Wrestling hosts Penn State

BY J.T. BUGOS | JANUARY 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Brent Metcalf walked into the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex with five stitches above his right eye and yellow-purple shading below, compliments of Purdue redshirt senior Nick Bertucci’s knee.

The 149-pounder said the Boilermaker’s flagrant misconduct on Sunday fired him up and reminded the two-time Big Ten champion that his opponents this season will give everything they have — and sometimes more.

Metcalf said he has moved on from last weekend’s incident, though, and his bruise won’t be a distraction for the Iowa wrestling team as it eyes two Big Ten matches this weekend.

The Hawkeyes will host No. 12 Penn State at 7 p.m. today and Michigan State on Jan. 31 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa’s dual with Penn State features five matches between grapplers ranked in the top 13 — including a pair of All-American bouts with the No. 1-ranked Metcalf facing No. 5 Frank Molinaro at 149 and No. 5-ranked Iowa senior Ryan Morningstar facing No. 8 Dan Vallimont at 165.

“We just have to worry about 10 matchups coming up Friday night, and the first one out of the chute [at 125] is a real interesting matchup,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “You have a rambler, scrambler type guy [in Brad Pataky], who is real dangerous, and you’ve got a guy who’s been doing a good job for us.

“We have some guys who have opportunities to really perform in front of the home crowd.”

Not only will the Nittany Lions enter Carver-Hawkeye Arena highly ranked, but the meet also marks the return of former Iowa State head coach Cael Sanderson, who last spring packed his bags for State College, Pa.

“We know what Sanderson is about, and we know what his characteristics are as a coach,” Brands said. “They’re building for the future. But reading some of his comments and seeing what he is about this year, they aren’t conceding anything, either.”

Senior 133-pounder Daniel Dennis said that while Iowa needs no extra incentive to win tonight, Sanderson’s presence along the side of the mat does add to the fervor.

The main thing, though, is that the dual provides another chance to perform in front of a home crowd and demonstrate the Hawkeyes’ apparent superiority this year, he said.

Individually, Dennis will have a chance to cement himself as a forerunner for the national title when he takes on Michigan State’s defending 133-pound champion and top-ranked Franklin Gomez this weekend.

“It’s a big date for me. I’ve been looking forward to it, and I’m excited about the competition,” the All-American said. “I’m not dwelling on what he’s doing, more just getting myself ready and sharpening up where I’m good and where I need to be in the match.”

Brands said Dennis’ match against Gomez is a “great opportunity,” and he exhibited ample confidence in his veteran wrestler.

“Dennis has to get two hands to the leg, get on offense, be aggressive, and good things happen for him,” the fourth-year head coach said. “It doesn’t matter how high a guy is ranked, just wrestle and have fun. Go grab the challenge by the horns and throw it down.”

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