NCAA wrestling: Best in the U.S.? Hawkeyes' Metcalf
By DAN McCOOL ? firstname.lastname@example.org ? March 17, 2009
Determining the best wrestler heading into this week's NCAA Division I national championships proved relatively easy for a panel of national experts.
Choices for the best on the mat in specialized categories proved more difficult in a Des Moines Register survey sent to five observers who know the pulse of the college wrestling world, heading into the tournament in St. Louis.
The best defensive wrestler? One who is flying under the radar and could make noise when the event starts Thursday? The best at last-second wins? The most dangerous guy to face? Several wrestlers were mentioned, but there was no clear favorite.
Who is the best overall wrestler in Division I? Iowa's Brent Metcalf, according to replies from Matt Pfiffner, publisher of The Predicament; Matt Krumrie of the wrestlingmall.com; Andrew Hipps, senior writer for RevWrestling.com; Ron Good, editor of Amateur Wrestling News; and Bryan Van Kley of W.I.N. Magazine.
Metcalf was named No. 1 by four experts, with the fifth calling the unofficial honor a tie with Northwestern's Jake Herbert.
Pfiffner, of The Predicament, the state of Iowa's wrestling newspaper, gave the nod to Metcalf, who takes a 65-match winning streak and the No. 1 seed at 149 pounds into the national tournament. Herbert, the Big Ten Conference wrestler of the year, owns a 60-match winning streak and the No. 1 seed at 184 pounds.
Krumrie, of wrestlingmall.com, said determining who is better could be decided by colors.
"If you like Iowa, it's Metcalf. If you don't like Iowa, it's Herbert," Krumrie said. "Fans should appreciate the talents of both no matter who you cheer for."
King of takedowns
Metcalf and Herbert were the top vote-getters for determining the best at scoring a takedown.
Hipps, of RevWrestling.com, said Metcalf is tops.
"He creates more scoring opportunities than any other wrestler because he's constantly on the attack - stalking, pushing, pulling, snapping and pressuring his opponents," Hipps said. "Very few wrestlers can match Metcalf's pace for the first minute of a match, let alone an entire 7-minute match."
Good, of Amateur Wrestling News, favored Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska at 157.
Tough to crack
The question of the top defensive wrestler created a mix of voting.
Hipps selected 174-pounder Steve Luke of Michigan, Pfiffner chose 197-pounder Jake Varner of Iowa State, Bryan Van Kley of W.I.N. Magazine picked 165-pounder Mack Lewnes of Cornell, Krumrie leaned toward defending 125-pound national champion Angel Escobedo of Indiana, and Good indicated a tie between 165-pounders Ryan Morningstar of Iowa and Nick Marable of Missouri.
St. Louis sleeper?
Picking an "under-ranked" wrestler led to more differing opinions.
Andrew Hochstrasser at 133 and Adam Hall at 157 of Boise State each received a vote. So did 133-pounder Franklin Gomez of Michigan State and 157-pounder Scott Winston of Rutgers. Steve Brown of Central Michigan at 149 pounds drew mention for his durability.
One argument for Brown: Metcalf has only three decision wins this season, and two of them were against Brown, according to Pfiffner.
Wins at the wire
Looking for the best at last-second wins led to lists that included only NCAA champions.
Escobedo, Herbert and Metcalf received votes, as did Jordan Leen of Cornell, the defending 157-pound winner.
Figuring out the "most dangerous wrestler" also drew different responses.
Van Kley listed 141-pounder J Jaggers of Ohio State, Krumrie chose Boise State's Hochstrasser, Good selected Nebraska's Burroughs, Hipps picked 141-pounder Corey Jantzen of Harvard and Pfiffner selected Metcalf.
Leader of the pack
Who would be the ideal coach to turn this group of talented competitors into a squad capable of winning the team championship?
The answers varied, again.
Iowa coach Tom Brands picked up two votes, one alone and one as a tie with Iowa State's Cael Sanderson. Another tie indicated Cornell's Rob Koll and Central Michigan's Tom Borrelli. Koll and Borrelli also ended with individual votes.
Koll, the son of Bill Koll, a three-time NCAA champion wrestler and later coach at Northern Iowa, drew praise from Hipps.
"He knows how to peak his teams at the NCAAs better than any other college wrestling coach in the country, with apologies to Tom Brands of Iowa," Hipps said.