Friday, January 18, 2008
Metcalf wrestles way through top 149s
By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen
His decision to transfer to Iowa cost Brent Metcalf the opportunity to gauge his skills at the NCAA championship level last year.
In a way, though, it also provides him the chance to do it three times this season.
Metcalf wrestles part three of his 20-day, NCAA-like series at 149 pounds tonight when the top-ranked Hawkeyes wrestle at No. 6 Ohio State.
Metcalf faces fifth-ranked Lance Palmer in the third bout of a six-match sequence that gives the Iowa sophomore an opportunity to go head-to-head against six of the top eight wrestlers at his weight class.
"This is what you train for," said Metcalf, named the outstanding wrestler of last weekend's National Duals. "This is what I missed out on last year. The training and all the preparation you do is fun, it's great, but being able to go out and perform in front of a big crowd and for yourself is really what you do this for. Being able to wrestle against the top competition in the country is the best way to do it. Really, you don't want to wait until the national tournament to compete against the best guys in the country. Fortunately, the best guys at my weight this year, I feel, are in our conference."
Metcalf isn't the only one who feels this way. The Big Ten's 149-pound class might be stocked with more talent than any other weight in any other conference in the country.
Consider the credentials of those involved.
? Minnesota junior Dustin Schlatter is ranked No. 1 in the country. The 2006 NCAA champion has a 92-3 record in college. Metcalf will have a Feb. 1 meeting in Minneapolis with his longtime rival -- their first since they split two matches as high school seniors when they were considered the top two recruits in the country.
? Metcalf, ranked third, is 16-1 in his first season of collegiate competition after redshirting at Virginia Tech and sitting out last year. He notched freestyle wins last year over Olympic gold medalist Kendall Cross, World University champion Jesse Jantzen and three other former NCAA finalists.
? Northwestern senior Ryan Lang is ranked fourth. The two-time All-American is 10-1 with a win over Palmer after moving up from 141 pounds, where he was an NCAA runner-up last season. Metcalf wrestles Lang Jan. 27 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
? Penn State sophomore Bubba Jenkins is 13-1 and ranked sixth. Jenkins was an NCAA qualifier last season at 157. He made his biggest splash last summer when he became the first American in eight years to win a Junior World freestyle title. Metcalf wrestles Jenkins Sunday when the Nittany Lions come to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
? Michigan senior Josh Churella is 17-4 and ranked eighth. The two-time All-American lost in overtime in last year's NCAA finals at 149. Metcalf defeated Churella 4-2 Sunday at the National Duals. They will go head-to-head again Feb. 17 when the Wolverines come to Iowa City.
? Palmer is 16-4 coming off a victory Sunday against Jenkins. He placed fourth at the NCAA meet at 149 last year as a true freshman. Metcalf's match tonight with Palmer is one of the marquee bouts in the 6 p.m. dual between Hawkeyes (11-1) and Buckeyes (8-2) at St. John Arena.
Iowa is favored in six weights based on rankings, but the status of top-ranked 165-pounder Mark Perry Jr. is uncertain entering tonight's dual. Perry sat out the finals of the National Duals against Nebraska after tweaking a recurring knee injury.
"A lot of it's up to Perry," Iowa coach Tom Brands said Tuesday. "In my mind (he will be ready to compete this weekend); I don't know what he's thinking."
Brands is thinking Metcalf's upcoming opponents will employ a slow-down tactic similar to what Churella and Nebraska's seventh-ranked Jordan Burroughs used Sunday.
"You're going to see a lot of strategy," Brands said. "You're going to see guys trying to get quick scores, you're going to see guys skate on the edge and you're going to see guys hold wrists. He's been wrestling very well and smart since the Midlands finals. The Midlands finals, we learned a lot there. Before the finals, he was wrestling into these guys' strength a little bit."
The current three-week, mid-season slate, along with the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments in March, sets Metcalf up for three opportunities to face the top contenders at 149.
"I don't really like to approach a match anticipating what my opponent is going to do," Metcalf said. "I approach it like I wrestle my style, I force my style with the way I wrestle and that's all I worry about. But you have to be aware, too, that there are probably going to be a lot of guys wrestling like they did this (past) weekend. I hope to God they come out and throw fists at me and try to wrestle me. That would be great, but realistically, it's probably not going to happen and that's all right."
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.