Iowa grappler McDonough prepares for another showdown with Delgado


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Matt McDonough has won 42-straight matches since he lost to Jesse Delgado on Dec. 3, 2011. He has pinned 10 opponents during that time and won 11 major decisions.

He’s directly avenged that loss twice, beating Delgado at last year’s national duals and in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. 

But he still isn’t over it.

“You have losses in your career, and some of them sting worse than others,” he said on Tuesday. “They’re painful, but they’re something you have to take things away from. That’s a match I can use to analyze what I need to do to rid myself of those situations.”

McDonough has watched the tape of the 11-7 loss in preparation for Iowa’s dual against Illinois tonight in Champaign. He’s seen himself run out of gas, give away a 6-2 lead, and need a late stalling call against Delgado just to reach overtime. And he’s seen the then-freshman take him down to his back immediately in the extra period.

Tonight will be the second-straight high-profile match for Iowa’s defending national champion. He beat Penn State’s Nico Megaludis on Feb. 1 in a rematch of last season’s NCAA title match.

“It’s that part of the season,” McDonough said. “It’s a good test of what you’re going to face at the NCAA Tournament. You’re going to have a tough opponent every single match. In this conference, that’s how it is on a weekly basis.”

And while McDonough is ranked No. 1 and off to a 14-0 start this season, that difficult grind might be showing. The senior hasn’t earned a bonus point for Iowa in six matches. The longest such streak in the first three years of his career was three.

Opponents are focusing on tying up with McDonough, preventing him from scoring and keeping matches close and low scoring. Megaludis never let the Hawkeye senior get close to scoring on offense — McDonough needed a tie-breaking escape to seal the 2-1 victory.

But that isn’t likely the strategy Delgado will use. Hawkeye true freshman Cory Clark, who upset Delgado at an open tournament in December, said McDonough will need to be wary of falling into Delgado’s trap.

“I don’t think [Delgado] will slow the match down,” Clark said. “He’s really quick, and he has good timing. He backs up and times your footstep, and when you reach for him or take a big step, he’ll dive at your legs. You have to expect it.”

That’s something McDonough appears to understand. If he gets overzealous and tries too hard to break his bonus-point drought, it could backfire.

“You have to find new ways to attack, but not at the expense of your position. It’s not getting hasty just because a guy’s making it difficult for you to score,” he said. “It’s learning how to overcome that roadblock.”

These are the things an undefeated, top-ranked, two-time national champion focuses on to stay motivated — a full month without a major decision and a 14-month-old loss.

It’s plenty for McDonough.

“Anytime you have a loss to a guy and you’re a high-level competitor, it eats at you,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “He’s beaten him two times since, but wrestling’s a funny sport; it’s not like you get redemption, and you forget about it. You don’t ever forget that.”

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