Saturday, March 29, 2008
Metcalf wins wrestling's 'Heisman'
'Domination' edges undefeated season
By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Brent Metcalf is following orders and staying off the mat this week, and still the Iowa sophomore managed to add yet another wrestling title Friday -- Hodge Trophy winner.
The 149-pound NCAA champion edged Pittsburgh's Keith Gavin, the only undefeated wrestler in the country this season, and Ohio State's Mike Pucillo to claim college wrestling's version of the Heisman.
Metcalf -- the second Hawkeye to win the Hodge and the first since Mark Ironside in 1998 -- swept four of the sport's top individual awards. He was named the outstanding wrestler of the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments and the National Duals, leading Iowa to team titles in each of those events. He capped a 39-1 season last Saturday night with a 14-8 victory against Penn State's Bubba Jenkins in the highest-scoring national championship match since 2001.
Metcalf said he thought his Hodge chances were slim at the end of November. He suffered his only loss Nov. 24 on a controversial fall call against North Carolina State All-American Darrion Caldwell.
"If you were to ask me about it, if it was a possibility after that, I probably would have said no just because I lost and I got pinned," Metcalf said. "But I was able to turn the season around and perform well. It was definitely a surprise and a great honor, too."
Metcalf won 31 straight to finish the season and emerged as the leader of a national championship team and as the top wrestler at one of the top weights in the country.
"That might have played a very large role in (the Hodge selection)," he said. "The entire country put this weight class at the top of the heap. It was a tough weight class and I performed well, performed like I like to wrestle."
Metcalf's victory tally included 12 pins, seven technical falls and nine major decisions.
"That's my style, and that's what I've been talking about all year, and that's the style I like to wrestle," Metcalf said. "I think (the Hodge panel) appreciated it, they liked it and it worked out for me."
The Hodge Trophy is presented annually to the most dominant collegiate wrestler in the country. It is named after Dan Hodge, who won three NCAA titles at Oklahoma in the mid-1950s. The award is co-sponsored by Wrestling International Newsmagazine and the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum.
"The purpose of the award -- initiated in 1995 -- is to reward excellence in college wrestling, and particularly, a dominating style of wrestling," Hodge Trophy founder Mike Chapman said in a released statement. "The way a wrestler competes is what we look for. Going undefeated is very important, but equally importat is going all-out on the mat -- winning through domination, the way Dan Hodge did. We think a dominating style of wrestling is a key element to the sport's popularity, and we want to reward that style of wrestling."
Metcalf became an instant fan favorite with his relentless attacking style and the face of the Iowa program with his never-satisfied attitude during his first season with the Hawkeyes.
"Brent Metcalf epitomizes what this award is all about," Chapman said. "He brings a mindset to the mat that is hard to deny. He goes all out, every match. He never seems satisfied. He has brought great excitement to the sport this year, leading Iowa to a runaway victory at the NCAA tournament. I've attended 38 NCAA tournaments, and he is one of the most talked-about wrestlers I can remember."
After the win against Jenkins, Metcalf spent a portion of his post-match news conference dwelling on the two takedowns he surrendered in the first period and talked about the need to fix his mistakes before he wrestles April 23 at the freestyle U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas.
Metcalf hasn't gone back to work yet. He took this week off from training at the request of Iowa coach Tom Brands.
"I think I'm back at it on Monday," Metcalf said. "You get antsy sitting around, you don't have much to fill your day with. You're usually working out a couple times a day and that takes up quite a bit of your time, and now you've got all that time to sit around. I've been getting in there and doing things on my own just to continue to head in the right direction, but I've taken this time to relax and then I'll get back to work."
Gavin finished 27-0 as a senior with five pins, two technical falls and five major decisions at 174 pounds. Pucillo won the 184-pound title and finished 34-1 with six pins, six technical falls and eight major decisions. Metcalf was selected over Gavin and other one-loss wrestlers primarily because of his bonus-point victories and the strength of his schedule, according to the news release from W.I.N.
"Everything he's gotten in this sport he's earned, and this is no different," Brands said. "It's who he is, the way he was raised. He appreciates the award immensely because he knows what it stands for. It stands for domination and he embodies that."
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.