March 17. 2009 11:26PM
Never back down
By J.R. Ogden
IOWA CITY ? He never flinched.
University of Iowa junior wrestler Brent Metcalf, who opens defense of his NCAA title Thursday in St. Louis, faces tragedy and its aftermath like he faces an opponent on the wrestling mat. Straightforward, attacking, never flinching, never wavering.
"His wrestling isn't unique to his personality," said his father, Tom. "That's who he is ... He lives his whole life the same way."
Never backing down, never flinching.
After arriving at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2005, Metcalf got the call he feared, yet expected. Chase, his older brother by two years and his best friend, had died in a car accident at age 21. Chase had been drinking.
"When I got the phone call, it wasn't tears, surprise 'Oh my God,'" Brent said last week in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the Iowa campus, where he transferred after one year at Virginia Tech. "It was anger a little bit. It was 'you SOB, of course you did.'"
Brent saw this coming.
Like Brent, Chase Metcalf was a standout wrestler at Davison (Mich.) High School, a two-time state champion and four-time placewinner. He won at the Senior High School National Championships before enrolling at Michigan on a wrestling scholarship and won a Junior National title in Greco-Roman.
"He was probably a better wrestler than Brent," Tom Metcalf said. "He couldn't get it together mentally like Brent can."
Chase spent two years at Michigan. It was in Ann Arbor where his life began to unravel.
"He had problems there with drugs and alcohol," Brent said. "He ended up falling out of a window and breaking his leg."
Chase tried to come back but was never the same wrestler.
"It ended pretty quickly," Brent said. "When it started to collapse, it all collapsed."
Chase made attempts to turn his life around, Brent said, but never got there. After he left Michigan, he coached at Davison, helping Brent put the finishing touches on a 228-0 high school career. Chase also worked for a club with young wrestlers.
"He was a great coach. He was a great motivator," Brent said. "I don't know what you want to call turning it around (though). I have pretty high standards of what turned around means. To my standard, he probably wasn't turned around. He was out drunk driving."
Brent admits, however, that his high standards were molded from his relationship with Chase. They both started wrestling at an early age, Brent first.
"We did everything together," Brent said. "We pushed each other. He pushed me more than I could ever ask myself to push myself. He cared more about my career than he did his own almost.
"It was a tough situation. He was always doing things to hinder himself and his situation. But everything he had to say to me was positive."
Brent said the family took the loss hard, especially his parents.
"I felt I had to maybe be the strong one a little bit," he said.
He wasn't, of course, all the time. Tom said Brent lost his focus and lost some matches during a red-shirt season at Virginia Tech,
"There was nothing (Brent) could do about it," Tom said of Chase's path.
Brent uses that love for his brother, those high standards Chase set for him, as motivation as he attempts to be called the best wrestler of all time. That's Brent's goal ? best in the country, best in the world.
Brent, 22, takes a 33-0 record into this weekend's NCAA Championships and has won 65 matches in a row, including the national 149-pound title a year ago. He has 18 pins this season, including one in the Big Ten Championships final against second-seeded Bubba Jenkins of Penn State.
"I'm not angry at him now," Brent said of Chase. "I know he's there watching me, watching over me."
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