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Quotes from defending NCAA champion Oklahoma State athletes and coach from their wrestling media day



Oklahoma State Wrestling NCAA Championships Media Day
Tuesday, March 7, 2006


Head Coach John Smith

On the Big 12 Championship...
"I really felt like we had one of our better performances of the year at the Big 12s. It was nice to qualify nine knowing we could have had less. Kevin Ward and Rusty Blackmon with records that would have been shakey for the wild card, so it was a real positive coming out of there with nine."

On the regular season...
"The thing that's happened this year, unlike the past, we've had a lot of individuals that a lot of things happened unexpected. We had four national champions that thought they were going undefeated and would win another title. It didn't happen for any of them because at times during the year they faced a lot of adversity, questioned themselves at times. I believe that makes for a tougher individual that builds off that and takes on the responsibilty that you're doing something wrong and must get better or you go the other way. You start looking at past accomplishments and believe they don't have to do this again. I think we've chosen the high road as an individual that I'm going to challenge myself, I'm going to be tough, I am going to accept that responsibility. I will say that I haven't seen our team wrestle at what I think is their best. I'm looking forward to seeing it when we get to Nationals."

On the competition...
"The bar is high. The individuals on this team speak about goals and speak about a vision that is very high. What comes with that is an expectation in itself and how they look at performing. The thing that I've had to be a little careful with this year, we've had a lot of guys on this team that have beaten up on themselves at times, and I felt like it was in danger for recovery and dangerous for the postseason. A lot of lectures and sit-downs have taken place more than ever this year. The bar has been lifted and it's a great place to be when in you're in that situation because I'm not sure you can do great things without high expectations. I think it's too easy to look at the alternatives rather than being a national champion, being an
All-American."

On his expectations for the four defending champs...
"They're part of the nine we're taking. They're not any more important than Rusty Blackmon. Championships are won and have always been won with the unexpected. I do believe we have some individuals that can play that role. You never know what will combine your total points. I do believe we have nine guys that can score. I think we have nine guys that can have a great tournament. I don't exclude any of them. They're all equal to me at this point. So much focus has been on those returning champs that guys like Nathan (Morgan) and Coleman (Scott) have kind of gone about doing some special things. Those are two sophomores in their second year of college, in what's probably the two most competitive weight classes...You're talking about some of the premiere wrestlers in the nation at those weights, so as
true sophomores they've been impressive. All year long, they've worked hard to better themselves because they know they can make a difference."

On the championship being in Oklahoma City...
"Is it being an Oklahoma City a great benefit to us? It should be. It should be a great advantage, and it shouldn't add any more pressure or anxiety. It is what it is. Let's go win there, let's go win in St. Louis, let's go wherever we have to go. "

Senior 149-pounder Zack Esposito

On the competition in his weight class...
"This year as a team has been tough and for myself individually. They started to develop styles . I think some of it is holding us back and watching us make mistakes and capitalizing off of it. Whenever you look at anything athletically, they are always trying to control something. If your going to fight someone like Muhammad Ali, you will have your best game plan to slow him down. That is what a lot of teams do with us is try to slow us down and let us make mistakes. Unfortunately this year, it has happened to
me. It is just a learning experience. Rather than coaching against the whole country, it seems that coaches try to just coach against us."

Sophomore 133-pounder Nathan Morgan

On developing into a college wrestler...
"I feel that I am on my way in. The NCAA Championships are what counts. Once the NCAAs come around, everyone has the chance of becoming a national champion. I try to keep focused and avoid all of the distractions around me."

On the competition in the weight class...
"It is a tough weight class. I am happy so far with what I have learned. Big 12s was just one step closer."

Sophomore 125-pounder Coleman Scott

On getting the team started...
"It is important for any dual meet to get started off with a win. We have been able to start off good this year. We have been able to feed off of each other, and it has helped the team out tremendously. It helps us out as we go on every match. We just need to keep winning and in a couple of weeks we will be ready to go."

On winning at the NCAA Championships...
"We are ready to go and get some big wins. When we get to NCAAs, we hope to keep the momentum rolling. It is a lot easier to win when you have confidence and the momentum rolling for the whole team."

Senior 157-pounder Kevin Ward

On his performance throughout the season...
"I think that my season has been very inconsistent. I had some good wins and some bad losses. That is behind me now. All that matters is this national tournament and putting together some good wins. All of the up and downs of the season will be forgotten when I am standing up on top next week."

On gaining experience from last year's NCAA Tournament...
"Having experience from last year helps. It was not a good NCAA Tournament last year, but having the experience of going through it will help me expect what the atmosphere will be like and everything else."

Freshman 174-pounder Brandon Mason

On his season...
"It has gone all right. The year has not gone exactly as planned, but
nationals is what matters. I am ready and focused. I saw some of my mistakes at the Big 12 Championships and lost a couple of matches that I should not have lost."

On the development of his confidence over the season...
"I gained a lot of confidence. Throughout the year, I have wrestled everyone that is the top 15. That is going to help me at nationals because I am not going to see anything new. I need to stay focused and remember what their going to do."

Senior 197-pounder Jake Rosholt

On avenging losses from this season...
"I do not think I have wrestled my best this year. Hopefully at NCAA,s I will get a chance to wrestle those guys I lost to when I am wrestling my best."

On his place in Cowboy history...
"I have not really thought about it too much. I am sure when the season is over it will start to sink in a little bit. There have been a lot of great wrestlers here, and it will be an honor to have my name included in that group."

Junior 165-pounder Johny Hendricks

On getting pinned at the Reno Tournament...
"I honestly do not know because I have blocked that out of my mind. I see my record at 24-1, and think where is that one loss from. I used that as fuel because that stuff can't happen. That is just a reminder saying you have to go there and look at everybody. Anybody can beat you. It can happen and will happen if you are not ready for it. I use that as a mental reminder that you have to get ready physically."

On staying focused...
"Like coach said, it is hard to stay mentally focused the whole year. He comes back with adversity. Yeah I got pinned, what do you do after you get pinned, did you work harder, did you slouch, did you let it stay in your mind and build and build, did you not improve from it? With those things happening, you sit there and think to yourself 'Man, that happened to me and what did I do that week that made me better.' What I did was push myself harder, I ran harder, worked harder in drills and wrestled harder in the practice ring. Right now, you have to sit and say that you have to get
ready for this match. It happens to the best and worst of us. Whatever happens after that is what makes people."

Senior Heavyweight Steve Mocco

On the NCAA Championships...
"I am looking at it as another competition. It is the only way I can prepare myself. I think if everyone does what they are supposed to do, we have a good shot. Wrestling is a team sport. One thing that is important is also worrying about yourself."

On learning about and experiencing adversity...
"This season shapes you for the end of the run. What happens during the season equals out to what will happen in the outcome. It is a process: you fix things and the process is finishing up now. I feel that I improved a lot. I think adversity is a good training tool."

Senior 184-pounder Rusty Blackmon

On his performance throughout the season...
"It (my season) wasn't that great until the Big 12 Championships. I just tried to continue to work harder throughout the season. Hopefully, the hard work will pay off in the end. It paid off at Big 12s and hopefully it will continue to roll on in to nationals."

On having experience at the national championships...
"I will treat it the same way I have every other match. I need to realize each match is just another match. You just have to wrestle hard every time you step out, and realize people break and give up."
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