Olympic Trials: Metcalf falls painfully short

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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The crowd was cheering. That could only have made it worse for Brent Metcalf.

If a period of a freestyle wrestling match ends in a tie, the wrestler who scored the most points on a single move wins the tiebreaker. Many of the 13,700 fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena didn't seem to know that.

So as the hometown hero Metcalf lay on the mat with his Olympic dreams dashed, the crowd erupted. The scoreboard showed that Metcalf had just tied the match with a takedown in the closing seconds. Hawkeye fans celebrated.

And then the referee raised Jared Frayer's hand in victory.

Mike Zadick lost in the semifinals on April 21. Matt McDonough, Phil Keddy, and Steve Mocco all bowed out of their weight classes at different points on Sunday afternoon. Metcalf, the two-time NCAA champion with Iowa's second-greatest all-time winning percentage, was the program's last hope for a London berth.

He spoke after his semifinal victory Sunday morning about the importance of the Iowa wrestling community being represented at the Games.

"It's big," McDonough agreed. "I'll be in the stands watching, and hopefully, there'll be a Hawkeye in the Olympics."

There won't be.

Frayer, who Metcalf had beaten in a two-of-three series to make the 2010 World Team, dominated the first match. He whipped Metcalf to his back in both the first and third periods in a 5-0, 1-4, 6-0 victory. Metcalf said that first bout was "all [Frayer] wanted."

"He set the pace," the former Hawkeye said. "And that's why I lost."

Metcalf had more success in the second match. He scored the match's first takedown but ultimately lost the first period on a push-out with just seven seconds left. He won the second period with a late takedown of his own, sending the match to a decisive third period.

Metcalf fell to an early deficit on a 2-point move by Frayer before rallying with two late takedowns. The last takedown came as time expired to tie the score.

But Frayer's two points had come on a single move. He became an Olympian.

"The whistle blew; the crowd was going crazy," Frayer said in describing the match's closing seconds. "I thought, 'Did I give up an extra point somewhere that I didn't know about?' But I knew in my head that I could give up a takedown and just not a turn. And he would have had to break my leg to turn me there."

Frayer spent nine months as an assistant coach at Iowa while Metcalf was a Hawkeye wrestler.

Metcalf spoke fairly coldly about his relationship with his brief former assistant before their match, calling it "pretty basic." He said Frayer hadn't taught him anything he still uses today.

A beaming Frayer remembered his practice room battles with Metcalf and gave his own subtle barb at all the fans' talk about what had been the Hawkeye's undefeated record inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"They say he was undefeated in here," the former Oklahoma wrestler said. "I can guarantee you he's not undefeated in that wrestling room."

Metcalf struggled to hold back tears in a post-match press conference. He said Frayer is good defensively and that he wasn't able to get to his opponent's legs and finish.

"I appreciate all the support of the fans that came out, and I hope they continue to support freestyle wrestling," Metcalf said, his voice quavering. "I hope the club can start bringing home more gold."

And then the press conference was over, and so was the fight against the tears.

Brent Metcalf lost.

Follow DI Olympic wrestling reporter Sam Louwagie on Twitter.

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