Doug Schwab hopes breakthrough season in 2007 translates to Olympic berth in 2008
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
This story originally was published in the June issue of USA Wrestler magazine
Life couldn’t be any more hectic right now for Doug Schwab.
He’s the proud father of a 4-month-old son and plans to marry his fianc?e this summer.
He’s a full-time assistant coach for the reigning NCAA champion Iowa Hawkeyes.
And he stands just two wins away from achieving his lifelong dream of wrestling in the Olympic Games.
As busy as he is, trying to balance family, coaching and competing, the 30-year-old Schwab wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This last year, it’s been unbelievable for me,” he said. “My life has become more simplified. There are not as many distractions for me. Having a son has changed my life. It’s made me more focused on things that are most important to me – my family and wrestling.”
Schwab put himself in excellent position to make the U.S. Olympic Team in freestyle wrestling after he captured the U.S. Nationals title at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. on April 26 in Las Vegas.
By virtue of winning U.S. Nationals and with his fifth-place finish at the 2007 World Championships, Schwab earns a berth in the best-of-3 finals at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 13-15 in Las Vegas.
Schwab will sit out during the day on June 14 as the other wrestlers fight it out in the Challenge Tournament. The winner will then meet Schwab that evening in a best-of-3 series to determine who will represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games on Aug. 12-21 in Beijng, China.
Schwab continues to build on the momentum he established in 2007, when he was a surprise winner at the U.S. World Team Trials in Las Vegas. Schwab was seeded sixth, but turned in a memorable and gritty performance to make his first World Team.
Schwab (Iowa City, Iowa/Gator WC) validated that performance by winning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games before placing fifth at the World Championships last September in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Those experiences have Schwab believing he can become an Olympic champion this year.
“I’m a lot better wrestler and I’m a lot more confident than I was last year,” he said. “I felt like I was as prepared as I could be from our World Team training camps, and I went in believing I could win at the Worlds. But looking back at some of my matches, I don’t think I gave myself the best opportunity to win.”
Schwab looked strong at U.S. Nationals. He outlasted Jared Frayer, his training partner at the 2007 Worlds, in a hard-fought, three-period battle in the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Nationals. The third period was scoreless after two minutes and came down to the leg clinch. Schwab won the coin flip and quickly finished with Frayer’s leg to pull out the win.
Schwab swept fellow Iowa Hawkeye NCAA champion Bill Zadick, a 2006 World champion, in the finals of the U.S. Nationals. Neither wrestler was able to score in regulation in the first two periods. Schwab won a pair of coin flips and finished in the leg clinch both times to win the match.
“I know I can’t go into coin flips and clinches,” Schwab said. “I just need more offensive attempts. I was scoring when I committed to those attempts.”
Schwab was part of a magical 2007-08 college season at Iowa where the Hawkeyes captured their first NCAA title in eight years with a dominating performance in St. Louis. He also had to find time to train for his own international career in freestyle.
One of the wrestlers who will be in Schwab’s weight class at the Olympic Trials is super sophomore Brent Metcalf, the Hawkeye standout who won an NCAA title and captured the Hodge Trophy as the best college wrestler in the country in 2008.
Schwab was an assistant coach under Tom Brands at Virginia Tech, and they recruited Metcalf to the Blacksburg, Va., campus. Schwab and Metcalf followed Brands to Iowa City when Brands was named Iowa’s head coach in the spring of 2006.
“Metcalf is so determined,” Schwab said. “He works hard and he believes in that work. I don’t know if there’s ever been a guy with more hype on him coming into college and he lived up to every bit of it. Never once did he break down or lose his cool. At Big Tens, we lost a couple of tough matches in the semis at 133 and 141, and then he comes out and just destroys (eventual NCAA runner-up) Bubba Jenkins.
“Metcalf has gotten so much better and he continues to improve. He will not plateau. Guys are worried more about how they are going to survive a seven-minute match with him instead of worrying about how they are going to beat him. If you think along those lines, I don’t know how you’re going to beat the guy.”
Metcalf placed fifth at U.S. Nationals, dropping a pair of matches to Frayer. Schwab said Metcalf is among a handful of wrestlers he trains with in the Iowa room.
“When we work out, we scrap and battle,” said Schwab, who grew up in Osage, Iowa. “I work with him and coach him. But when we both step out on the mat to wrestle, we’re both out there to win.”
Schwab has found the perfect mentor in Brands, a past Olympic and World champion. Brands coaches Schwab in freestyle.
“Being around Tom every day and seeing the atmosphere he has built since he came back to Iowa, it’s second to none,” Schwab said. “We have a great family atmosphere around our program and that starts with Tom. He and his wife Jeni, I couldn’t think of better role models. My fianc?e (Allyson) and Jeni have become really good friends, and Tom and Jeni are my son Hayden’s godparents. I think real highly of Tom and his family.”
Brands was in Schwab’s corner last year when he placed fifth in the World.
“Schwab’s been very consistent and steady, and the way he’s wrestling now is a continuation from last year,” Brands said. “He can wrestle with anybody.”
Brands said Schwab knows what he needs to do to reach his goals.
“I’m not sure we saw his best at Nationals,” Brands said. “He needs to be and wants to be more offensive. He needs to attack and attack again. We need to score and build on the lead once we get it.”
Schwab also has benefited from the influences of legendary past Hawkeye coach Dan Gable and past Hawkeye NCAA champion Randy Lewis. Gable and Lewis both won Olympic gold medals. Lewis is now working as one of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club coaches in Iowa City.
“Randy Lewis has spent a lot of time with me and we’ve worked on a lot of techniques,” Schwab said. “He’s helped me a lot. He’s committed to us and he’s committed to our program. He’s been there and he knows what it takes.”
Schwab, a 1999 NCAA champion for Iowa, said his first memories of the Olympics came in 1984 when he watched the Los Angeles Games on television with his family.
“I was real young – what I remember most was thinking my brother Mark was going to be wrestling in the Olympics someday,” he said. “I knew Mark was something special and he would be there.”
Mark Schwab was one of the top international prospects in the U.S., and the World, in the late 1980s. But an infection in his leg and complications that followed prevented Mark from achieving his dreams.
“Part of me wants to get to the Olympics,” Doug said, “because I felt like Mark’s opportunity was taken away.”
So what would it mean for Schwab to step on the mat in Beijing?
“I don’t really want to get ahead of myself and think too much about it right now,” Schwab said. “I am just thinking about the first minute of my first match at the Trials.
“To be able to represent our country at the Olympics would be incredible. To represent my family and everybody that knows me, and to represent my hometown of Osage, that would mean a lot. To wear the red, white and blue in front of the whole World, that would be amazing. I’ve thought about wrestling in the Olympics since I was a little kid. That opportunity is right in front of me. Now I need to take advantage of it.”