Wrestler looks to reclaim his spot at the top

BY J.T. BUGOS | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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Matt McDonough needs to push the pace.

Iowa’s 125-pound wrestler’s only loss this season has come in a match in which four total points were scored. Northwestern’s then second-ranked Brandon Precin was the victor, 3-1, in the championship round at the Midlands Championships on Dec. 30.

But if McDonough is able to keep the pace high for all seven minutes, both head coach Tom Brands and assistant coach Mike Zadick said McDonough will lose to no one — including Precin, the current No. 1, when he faces him again on Friday.

“It’s about [McDonough] being able to take it to another level because [opponents are] trying to hold him back and keep the reins on him — keep him from that high pace,” Zadick said. “If you can keep it up at that high pace, there are not a lot of people that are going to stand on the mat for seven minutes with the kid. But they’re trying to hold and squeeze, and he has to work that much harder to be loose, limber, and on his attack.

“And then he’s going to keep at a pace that his opponent can’t match.”

McDonough showed that pace in his last match on Jan. 22 against Ohio State. He racked up a 15-4 advantage over Bo Touris before flattening the Buckeye for a pin in the second period. “High-paced” came up with Brands after the match and again this week during practice.

“We have to be on a scoring pace,” he said. “When we get squeezed in we have to wiggle out, clear, and wrestle. High pace favors us.”

Zadick pointed out that opponent’s plan will be to hold McDonough and squeeze him to try to keep both grapplers close and thus the match close. But he, like Brands, said that the sophomore needs to “wiggle loose from those leeches” and get to his offensive attacks.

Brands admitted McDonough and the coaching staff might have gotten ambushed at the Midlands a little, but McDonough said he is prepared — mentally and physically — for this rematch with Precin.

“Just wrestling someone once prior, you know what it’s going to be like,” the Marion native said. “He’s going to come out and fight and wrestle hard. That’s what I’m excited for, that’s the reason I train the way I do. If you want to be the best, you have to beat guys that are going to come out and want to take your head off.”

McDonough said he has to be more aware right at the start and also be more fired up. But while at times it may seem he doesn’t have the blowout matches he did a year ago on his run to the national title, he insists he feels as good — if not better — than he did at this time last season. Brands said McDonough has to be ready to take the top ranking away from Precin — the same attitude the Wildcat had at Midlands — and “maybe not be so friendly.”

And while this match could play a large part in seedings for both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, McDonough shrugs off any insinuation he’s wrestling for a No. 1 seed.

“There’s way bigger things on my mind than seeds,” he said. “Just the glory of having victory. You’re wrestling the best in the country, the chance to take that away from him. The chance to get something back from him.”

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