Mizzou Wrestling Media Day Quotes

MUTIGERS.COM After a MAC title, J'den Cox still won't settle until he makes the podium as a National Champion
After a MAC title, J'den Cox still won't settle until he makes the podium as a National Champion

March 12, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Two days after the team's third-consecutive conference championship, Mizzou Wrestling Head Coach Brian Smith and Mid-American Conference champions Drake Houdashelt and J'den Cox spoke with media.

Head Coach Brian Smith - 16th season

Opening Statement...
"Coming home from the MAC Championship I was thinking about what a great staff I have and what a young team and what they have accomplished. I do not think there has ever been a team in any sport at the University of Missouri that has replaced 80% of their lineup over a one-year period. We lost two top-10 kids during the season and then come back and win the conference title. What we accomplished up at Kent State, I was truly proud of the effort. It started the week after the NCAAs last year. Then, this summer we got all of these true freshmen. And three of them that are in the lineup. To come out and we said we are going to find a way to win the conference title and do well at the NCAAs. The season has been difficult losing Johnny Eblen and Kyle Bradley, redshirting Alan Waters, and replacing eight starters from the year before including four All-Americans. But the effort that my coaching staff, my strength coaches, and everybody else committed to this just shows what we can accomplish. I am so proud of this program and where it is and the people that are associated with it. I just wanted to mention that."

On how hard is it to win an NCAA conference title...
"This is my 16th year and my third conference title. It is not easy. We love the feeling. I know a couple of the young kids that I am glad that they are in that line up. They know what we have in the future but we are focused on next week. J'den Cox said on the way home `Coach, this is awesome. I love this feeling, winning as a team.' When he was at Hickman he won four individual state titles but didn't do much as a team. Now he is a part of a really special team and he loves it. I know Joey (Lavallee) does too. Drake Houdashelt has won three individual titles and three team titles. He could be the first athlete probably at the University of Missouri to ever win an individual and team title in every year he has competed. That is an amazing accomplishment that he still has to fight for. But for now we are focused to win a national title with him next week."



On Sunday's Championship comeback over Northern Iowa, especially with a youthful team...
"No, we expected them to succeed this season. We started these true freshmen and a couple other freshmen because we knew that they were talented and that we had the staff to get them ready. That is why I am really proud of my staff. They got these kids to believe, to step up, and to mature. We kept on talking and telling them if they keep on maturing that they have a chance at this. I know Northern Iowa blew us out in the dual meet. They had a sold out place and it was ugly and we kind of faltered that night. But, I knew that we could come back and win a tournament because we had more depth than UNI. We had 10 really solid wrestlers that were in a position to place, and we saw a couple of their guy gets knocked out Saturday. We knew we had a chance."

On expectations for next week...
We want to compete at the highest level and bring some National titles home. That is what we expect. These kids are going to go out and battle every match and find out where we are. I really believe we have multiple chances to All-American and a lot of good chances at individual national titles. So, that is what you focus on. We want our guys focused on their first round matches, and then each match after that. The biggest goal is to weigh in three times. Because you know weighing in three times you are an All-American or going for a national title. I told the young guys that and I said if we have a lot of guys doing that we could be on the podium as a team."

On Drake Houdashelt's and J'den Cox's chances of winning a national title...
I believe they can win a national title. You have too. They have been consistent all season. Both of them have improved over the year. J'den has gotten so much confidence in the game plan over the season and he follows it. I joked with him after his MAC finals because he did his little `Ali shuffle' that he did in the first match that got him taken down. I screamed him `what are you doing and stop doing that' and the kid got to his leg during the match but he fought it off and reshot. He said ` Coach, I have to have a little fun" and I said you have to stick with the game plan which he did. That is why you have to believe. How much confidence both of them have and where they have been. Drake went through the battles last year and made it to the semifinals. He does not want to lose in the semifinals again. He is going there to win it. I've known J'den since he was four years old, and he has always said since the day that he was going to be a four-time National Champion in wrestling. He has said it in interviews since the beginning of season and has said it every day this year, and I tell him all the time he looks more and more like a national champion. And he truly believes it."

No. 1 Drake Houdashelt (149 Pounds) - Junior - O'Fallon, Mo. (Fort Zumwalt West)

On when he knew the team could win the MAC title after trailing most of the match...
"I think it was when Northern Iowa's 184 pounder lost, and all of our guys after my match were getting bonus points. I looked up at the scoreboard and we were a point ahead or something like that and all we had left was J'den's (Cox) match and heavyweight. With J'den up, I knew we were going to win."

On the performance of the freshmen this season...
"I've been very impressed. We have three true freshmen in the starting lineup, and they have matured a lot throughout the season. They have worked really hard and stepped it up at the end of the year when it matters, so it just shows how fast they've matured."

On the adjustment from high school to college...
"It's a really hard adjustment, especially without taking a redshirt year. I redshirted my first year, but they were thrown into it immediately. It's tougher because they didn't have that year but they figured it out."

On what he has improved on this year...
"Just sticking to my game plan every match and wrestling hard for seven minutes. It's hard to do, but I try not to worryi about who's ranked what, but just go out there and wrestle the best I can."

On where the team is focused heading into nationals...
"Well, we're going for the first match of the tournament, then the match after that and so on. We're not worried about placement. We'll pick up points where we can get them as a team, but we'll take it one match at a time".

No. 2 J'den Cox (197 Pounds) - Freshman - Columbia, Mo. (Hickman)

On Coach Smith being his coach after knowing him all his life...
"He doesn't ride me too hard. He knows what's best for me, so there are no hard feelings about it. We have a job to get done, and it is about finding a balance between me wrestling how I want to wrestle and how he knows I should."

On his goal of four national titles in four years...
"I'm feeling really good about it. I still have confidence in myself, in my coaches and in my team that I have what is necessary to accomplish that goal. I saw four but I have to focus on one for now."

On how it feels to be a MAC Champion...
"It feels amazing but it has to be set aside. I was in the elevator and someone told me that some congratulations were in order. And I said 'not yet'. I have to stay focused and I need to keep working hard, because the ultimate goal is next week in Oklahoma City."

On what it's like to be one of the favorites as a freshman...
"It really doesn't matter because I still have to focus on what I have to do. Rankings and expectations and all of that doesn't matter. J'den Cox has to focus on J'den Cox. I need to stay focused on what I have to do and the things I can control."

On the experience of starting as a freshman...
"It's been awesome, especially since the other freshmen and I have been here all summer and have been through it together. We all knew there would be a time where we would all get into this lineup. So we've trained hard and ran seven milers, and did everything we were supposed to do. So for us to perform the way we are I guess would say is kind of is surprising. But we have worked hard to get to the point, so to us it's not surprising."

On what he has improved the most on throughout this season...
"I'd say my top game. In high school and in my last two years in particular, I wasn't riding anybody. I was just cutting them and trying to take them down again. So getting in here and working with the coaches and teammates, my top game has improved leaps and bounds."

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