Dreams of gold for wrestler Erekson

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Dan Erekson remembers his first experience at Big Ten championships two years ago. It didn’t go near as well as the one on Sunday.

Placing sixth as a 197-pounder in 2007, Erekson had been expelled from the NCAA championship picture, and all he had to show for it was a bum shoulder, which he kept in a sling as he watched Iowa compete in the national tournament from the comfort of his couch.

The heavyweight has certainly come a long way since then, and Iowa head coach Tom Brands knows it. Otherwise, Erekson wouldn’t have won his first conference title on a 10-2 major decision in the Big Ten finals.

“You know, we talk about how far these guys have come, and you know what, he’s been doing it all year except maybe at the beginning,” Brands said. “He’s figured some things out, and this tournament he wrestled as good as he could to win the match, and really they weren’t close [matches].

“He got the major decision in the finals — I wanted him to get the fall so he could be like Brent. You know, ‘Be like Mike.’ ‘Be like Brent.’ ”

If it weren’t for his laurel-less résumé, and seemingly tranquil personality, though, Erekson could very well be a much larger, more muscular Metcalf carbon copy at this point in the postseason.
Like his 149-pound counterpart, he dons a bejeweled conference crown heading into the final two weeks of preparation before the NCAA championships in St. Louis.

Erekson has also tallied 11 pins so far this year, which only shrink slightly when compared with Metcalf’s current 18 — 15 of which he seized during the dual-meet schedule. And if it weren’t for a lack of confidence earlier in the season and a sprained ankle last February, that number could be higher.

Meanwhile, he credits most of his out-of-nowhere success to Tom and Terry Brands, the world champion twins who chiseled Erekson’s mind and body every day in practice like a Michelangelo masterpiece until he learned that winning is more about scoring points and less about enduring a seven-minute match.

“If you’re working hard, you’re not going to feel good, regardless of who you are,” Erekson said. “Brent Metcalf goes in there, and he works his [butt] off for seven minutes. He doesn’t show it. He’s working hard.”

Metcalf’s stoic appearance came in handy during his championship bout with No. 2 seed Bubba Jenkins, who could only score one point on an escape before getting stuck to the mat in 4:52 in front of his home-campus crowd.

It was the best performance the defending national champion had put together against his middleweight rival, calling it a “solid” and “pretty controlled” match.

But he isn’t about to rollick with his teammates just yet.

“I think you could be happy,” Metcalf said of his victory over Jenkins. “But at the same time, there is a larger scope. This is only the Big Ten championships. This is not the NCAA championships.”

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