Brent Metcalf rebounds from championship loss

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Brent Metcalf wasn’t supposed to lose.

The Iowa wrestler was the front-runner for the national title, so a Big Ten championship seemed like a foregone conclusion.

The senior was matched up with Ohio State’s Lance Palmer — seeded No. 2 and also the second-ranked 149-pounder in the country. Metcalf had beaten Palmer four times before, but never by more than a four-point decision.

Two of those victories sent the Buckeye tumbling out of the championship bracket at the NCAA championships in 2008 and 2009.

In the first period of Sunday’s match, Metcalf’s grasp on the Big Ten title appeared as unbreakable as the hold he had on Palmer’s leg. The Davison, Mich., native was dragging Ohio State’s finest around the mat, almost toying with his opponent.

Palmer rarely allows opponents to get deep on shots, so an early Metcalf takedown boded well for the Hawkeye.

But on his fifth try, Palmer became just the second grappler to best Metcalf.

The Buckeye’s efforts brought Metcalf to a wrestler’s most vulnerable — his back.

“I got in on a shot to hopefully win the match,” Metcalf said. “And really just stopped wrestling, waiting maybe for a stalemate instead of going to finish.”

Palmer scored a takedown and three near-fall points to put the match out of reach in the closing seconds, eventually winning, 9-3.

But losing creates a glaring awareness of weaknesses, which allows for rapid improvement.

Matt McDonough, the 125-pound Hawkeye, said after his championship loss to Indiana’s Angel Escobedo that sometimes you can take more away from a loss than you can a victory.

During the regular season, Metcalf exemplified the words of his redshirt freshman teammate. At last year’s NCAA championships, he suffered defeat at the hands of North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell. The terror Metcalf inflicted on his opponents this year indicated an improved wrestler.
But he must regroup again.

“I think losing the match in the championship probably hurts more,” the 149-pounder said. “But losing is losing. It all sucks. Luckily, I have the opportunity to correct the wrong.”

Heavyweight senior Dan Erekson hopes Metcalf does flip the score by March 20. Losses wear on more than just the grappler standing in second place on the podium.

“I try to focus on my match the whole time, but I’m real close with all these guys, and it hurts me when they lose,” Erekson said. “You can’t let it distract you because your emotions get messed up. You have to keep focused.”

Iowa head coach Tom Brands blamed the lack of focus in his finalist wrestlers — specifically their ready state of mind — and said the NCAA championships will be a good judge of “if we’re sucking our thumb, or if we’re getting tough.”

“[Metcalf] is going to learn to manage the whole match, and when things start going against you a little bit, you have to up your effort,” Brands said. “He can do it; he will do it. Am I making a prediction that he win the national title?

“I don’t make predictions, but he’s Brent Metcalf, and I know where he comes from.”

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