June 12. 2008 8:08PM
Hawkeye coaches ready to take the mat
By J.R. Ogden

The Gazette

LAS VEGAS ? Tom Brands has the best college wrestling team in the country and after this weekend may have two of the best wrestling coaches ? coaches who wrestle, that is.

"There's always back and forth on if a coach should compete or not," Brands said Thursday morning after the first session of the National Wrestling Coaches Association meeting, a day before the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials. "Our guys are balanced enough that they can do both and do both very well."

Iowa assistants Mike Zadick and Doug Schwab are among the favorites in the freestyle portion of these Trials. Zadick is a former world medalist wrestling at 132 pounds and Schwab is the No. 1 seed at 145.5 after winning the national title.

Schwab, who has declined interview requests while focusing on making the Olympic team, is "relaxed," Brands said and "doing what he needs to do to be able to be in the best frame of mind that he can be in. He's got a good thing going right now and we've got to keep it going."

Brands doesn't like making predictions but likes Schwab's chances of representing the United States in Beijing this summer.

"He knows that he's capable and he's going to go out there and he's going to make it happen for himself," Brands said.

Zadick is in a little different situation. The U.S. didn't qualify a position at his weight, 60 kilograms internationally. Countries must earn positions, and based on recent performance at that weight the U.S. didn't earn a spot. But Brands said USA Wrestling is "very optimistic" it will get a wild-card entry at the weight.

"I imagine it's a pretty steep political process," Brands said. "But if they are about having the best guys at the Olympics, then it's a no-brainer that the United States gets the 60-kilogram wild card."

Zadick, he said, is preparing like he'll be wrestling in Beijing. "The chance is there," he said.

Schwab and Zadick, Brands said, represent what Iowa wrestling is all about ? winning national, world and Olympic titles. "We have some great examples of guys who aspire to that," he said.

The two assistant coaches will be joined by Hawkeye NCAA champion Brent Metcalf (145.5) and ex-Hawkeyes Bill Zadick (145.5), Joe Johnston (145.5), Eric Luedke (163), Lee Fullhart (185) and, possibly, Joe Williams (185).

Metcalf, the most dominant college wrestler last season, is seeded fourth here.

"He's just got to be a little more patient and a little smarter (in freestyle)," Brands said, "but still bringing what he brings and what he brings he brings very well ? that's hard offense, building leads, domination-type mentality."

Brands doesn't buy that it's a tough transition from collegiate folkstyle to international freestyle.

"I think wrestling is wrestling," he said. "Smart wrestling and aggressive wrestling, they win the day."

And that's what Schwab and Zadick take to the wrestling room as coaches and Metcalf as a competitor.

"Anytime you have a guy that has great standards and great work ethic and he's gearing toward winning big tournaments, that's pretty important to me," Brands said. "(Schwab) is our best example in the room as a coach and he's doing it in the competition arena as well at the highest level."

Iowa State will be well-represented here with former wrestlers Matt Azevedo, Grant Nakamura and Eric Akin at 121, Chris Bono and Trent Paulson at 145.5, Travis Paulson at 163, Kurt Backes at 211.5 and Cyclone Jake Varner at 185.

Azevedo is the top seed at 121.

Cyclone assistant coach Casey Cunningham is seeded eight at 163.

Former University of Northern Iowa wrestlers Dylan Long (132) and Sean Stender (211.5) will compete along with former Iowa and Oklahoma State national champ Steve Mocco (264.5).

n Contact the writer: (319) 368-8696 or jr.ogden@gazcomm.com