One-on-One with Terry Brands
Andrew Hipps, Senior Writerandrew@revwrestling.com
Terry Brands is one of the most successful U.S. freestyle wrestlers ever. Brands, who won two NCAA titles as a college competitor at Iowa, was a two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist. He won the World Cup twice and was also a Pan American Games champion. In 2006, Brands was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Terry BrandsBrands started his college coaching experience as an assistant at Iowa (1992-2000) before moving on to Nebraska (2000-01), and then Montana State-Northern (2001-2002). He landed a head coaching job at Tennessee Chattanooga, where he coached from 2002-2005. In 2005, Brands took over as the USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Resident Coach. He was instrumental in the development of several successful U.S. freestyle wrestlers, including 2006 World champion Bill Zadick and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.
Brands resigned as USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Resident Coach to come back to Iowa this season as an assistant coach and work under his brother, Tom Brands.
RevWrestling.com recently caught up with Terry Brands and talked to him about a variety of different subjects, including his decision to leave USA Wrestling and come back to Iowa, whether he thinks Henry Cejudo will wrestle again, what it has been like reuniting with his brother, whether he has aspirations of becoming a head coach again, and much more.
Terry, you came back to the University of Iowa this season after serving as the National Freestyle Resident Coach at USA Wrestling for three-and-a-half years. Why did you decide to make that move?
Brands: I just felt like it was time to go. They saw things a little differently than I was anticipating. It was time to make the move.
You served as a mentor and coach to Henry Cejudo. I know you are very close to him. Years of blood, sweat, and tears went into your training. Describe the emotions you felt when Henry won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
Terry Brands coached Henry Cejudo to an Olympic gold medal at 55 kg in freestyle last summer in Beijing (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)Brands: I think it's gratifying anytime one of your student-athletes wins at the elite level. Mostly for them and very little, if any, of that joy is felt for me … because it's giving those guys the opportunity. And then watching them fulfill, follow through with that opportunity, and capture all aspects of it. Very gratifying.
Henry hasn't competed since the Olympics. There has been talk of him possibly getting into MMA. As someone who is close to him and has spent a significant amount of time with him, do you personally think we'll see him wrestling competitively again?
Brands: I don't know. He's bounced around. He has said some different things. He talks about it sometimes. And then sometimes he talks about maybe not wanting to. Part of the dangers of having success at that level is that you may not want to compete again. It's hard to say what he's going to do. I obviously am hoping he does compete. But if he doesn't, I'm going to wish him the best.
Henry took the non-traditional route for his wrestling career, going straight from high school wrestling to international wrestling. Recently Jake Deitchler made the same decision. Do you think we'll start seeing more and more talented high school wrestlers go that route? Or do you think those two are exceptions?
Brands: Well, right now they are the exception. I think you could see that. The way I know Brent Metcalf, it's hard to say he would have ever done it that way. It's funny to listen to some people who have never wrestled or won an NCAA championship talk about how easy it is to win an NCAA championship … or they call it the bush leagues or this or that … the guys who have international success that maybe never won an NCAA title. The one thing about the NCAAs that is unique is that hands down, no questions about it, it is the toughest tournament in the world from a grind point of view. You make weight three straight days. You wrestle five matches over three straight days. And they're seven-minute matches. It's a unique five-year training opportunity to hone your mind and body to the things that are necessary to become championship-minded. You can win on the international level going through an NCAA program. There's just no question about that. These critics that say that our NCAA rules and the way that FILA has moved from that … to say that we can't win, is just crazy. It's just crazy to me that we think that way.
Would you like to see college wrestling changed from folkstyle to freestyle … or it least have the rules tweaked to be more like freestyle? And how much do you think it would help the U.S. succeed internationally in freestyle?
Terry Brands, who won two World titles as a competitor, spent three-and-a-half years as USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Resident Coach (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)Brands: The last part of your question, again, I'm not going to make an excuse for our country not being good. We have talent here that can win on the international level … whether they change the rules or not. As far as the rules, yeah, it would be nice to maybe get some kind of a pushout rule. It would be nice to move a little bit towards some of the rules that make sense for international wrestling. To move completely to freestyle, that's like asking other cultures, like the Chinese, or the Mongolians, or the Siberians, to change to folkstyle wrestling. They're not going to change that style. That's their culture. That's what they feel like makes them competitive in the long run. It's kind of the same thing here. The NCAA tournament, and the rules that the collegiate and high school folkstyle compete under, is a very entertaining system and style to watch. So it's hard to say if we want to change completely over to freestyle, especially when FILA dictates and governs the rules. Now you're looking at a change every so many years. That's kind of what drives fans away … that they just don't understand the scoring and the rules of the sport.
