Metcalf persevering after title loss


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Brent Metcalf remembers the boos.

He remembers the backflip, the lost team points, and the outside criticism that followed him well past the final day of the NCAA championships.

And while last season’s 149-pound NCAA runner-up has yet to fully accept his 11-6 finals loss to North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell on March 21, he’s vigorously moving forward.

“Being able to look at yourself is a tough thing when you don’t have the success you want,” Metcalf said on Wednesday during Iowa wrestling media day. “But … you’ve got to be able to stare that loss in the face, and you’ve got to be able to fight it, fight for it — fight to change it.”

What has changed so far?

Perhaps a newfound excitement that comes with the understanding of having one last chance to win a second individual national title, maybe even another Dan Hodge Trophy.

“You didn’t end the season the way you wanted, so you want that satisfaction back,” the senior said. “You almost crave that win. You crave getting your hand raised, and you going out and having that opportunity again is probably one of the greatest things to get excited for.”

Toward the beginning of his season-opening press conference on Wednesday, Iowa head coach Tom Brands ensured Metcalf’s March debacle hasn’t affected his wrestler’s approach during the off-season, saying the controversy ended when the NCAA Division-I Wrestling Games Committee issued a public reprimand in April.

Prior to that, Metcalf had also released a formal apology to Caldwell five days following his second-place finish in St. Louis.

“There’s been no carryover,” Brands said. “It’s been addressed, and it’s put to bed, and I back our guy there.”

But even though the incident is a dead conversation topic inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex nearly eight months later, it has served as a training tool for the former NCAA champion during that time.

Metcalf may only have two losses — both to Caldwell — tacked to his collegiate record, but the decorated Hawkeye said he likes to recall his defeats during spells of adversity.

Now, after reflecting for more than half a year and competing in the World Team Trials in early June, Metcalf is set to once again lead the top-ranked Hawkeyes to a third-straight NCAA championship.

“He’s responded as well as you would expect from a guy who’s driven and ornery,” Brands said. “The only thing is that there are reasons he got beat, and those reasons are being addressed.”

The fourth-year Hawkeye headman said coaches aren’t focusing their collective energy on mending Metcalf mechanically, though. More so, they’re working on his wrestling knowledge, communicating with the two-time All-American both verbally and subliminally during practice and workouts.

Metcalf isn’t shying from the instruction, either, noting the importance of refining the most minute fundamentals. And after watching a previously undefeated, unmatched teammate go down on the grandest state in college wrestling, senior 165-pounder Ryan Morningstar agrees.

“It was a dagger to the heart,” Morningstar said. “It was emotional for all of us. It was emotional for me — especially when it happened. I remember sitting up in the box, and it felt like I got hit by a train.

“It hurt. It hurt almost as bad as me getting beat. … But we’re moving on now, and we’re stronger because of it.”

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