Monday, January 14, 2008
HAWKEYES OWN THE MAT
Iowa wins first National Duals crown since '96
By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Iowa's Brent Metcalf tries to pull Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs back onto the mat during 149-pound match Sunday in the finals of the National Duals in Cedar Falls. Metcalf, who was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler, won the match 6-2. Des Moines Register / Harry Baumert
CEDAR FALLS -- Tom Brands sat comfortably in his chair Sunday afternoon and watched the championship meet at the National Duals from the best seat in the UNI-Dome.
The Iowa wrestling coach didn't have to worry about the events unfolding in front of him. His Hawkeyes took ownership of the championship mat against Nebraska, staked a claim to their first National Duals title in 12 years and quite possibly regained the top spot in the national rankings.
The Hawkeyes hammered the Huskers 24-6 with a bullying style reminiscent of the days when Brands wrestled for Iowa teams that ruled the sport and the mats it wrestled on.
"They didn't want to be on the mat with us," Iowa 133-pounder Joey Slaton said. "We had to drag them back on the mat, and they still didn't want to be on it. They were crawling off."
To be fair to Nebraska, nobody at the National Duals seemed enthralled with the idea of tangling with the Hawkeyes (11-1).
"We got schooled in some areas where we haven't totally committed to getting better at," said Nebraska coach Mark Manning, whose team became the second unseeded squad to reach the finals in the tournament's 19-year history. "We will (improve) from this experience, but they outwrestled us. They did a great job."
Iowa tore through the tournament, dominating its four duals by a collective 106-31 margin, winning 32 of 40 individual matches and defeating 12 opponents ranked in the top 10. With that, the Hawkeyes made their Jan. 5 loss to Oklahoma State look more like a lapse than a pattern of instability.
"We made a statement," said Iowa sophomore Brent Metcalf, who was named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament. "The Oklahoma State match, I don't feel like our guys were prepared or ready to go. I feel like this is a better representation of what this team is all about."
The championship performance was certainly an impressive representation.
Charlie Falck beat defending NCAA champion Paul Donahoe 3-2 at 125 pounds to set the Hawkeyes on a path to seven victories in the first eight matches.
"It's a big win, but it's January," said Falck, who posted a victory over Donahoe at last year's National Duals. "You've got to do it in March. Yeah, it feels good, but I don't want to get too happy about it. It helped the team win, and that's all I can I say -- it helped the team win the National Duals."
Slaton pummeled sixth-ranked Kenny Jordan 11-4. Dan LeClere beat Mike Rowe 5-4 at 141. Metcalf controlled sixth-ranked Jordan Burroughs 6-2 at 149, scoring his final point on a fleeing-the-mat point that illustrated the first half of the dual.
Nebraska's tendency to wrestle on the edge in several of the early matches irritated the Iowa fans. When Burroughs was penalized after dodging a Metcalf attack in front of the scorer's bench, an Iowa fan hollered: "Grab a hold of the scorer's bench next time."
"That's definitely an attitude that's preached in our room -- an aggressive, relentless attack," Metcalf said. "I think that's probably their style, too -- wrestling on the edge of the mat. It was a combination of two opposite styles, and it made us look real good."
The Hawkeyes reached the championship with a 23-13 victory against sixth-seeded Michigan in Sunday morning's semifinals.
Iowa flexed its muscles in the middle weights, winning four straight matches to seize control of the dual. Metcalf handled No. 7 Josh Churella 4-2 at 149. Second-ranked Mark Perry Jr. beat top-ranked Eric Tannenbaum 4-1 to complete a weekend in which the defending NCAA champion defeated the No. 1, 3 and 4 wrestlers at 165. Jay Borschel beat second-ranked 174-pounder Steve Luke 3-2.
Nebraska came into the championship dual riding a wave created by victories over No. 8 Northwestern, top-ranked Penn State and a 24-13 semifinal victory against defending NCAA and National Duals champion Minnesota.
But Iowa's early onslaught took the energy out of the Nebraska corner. The Huskers scored just two offensive points in the first five matches, and the Hawkeyes completed a sweep of the lower-weights when Ryan Morningstar piled up more than three minutes of riding time in a 7-2 win against No. 18 Chris Oliver at 157.
Brands watched with comfort.
"It's relaxing as it can be," Brands said. "You have guys you love to watch, and you're proud of guys. ... We like owning the mat."
Nebraska picked up its first win of the dual at 165. Ninth-ranked Stephen Dwyer won an 8-6 decision at 165 against Aaron Janssen. The Iowa freshman was filling in for Perry, who sat out the championship dual after aggravating a knee injury in Iowa's semifinal victory against Michigan.
The Hawkeyes clinched the tournament title with victories from Jay Borschel and Phil Keddy. Borschel avenged an early-season loss with a 9-4 win against fifth-ranked Brandon Browne at 174, and Keddy thumped No. 10 Vince Jones 8-1 at 184. Heavyweight Matt Fields capped the dual with a 1-0 win against No. 19 Jon May.
"I don't let my guard down here," Brands said. "I'm going to be careful about talking about how good we are. But right now you're proud of the effort and you're proud of the program and you're proud of your staff and (for) the fans that always support you."
The title was Iowa's fourth at the National Duals and first since Dan Gable's 1996 team beat Nebraska in the tournament final.
"We're where we want to be again," Brands said. "We gained a little bit of what we lost. We came here to win and we won. If things are going your way, you feel pretty good about it, and that's why I have a little bit of a smile on my face."
IOWA 24, NEBRASKA 6
125 -- Charlie Falck (I) dec. Paul Donahoe, 3-2
133 -- Joe Slaton (I) dec. Kenny Jordan, 11-4
141 -- Dan LeClere (I) dec. Mike Rowe, 5-4
149 -- Brent Metcalf (I) dec. Jordan Burroughs, 6-2
157 -- Ryan Morningstar (I) dec. Chris Oliver, 7-2
165 -- Stephen Dwyer (N) dec. Aaron Janssen, 8-6
174 -- Jay Borschel (I) dec. Brandon Browne, 9-4
184 -- Phillip Keddy (I) dec. Vince Jones, 8-1
197 -- Craig Brester (N) dec. Chad Beatty, 4-0
Hwt. -- Matt Fields (I) dec. Jon May, 1-0
IOWA 23, MICHIGAN 13
125 -- Charlie Falck (I) maj. dec. Michael Watts, 13-5
133 -- Joe Slaton (I) maj. dec. Chris Diehl, 16-5
141 -- Kellen Russell (M) pinned Dan LeClere, 4:48
149 -- Brent Metcalf (I) dec. Josh Churella, 4-2
157 -- Ryan Morningstar (I) dec. Jeff Marsh, 3-2
165 -- Mark Perry (I) dec. Eric Tannenbaum, 4-1
174 -- Jay Borschel (I) dec. Steve Luke, 3-2
184 -- Tyrel Todd (M) dec. Phillip Keddy, 3-2
197 -- Anthony Biondo (M) maj. dec. Chad Beatty, 8-0
Hwt. -- Matt Fields (I) dec. Chad Bleske, 13-6
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.