March 23. 2008 9:17PM
Is Iowa's best yet to come?
By J.R. Ogden
ST. LOUIS ? The title is back, but what about the swagger?
"I don't want to go there yet," University of Iowa sophomore Jay Borschel said after helping the Hawkeyes complete a magical season Saturday with the NCAA Division I wrestling championship at the Scottrade Center.
It was Iowa's 21st national wrestling title, but the first since 2000 and the first for second-year coach Tom Brands, named Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association after the three-day tournament.
The Hawkeyes totaled 117 1/2 points, 38 1/2 more than Ohio State. The score line says Iowa won with two champions, a runner-up, one third-place finisher, a fifth and two sixths.
The wrestlers say they did it with heart, with an aggressive style and singular focus similar to those other 20 titles ? including 15 under Dan Gable and three under Jim Zalesky.
"We've got a bunch of guys who like to come out and compete and dominate and score points. Lots of points," said Borschel, who finished third at 174 pounds in his first NCAA tournament. "That's what we do."
Fellow sophomore Brent Metcalf, the NCAA champion at 149 pounds and the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler, said the change from Brands' first year to second was "dramatic.
"Guys are buying in ... and I love it," he said. "Going into the practice room every day is something you look forward to."
Nobody is saying the Hawkeyes can win nine NCAA titles in a row like they did under Gable, or even the six Gable and Zalesky strung together. But nobody is saying they can't, either.
"Thirty points isn't enough," Metcalf said. "We want to set the record. I don't know what it is (it's 170 points), but we want 300 points if that's possible."
Each and every one of the Iowa wrestlers celebrated Saturday night's title. They were happy. Borschel lifted a plant off the Scottrade Center floor and claimed it as his third-place trophy. Even Joe Slaton, who was pinned in the finals, smiled when Iowa was presented the championship trophy.
But this simply was the first step in a long process, Brands and the wrestlers said.
"It shows progress," said 125-pounder Charlie Falck, now a two-time all-American after a sixth-place finish Saturday. "We've always been taking little steps forward (since Brands arrived) ... then it started getting bigger, bigger and bigger.
"We got what we want. Now we've got to keep moving forward and keep winning. You can't become content because then guys will catch you and you don't want that."
The first step is replacing seniors Matt Fields and Mark Perry, a four-time all-American and two-time champion. Blake Rasing or Dan Erkeson could fill in for Fields at heavyweight, but Erekson may return to 197. Two-time NCAA qualifier Ryan Morningstar may jump to 165 and take Perry's spot, leaving the 157 spot open for a number of freshmen, including Matt Ballweg.
"You recruit," Brands said when asked what the next step is. "You start on your program for next year."
Brands said he will take some time to "decompress" but there will be no vacation. He may allow a few afternoons at home this week.
"Then it's off and running," he said.
That's fine with Metcalf, who is ready to get back in the wrestling room and start working toward another NCAA championship.
"The Iowa program is building and it's working toward dominance," he said. "We've got work to do. Joe Slaton has work to do. We've got work to do all the way up and down. I've got work to do."
Metcalf easily could become the face of the program over the next two years ? and beyond ? if he hasn't already.
"He's a leader in the room," Brands said. "He calls people out. He has high standards, it's how he was raised.
"There's not a coach in America who wouldn't want him on his team. We've got a room full of them. Eventually."
That's a good place to start.
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