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When Tom Brands talks, there is no wasted conversation. It’s engaging, informational and almost always fun.

That was the case this week when the 14th-year Iowa wrestling coach sat down in his office with the Register for a 31-minute podcast interview.

We talked about the top-ranked Hawkeyes’ ascension this season as they look to end an NCAA title drought that dates to 2010. We talked about Spencer Lee, of course. And we talked about the hot-button topic of the week, that Brands pulled a surprise in burning true freshman Abe Assad’s redshirt at 184 pounds, instead of going with fifth-year senior and three-time NCAA qualifier Cash Wilcke.

Brands opted to go with a first-year freshman out of high school for just the second time in his Iowa tenure; Lee was the first in 2018 and won a national championship. Assad went 2-0 in his dual-meet debuts, but it was what Brands saw from his Midlands Championships loss to UNI’s Taylor Lujan at the end of December that provided the evidence he needed.  

“We didn’t do this to make everybody better. We did this because we believe in Abe Assad,” Brands said in the interview. “He brings a factor that is high-high level wrestling. He will make those other two guys better, but he brings a little bit different dimension.

“(The 4-0 loss at Midlands) is not about a moral victory. It wasn’t a moral victory. He was upset when he got beat. He was evaluating it immediately when he walked off the mat. That’s what we want to see. That’s a high-level mentality there.”

Hear more of what Brands had to say with Register columnist Chad Leistikow, and be sure to check out Friday’s newspaper to see a written column from the interview.

For a direct SoundCloud link to the podcast, click here.

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