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Notebook: McDonough prepares for Olympic Trials

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Matt McDonough wrapped up a dominant college season with his second NCAA wrestling championship around three weeks ago.

Now, the Hawkeye junior is training for the chance to win something even bigger: a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

McDonough was awarded a wild-card berth in the Olympic trials — set to take place in Iowa City on April 21-22 — last week. He'll compete in the 55-kilogram/121-pound bracket on April 22 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

He'll compete against older, seasoned international wrestlers. It's unusual for wrestlers to succeed on an international level while they're still in college; two-time NCAA champion Brent Metcalf competed in the 2008 trials while he was still a Hawkeye and lost in the quarterfinals. But McDonough insisted he isn't just using the event to gain experience.

"We don't compete just to throw our hat in the ring," he said on Thursday. "We compete to be the best. I'm not just going in here to try to see what it feels like … I'm on a mission to do this, and I have to do whatever it takes to get there."

But he would likely have to beat out 2011 U.S. World Team Trials champion Nick Simmons, two-time U.S. Nationals champion Sam Hazewinkel, and other accomplished international wrestlers to do it. Winning the trials would require a series of stunning upsets from McDonough, who is 100-4 as an Iowa wrestler.

Still, McDonough and his coaches are not simply happy to have qualified for the Trials.

"This is not a learning experience to him. We didn't push to get the wild-card to make this a learning experience," Hawkeye Wrestling Club advisor — and associate Iowa head coach — Terry Brands said. "This is about high-level wrestling. Matt McDonough's about high-level wrestling."

Two of the four wrestlers who have beaten McDonough in college — Brandon Precin from Northwestern and Angel Escobedo from Indiana — will compete in the trials. But the two-time champion said he has bigger things on his mind than avenging college losses.

"When you're young you, have those dreams, and they slowly become more and more reality," McDonough said about someday winning an Olympic gold medal. "With each step I take, it's become more reality."

Former Hawkeyes back in Carver

Six former Iowa wrestlers will join McDonough in wrestling in front of their college fans. Metcalf; Todd Meneely, former All-Americans Phil Keddy, Steve Mocco, and Ryan Morningstar; and current Hawkeye assistant coach Mike Zadick will return to Carver-Hawkeye in two weeks.

Zadick said returning to Carver-Hawkeye for what is likely his last Olympic event will provide a special end to his career.

"It's unbelievable. I haven't competed here since 2002," the 33-year old said. "So to be toward the end of my career and have it be right here, it's almost like a storybook."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Sam Louwagie on Twitter.


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