The Metcalf highlight reel
Same thing over and over: Domination
Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-Citizen ? March 16, 2009
From virtually anywhere inside the Bryce Jordan Center, it looked like a complete and thorough dismantling, arguably one of the most impressive beatings in a Big Ten title bout in years.
To someone with an outsider's view, it may have seemed like Brent Metcalf's flattening of Penn State's second-ranked Bubba Jenkins was one of the Iowa junior's best showings in his two seasons with the Hawkeyes.
To Tom Brands, it was just another re-run.
"If you put a highlight reel together, it would all look the same," the Iowa coach said. "It's not like, 'Wow, he pinned Bubba Jenkins.' He's pinned him before, he's beaten him bad twice and now he pinned him again. (Metcalf) really had to dig deep a couple times (in past matches against Jenkins) and this time I think Bubba kind of rolled over.
"A lot of competitors don't put as much emphasis on every match as a guy like Brent Metcalf does, so he's got more coming. But it takes away your edge, whether they admit it or not. Being a tough competitor all the time, that's what Metcalf is about and that's why he is where he is. It's consistent."
Nobody in college wrestling has been more consistent than Metcalf during the past two seasons. The nation's top-ranked wrestler at 149 pounds has won 65 consecutive matches. His last 19 have resulted in bonus points for the Hawkeyes -- 11 pins, four technical falls and four major decisions -- and have enhanced Metcalf's stature as one of the main attractions at the NCAA Championships, which begin Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
"It's unbelievable how much (opponents) run from him," Iowa 133-pounder Daniel Dennis said. "He comes off the mat and he might have been poked in the eye eight times, he might have had his singlet grabbed, or had people coming at him with the cheapest, dirtiest things they have and he's not even (mad) at them, he's (mad) that he let it get to him or he's (mad) that he didn't get the major, or if he got the major he's (mad) that he didn't tech fall or if he got a tech fall that he didn't get the pin."
There were some followers of the sport who accused opponents of running from Metcalf at the beginning of the season when some of last year's stars at 149 left the weight.
Jenkins, North Carolina State's Darrion Caldwell and Ohio State's Lance Palmer are the only other returning All-Americans at 149 this season. Michigan's Josh Churella graduated, Minnesota's Dustin Schlatter took a redshirt and Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs and Harvard's J.P. O'Connor moved up to 157 pounds.
"I think it's a situation where people grow," Metcalf said. "I grow. I just happened not to grow that much. I don't think it was an avoidance thing. I think the world creates this idea that people are scared. Maybe they are, but to be at this high of a level, you've got to be a competitor, and I think there are a lot of competitors out there in this country, and I don't think anyone is shying away from me. And if they are, you can't allow yourself to believe that they are because then you're losing an edge."
Metcalf walked out of the Scottrade Center last March with his first national and the tournament's outstanding wrestler award after tearing through the 149-pound bracket and beating Jenkins 14-8 in the title match.
Metcalf has been even more effective on his feet, more difficult to score against, and he's added a dimension of top-position pinning skills to his repertoire this season. He scored three takedowns and put Jenkins on his back twice, building a 9-1 lead before the pin in the Big Ten finals that pushed Metcalf's record to 33-0.
"You could find a highlight reel of him and there's a lot like that," Brands said. "He's just doing it over and over and over again."
Brands said it's all a product of Metcalf's "fanatic" approach.
"To me, fanatic means doing it to the highest standard imaginable," Metcalf said. "Maybe you wouldn't understand it; the world wouldn't understand the standard that you set for yourself when you're approaching your wrestling match.
"I love the process. I love going out and wearing on an opponent, and I love the mentality. I love the idea of the sport of wrestling where it's just mano a mano. That's my drive. Those are the sort of things I enjoy doing. Instead of playing hoops or drinking beer or whatever other things people enjoy doing, I enjoy doing that."
Just 10 of Metcalf's 33 matches have lasted the full seven minutes. Entering the NCAA Championships, Metcalf leads Iowa in victories, team points scored, pins and technical falls. The Hawkeyes like to throw around the term "breaking" an opponent. If Iowa kept statistics for it, Metcalf would be leading that category, too.
"It's a masculinity thing, and I'm tougher than that guy type of thing," Metcalf said. "Whether or not (breaking an opponent is) really what's achieved, it doesn't really matter. It's the edge you create for yourself, it's the mentality you create for yourself when you're going out on the mat. That's all that really matters."
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.