. I’m a strength wrestler, so being able to move up and focus on getting better has really helped me out a lot.”

On if he thinks he’s a better wrestler now than he was going into the NCAA tournament last year…

“I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve always progressively gotten better, I think, and I really like that. I came in last year with the same mindset that I’m coming in this year. Like J’den (Cox) said, I’m just going to do what I do.”

Cornell Head Coach Rob Koll

Opening statement…

“I’m just thrilled to be here. For the last 20 years, I’ve been on the outside looking in. So for me, it’s just exciting to be here with all of my peers and other top programs in the country. We hope we can represent Cornell well here and hope to end up on the podium in some capacity on Saturday night.”

Iowa Head Coach Tom Brands

Opening statement…

“I would say if you talk to our guys, they’re excited. No doubt. I think the biggest thing is and it’s the same every year, but the story will be written as it goes. And if you’re an Iowa Hawkeye, obviously we want it written in our favor. It’s the same way every year. When you’re a competitor, you want all the hardware and that’s what we are after but we know we have worthy opponents.”

On the change in the NCAA with power-5 conferences and its effect on NCAA Wrestling…

“It’s here to stay and there are concerns. I think our number one priority is to make the sport better. Rules wise and events wise. We have some smart people, so maybe our urgency needs to pick up a bit. I think we need to act, more than talk right now to make our sport stronger.”

Minnesota Head Coach J Robinson

Opening statement…

“Everybody is excited to be here obviously. This is the thing that everybody works for, some people as early as five years old. The way for us to get on the podium is for our individual guys to all do well. We are excited to be here, and so are our guys. We have five seniors so this will be their last shot at doing what they want to do, and sometimes those deadlines can be very helpful to get someone where they want to go. This is the National Championships, so it’s exciting. For the fans, for the coaches, and for the athletes.”

On potentially calling quits on his legendary coaching career…

“I don’t know. I enjoy what I do. Someday I’ll probably just walk in and say, ‘I’m done.’ Everybody talks about it, especially in recruiting. But I don’t believe age has anything to do with anything. I enjoy what I’m doing and will continue to do so.”

On what it will take to win this tournament…

“This tournament is a roller coaster. It’s so up and down. It doesn’t make any difference if you win on the front or back side. The key at the end is consistency, no matter if it’s over 100 points or below it. If you start out on a high, that’s great, but if you start out slow, you have to come back. If you get beat along the way, third place has to become your first place. That’s just the way it is. It’s a roller coaster. Check your heartbeat now and then over the next few days, and you’ll see it go up and down.”

Missouri Head Coach Brian Smith

Opening statement…

“It’s great to be here. I respect these (other coaches) to the utmost. To be in the state of Missouri at the final of this journey is great. We’ve had an incredible journey. Probably the most enjoyable season I’ve had as a coach, just with the way our team is relaxed and having fun and enjoying their time with each other. I’m looking forward to going out there and finishing this journey off and getting a title. Our first title in program history. But our mindset is ‘why not’, why not Missouri.”

On the seeding process this year and the questions surrounding the process…

“You can’t worry about seeding. All I’m worried about is 125 pounds and Alan Waters and how he’s warming up and how he’s feeling and going about his preparation. I really don’t care how we are seeded. I’ve had kids come in unseeded and turn some heads, and high-ranked kids not do well. It’s about keeping our guys focused.”

On the change in the NCAA with power-5 conferences and its effect on NCAA Wrestling…

“College athletics is changing, and it’s changing really fast. The fact that a lot of student-athletes (in the power five conference) are getting more money, and free meals, and all. The reason that will affect wrestling is because of the 77 programs there aren’t a lot of them in these ‘power conferences.’ It’s going to separate our sport from most of the other sports in those conferences, so as a sport we are going to get together and see how we can improve wrestling and keep everything as fair as possible in comparison to other NCAA athletic programs.”

On what it will take to win this tournament…

“I look at all of these teams up here and I know it’s going to be a very competitive battle to win the team race. The thing I like about my team is they’ve enjoyed this season. They really enjoy being with each other, and they really like to practice and get better with each other. With that, I know that I’m confident that they will show up in this tournament just like they have all year. We have been to some tough places this year, traveling to Cornell, Ohio State, we just wrestled at Carver Hawkeye recently. It’s been a tough road schedule, and we’ve come out on top in every one of those. Let’s have some fun and keep doing what we’ve been doing all season.”

Ohio State Head Coach Tom Ryan

Opening statement…

“Our team is excited, obviously. We as a team learned this year how critical every point is. There are a lot of great coaches and great programs that will keep this tournament interesting to the end. So we know every point matters this weekend. It’s going to be a great team race and we’re really excited about it. And we’re really going to embrace the moments this weekend. We have a great situation with Logan Stieber (going for a fourth-consecutive title), so we are excited for him and his family, and all those who have been a part of his wrestling career.”

On ever having any doubt this season that his team would falter near the end…

“I think as human beings in anything we do, doubt is something that isn’t necessarily invited, it just comes. The unique thing about this team, we knew our personnel, and there was never a moment during the season where I didn’t think this team could win the National Title. The bottom line for me and this team is that we are going to win, or at least put ourselves in a position to win with the personnel we have in there. This weekend, we have the 10 guys that we thought (before the season) would be starters for us are all in the lineup and ready to go.”

On the seeding process this year and the questions surrounding the process…

“I think the shocker is that, throughout the year, you see guys ranked in different places, and then the last week of the season that ranking is blown up out of nowhere. I think the stunning turn of events based on one weekend is what surprised people. At this point, the seeds are irrelevant. I think after the weekend, the coaches will get together and look at it, and hopefully improve it. We know the committee did the best job they could with the information they had. There was no bias and they did what they thought was right. However, there needs to be change and we will focus on that after the weekend.”

On the tragic situation with Kosta Karageorge and how the program has responded this year…

“Wrestlers are used to controlling the ‘controllables.’ For years, you are trained to control the things you can and ‘your will will prevail.’ The longer we live, the more we learn that painful things are going to come that are out of our control. Kosta Karageorge tragically took his life, and that was really hard for some people, because up to this point the worst thing they’ve had to deal with was a loss in a wrestling match. The longer we live, the more we know that life has some painful things. This team bonded through it. We started a scholarship in his name, and he loved wearing a letter jacket so we kept one on our bench all season. We just remembered him, and he stayed with us, and he’ll always be with us. We definitely grew through that experience.”

On what it will take to win this tournament…

“If you look at the seeds, I think 110 points will certainly put you in position to win it. I think the teams that have athletes up by six points and can get that last takedown to win in bonus points could be huge. It’s close enough. If you look at this season and the athletes that each team has, bonus points are big.”

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