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Wrestlers say job not finished after 33rd Big Ten title

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 10, 2009 7:27 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The communal celebration didn’t last very long inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.

After officially locking up their second-consecutive Big Ten championship with 141 team points, the Iowa wrestlers and coaches walked onto the main floor of the concourse, posed impassively for a couple dozen publicity photos, and then sauntered their way out of the arena to the applause of many lingering Hawkeye fans.

But the bravos didn’t come without a large dose of sodium chloride. Five of Iowa’s nine NCAA qualifiers placed lower than their pre-tournament seeds, including junior Daniel Dennis, who finished fifth despite entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed at 133.

Now, with the NCAA championships beginning on March 19, Dennis said there is only one thing he and the team can do — build.

“There are places where we need to work,” the junior said. “We just have to assess what we need to be doing and try to improve for two weeks from now.”

Even two-time Big Ten champion Brent Metcalf said he needs to refine himself during the next eight days of practice before the national tournament.

Arguably the most-targeted Iowa wrestler this postseason, the defending NCAA titleholder is anticipating a brawl from every contending qualifier he may face in St. Louis — specifically citing North Carolina State 149-pounder Darrion Caldwell, who also won an individual title at the ACC championships on Sunday.

Aside from a No. 3 national ranking this postseason, Caldwell is best known for his showing at the St. Edward Duals in 2007 when he handed Metcalf his lone collegiate loss with a controversial 1:40 pin.
Ending the regular season 29-1, Caldwell’s lone defeat came more than a month ago when he lost to Oklahoma’s Kyle Terry by medical forfeit.

“There are lots of challenges out there,” Metcalf said matter-of-factly. “I have to stick to my game plan and wrestle the way I’ve been wrestling — wrestle the way that I was brought up to wrestle — and I’ll have what I want.

“But you have to be aware that there are other dangerous competitors out there, and there are guys who are going to give you their best shot every time out.”

Fellow Big Ten title winner Dan Erekson is also preparing to fend off many of the nation’s elite in order to obtain an NCAA championship. He currently ranks No. 7 on a prestigious list of names, though, and would likely face Iowa State’s top-ranked heavyweight David Zabriskie.

For now, he isn’t letting the challenges bother him. With a gold medal around his neck and a championship trophy cradled in his arms, Erekson was nothing but smiles at the end of the day.

“It feels pretty good, but I just have to keep my mindset through NCAAs because this is the qualifier,” Erekson said. “My eyes are on the prize.”


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