McDonough takes his wrestling to next level

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Matt McDonough was building his lead, getting takedown after takedown, likely on his way to a bonus-point victory.

But when he brought Michigan’s Sean Boyle to the mat with 1:27 left in the second period, it was the last takedown he needed. The Iowa wrestler turned Boyle and flattened the Wolverine 3:56 into the match.

The pin was McDonough’s sixth straight, a run that started on Jan. 22 against Ohio State and includes a fall against then-No. 1 Brandon Precin of Northwestern. The pin sparked the Hawkeyes in their 30-7 win over Michigan on Sunday.

“I think that high pace really plays to my advantage and working hard from that first whistle to the last whistle,” the 125-pounder said. “Always working to score more points. If you go out there thinking ‘I want a pin,’ well, then, you’re going to tend to work a little bit harder to get what you want.”

Last year, the defending national champion recorded nine pins; he has 10 so far this season.

Even more remarkable is that McDonough’s streak of pins has come during the Big Ten dual season. The Marion native didn’t put together any streak of falls last year, and only three of the nine pins from a season ago came during Big Ten duals.

It seems that the sophomore has fully submerged himself in the “McDonough Zone,” as head coach Tom Brands likes to call it. Whatever the name, McDonough has lifted himself to possibly even a higher level than he was in at this time last year.

“McDonough, when he’s in the good mode, he’s good,” Brands said. “Tonight he was better than he was two nights ago, for whatever reason. I know when he is in and out, and when he is fast-paced, and he was tonight — that’s how he’s got to wrestle. Can’t let guys tie him down.

“We’ve been talking about it for a while, and I think he is better than he was at the beginning of the year. But there wasn’t that much wrong in the beginning of the year.”

The grappler wouldn’t speculate if this was his best stretch of wrestling in a Hawkeye singlet. He said he doesn’t like to compare, and while he’s been able to force his will on his opponents, none of his pins have been perfect.

“You can’t ever be satisfied,” he said. “But I’ve just been going out there and essentially going after exactly what I want — and that’s a pin. That’s the goal of the sport, and that’s the mindset you have to have every time you step on the mat … Every aspect dominating until you get the fall.”

Senior 197-pounder Luke Lofthouse spoke after the match about the Hawkeyes’ attacking style of wrestling. He said the key is to never let up, even if the match is in hand — which he displayed in his bout when he recorded a takedown with 18 seconds left, even though he was ahead at the time.

It seems that McDonough might be the Iowa wrestler best exemplifying that attacking style. With the exception of the Precin match, he has built significant leads before planting his opponents.

The difference between now and the beginning of the season has been “more of everything,” he said. He pointed out that he’s had to work harder in the beginning of matches — best shown last weekend against Indiana when he racked up 13 first-period points — and has gone to his pressuring offense more.

The result of all these pins is not only bonus points for the Iowa team, it also sends a message to the rest of the 125-pounders in the Big Ten and the nation.

“You have to [send a message],” McDonough said. “It’s not really thinking about other people when I’m wrestling those guys, but you better believe the things I do on the mat and the way I train and the style I wrestle is letting guys know that I’m coming, I’m wanting to battle seven minutes — or more if need be.”

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