One title not enough for sophomore wrestler

BY J.T. BUGOS | NOVEMBER 05, 2010 7:20 AM

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Matt McDonough remembers a poster that hung in his room when he was a kid. It featured former Iowa wrestler Mark Ironside, along with a statement: "Dominate. Give Them Nothing."

After winning the national championship last season, McDonough plans to give his opponents nothing this year.

"It's just you're so stingy about not wanting to give the other guy nothing, you want it all for yourself," the 125-pounder said. "Just selfish, selfish wrestling. … Taking it all for yourself."

While McDonough can take everything for himself in competition, in practice he's being counted on to impart his winning ways to a squad that lost eight All-Americans to graduation. But McDonough is more than up to the task, teammate and roommate Blake Rasing said, noting that McDonough is a role model and "has everything in order."

Head coach Tom Brands said McDonough had assumed a leadership role last year.

"McDonough was leading [former Iowa wrestler and two-time NCAA champion Brent] Metcalf, and Metcalf even said that at the end of last year," Brands said. "Tremendous leadership is an anomaly.

That's something you don't get every day where you have young people like that, whether it's vocal or not.

"It used to be when I came here, you had to look pretty hard to find an example, and now you don't have to look very hard to find examples, and McDonough is a big part of that because of his results."

Those results include a national championship, a second-place finish at the Big Ten championships, and a 37-1 overall record.

But still, McDonough hasn't reached his peak as a wrestler.

"I'll tell you what, he's a work in progress, and he knows it, so that's why he works hard," Brands said. "Is he smooth and is it automatic? No, and he knows it. As a matter of fact, we have to pull him off the mat, and he's holding on because he's always working to get better. Always."

But what drives McDonough to continue working so hard? After reaching the pinnacle of college wrestling, what more can motivate the Marion native?

"People thinking you can't do it again. Guys who are back saying, 'He's not that tough,' " the sophomore said. "I've seen blogs that said, 'He's a good wrestler, but realistically, he had an easy way through the national tournament.' All that, it just gets me more motivated. Gets me more fired up. Aside from any of that, just the expectations I have for myself.

"It's not good enough just to have a good year and be done. It's good enough to continue it and to build on it and never take a step back, but always step forward."

So McDonough keeps working to prove the critics wrong. To keep "getting tough in tough situations," as Brands likes to say.

He will need to respond to adversity like he did on Dec. 6 of last year in Ames when Iowa State's Andrew Long, his eventual opponent in the national championship, took him down early in the match.

Why did McDonough prevail against Long?

"Because he's got guts," Brands said.

McDonough is out to show he's got guts again this year, but only one thing will allow him prove himself after a title winning season.

"Do it again," he said. "You can win a national title, and then hang the towel up, and say I did what I had my dreams set on. But realistically, that would be falling short of what I expect of myself."

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