Tim Johnson has been the play-by-play voice on Iowa Public Television's College Wrestling broadcasts for the past 21 years. Also with us is Jim Gibbons. Jim is a former national champion wrestler, the ISU head coach, and long-time color announcer for college wrestling. They sit down with Todd Mundt to discuss the prospects of University of Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands.
Mundt: Jim, wrestling fans remember Tom Brands as this tenacious competitor. How will he inspire and motivate this team?
Gibbons: He's an icon for Iowa wrestling. If there's ever an Iowa style out there, the Brands brothers, and particularly Tom Brands, epitomized that Iowa wrestling style, just relentless and punishing. That interview just reminds me of how inspiring he is to be around and about how intense he was as a competitor.
Mundt: What do you think, Tim?
Johnson: I don't think there is any question that he's already inspired them. You just have to read the newspaper and see the comments by the wrestlers. They're already saying we're up a notch, we're up another level already of intensity. Well, that's the coach.
Mundt: Well, so what then is the challenge that he faces as he takes over this team?
Gibbons: Well, I think that the team -- that individuals on this team are not always going to be wired the same way that Tom is at any given moment, and it will be how can he bring that voltage down, so to speak, to be able to relate to some of the guys in the program.
Mundt: Tim, what do you think?
Johnson: Patience with a capital "p."
Mundt: This is a building phase for a program. He has to think the same way Cael does.
Gibbons: And I think one other point on that is that Tom has had a little more experience. He's been, you know, twelve years as assistant, two years as head coach. And I think that will help his patience. I see from him he's just more actualized than I think I've ever seen him before.
Mundt: Now, Tom hired Dan Gable as his assistant. Was that a good idea or not?
Gibbons: Well, it cut our crew down by one. It probably saved some money around here. But I think that's where Dan wanted to be. And Tom has always been a big part of Dan's coaching career, and I think that they're both kind of back home. There's a very close relationship there.
Mundt: Dan is used to being a head coach. Now you're asking Gable to become an assistant. What kind of a position does that put him in?
Johnson: Dan is always the head coach in one sense, and I don't say that in a negative. He's the ultimate coach. He's the one that says you're good but you can be better, and that's what he's going to do for Tom Brands.
Mundt: The first major test for both of these head coaches and for the teams is going to be the Iowa State/Iowa meet coming up on December 3. Can you frame this meet a little bit for me, you know, competing forces going in.
Gibbons: Well, I think going back to last April, you're sitting there looking at, boy, I can't wait to see the first time that these two coaches bring their teams to the forefront. It's going to be at Carver Hawkeye arena in front of a packed audience, and I just think it's going to be a tremendous atmosphere for this sport, a lot of anticipation, a lot of excitement because, really, both programs have their icons now coaching the team, you know, the most successful wrestlers that those programs have produced. You know, that's debatable probably over at Iowa, but not at Iowa State. So it's going to create a great deal of excitement as these two coaches -- their programs develop under their leadership.
Mundt: And, Tim, lots of renewed media attention, fans coming back. This is a real opportunity for both of these.
Johnson: Oh, I agree totally. I think the rivalry goes to a whole other dimension. The administrators got the coaches they wanted. The expectations are high. And I believe there's a lot of fans out there that are wanting to come back and join both bandwagons, and these two coaches give them that reason to come back.
Mundt: And who do you think is going to win?
Johnson: Well, I think it's always an advantage to the home team if your fans come out. So I think the fans will have a lot to do with it. And it's tough wrestling in Carver Hawkeye, especially as many young wrestlers that Iowa State has.
Mundt: What do you think, Jim?
Gibbons: Well, I brought some pretty good teams into Carver Hawkeye, and it's a tough place to wrestle even when you have -- you're the favored group. But it's a toss-up matchwise. I think it's going to create a lot of excitement. I think Iowa needs to hold serve here, with the big audience that they're attracting. Now, granted this is a team that finished number four in the country last year, so they've got a lot of names back. But Iowa State has got some great names back and some great freshmen. So advantage to Iowa State if they can yank one out of here at Carver Hawkeye, but not many teams do that.