You have worked on the same coaching staff as your brother, Tom, in the past, when you were both assistant coaches at Iowa. But now you're an assistant coach and he's the head coach. What has this experience been like for you working as an assistant coach under Tom?
Brands: It's been real good. The best thing about it is that it's compatible philosophies. So the discipline, accountability, and standards that I want to uphold as a coach, and hold my student-athletes accountable to, we think the same. So it's a no-brainer. I don't have to butt heads with him about so and so dropping classes or drinking whisky or whatever they are doing that maybe isn't conducive to winning Olympic, World, and NCAA championships. That's very, very gratifying to me.
Terry Brands has been instrumental in Ryan Morningstar's development this season (Photo/Iowa Sports Information)You have kind of taken Ryan Morningstar under your wing since coming to Iowa. He's 25-4 and having the best season of his college wrestling career. What does he need to do to accomplish his goals this season?
Brands: He needs to stay focused on the things that he can control. We all know what those are. He needs to be able to get those things under control and be able to execute. When he does that, he's a very, very dangerous competitor. When he doesn't, he could still win the NCAA tournament. I'm not saying he couldn't do that. But it's going to be very difficult to be consistent. Again, it doesn't mean he can't win. It just means that it's not a consistent route.
Steve Mocco is back training in Iowa City. What kind of impact has he had on your program this season?
Brands: Unfortunately, not a lot. With the NCAA rules the way they are … the way that you can use your club … and the way that you can use your past alumni are two or three different things. So with Mocco graduating from Oklahoma State, we have to train him at separate times. He's just not around a lot. He doesn't travel with us and things that could help us tremendously. But his presence … obviously the guys see him in the locker room. The guys see him working out when they come through in the morning when he's lifting. He's a very, very social person that they relate to immediately. From that end, it's been good. From the work and him being able to get in on the grind of it, it hasn't been any of that. It's great for him to be here. I think the environment is what he needs. I think he's very happy here with his family. It is working, even though it's tough to tweak his workouts around the college guys … and sometimes it gets to the point, especially this time of the year, where you kind of have to tell him that he can't come in at a certain time because we're doing something with the college team. But he understood before he even came here … that that was going to be the case … and he has thrived here.
I know the goal of Iowa wrestling has always been domination. When you were the National Resident Coach for USA Wrestling, I heard you say in an interview that a wrestler can win a one-point match but still dominate that match. Do you think the same could be said about winning a one-point match in collegiate wrestling? Or is it different?
Brands: I don't think it's different at all. I think that could certainly be the case. You have a kid who is a freshman or sophomore who is wrestling a three-time returning NCAA champion … and he's just all over him and the scores just aren't turning his way and he ends up winning 3-2 on a takedown, but was in on two or three shots and is trying to get better and finish those shots. That could be a dominating performance, even though it's too close because he slips on that wet spot, it could cost him the match the next time around. But because of his ability to dominate in those positions, the next time around it will widen the gap.
Now that the regular season is over in college wrestling and you're preparing your team for the Big Tens and NCAAs, how does the training change?
Brands: It doesn't. We continue to build on, speak about, and execute on the same things that we've been doing all year. The workouts become a little shorter and more intense. But for the most part, the training really doesn't change … because the training is psychological anyway.
You have had experience as a Division I head coach at Tennessee Chattanooga. Wyoming made a play to hire you as its head coach last summer. How important is to you to become a Division I head coach again?
Brands: From the outside, it seems to be fairly important. The NWCA called. They were pretty fired up that Wyoming was trying to get me to come. I was really fired up about that. There was one little hiccup that they had … and they wouldn't really change things around so that I could make a call that most head coaches would make. That's the only reason why I ended up not going. It was very, very hard to turn that down. Tom Burman was awesome. Great leader. Great AD. I think they did the right thing by moving on and getting Mark Branch in there. As far as becoming a head coach and whether that is something I have to be … I would say no. Opportunities that come and present themselves, there are a select few options that would even get my attention at this point. But that wouldn't mean that I would ever rule it out.
Looking at the U.S. national rankings in freestyle, you have three of the top four wrestlers at 66 kg in your room: No. 1 Doug Schwab, No. 3 Jared Frayer, and No. 4 Brent Metcalf. All three are competing for the same spot on the U.S. World Team. What's the dynamic between those three? And do they wrestle against each other in practice?
Wyoming made a play to hire Terry Brands last summer as its head coach (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)Brands: We have Schwab and Frayer wrestle quite often. Obviously they work out a lot in those club workouts. And then Schwab gets in and wrestles with Metcalf fairly regularly, too, because he's a coach. Frayer and Metcalf, because of the rules, can't, which is crazy, but I'll save that for another time. Between the three, they have a good bond and a strong relationship. I think being together is obviously going to help them sharpen themselves to rise to the occasion. We're looking for one of those guys to come to the forefront and contend for world championships and Olympic gold medals.