New rules favor Metcalf at 2013 Trials

BY CODY GOODWIN | JUNE 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa wrestling fans remember Brent Metcalf as a relentless scoring machine — one who stalked the mat as if his opponent was his prey. He racked up points and broke spirits.

He embodied the Hawkeye wrestling philosophy, one that entailed constantly pushing forward and emphasized aggressive offensive attacks. And now, thanks to the rule changes from FILA last month, fans will get to see that Brent Metcalf wrestle this weekend at the 2013 World Team Trials.

“Particularly for Brent, they’re right up his ally,” USA Freestyle coach Zeke Jones said about the new rules. “Brent wrestles a physical style. He always comes with great conditioning, and that’s become a factor again.”

The most notable rule changes to freestyle wrestling lean in Metcalf’s favor. Matches are now determined by cumulative scoring in two three-minute periods instead of having to win two of three periods.

The leg clinch — which puts the wrestler on defense at a huge disadvantage — has been eliminated. Takedowns are now worth 2 points, the same amount as a turn, which puts more focus on offensive attacks.

These rules benefit a wrestler such as Metcalf because it takes away strategic approaches to matches. Often, a wrestler could score a quick point and then wrestle defensively because the little amount of time was in his favor.

“You see that in college matches — when there’s a minute or so left, one guy goes defensive or super-offensive if they’re winning or losing,” Metcalf said. “It was how it was, and I didn’t like it.”

This is not to say he withered under the old rules. He strung together a series of wins in 2010 to make the World Team that was sent to Moscow under those rules. He was the youngest member of Team USA that year.

But since 2010, Metcalf has fallen painfully short — literally, a couple wins away from last year’s Olympic Games, and mere points from the 2011 World Team — of donning the Team USA singlet for the FILA World Championships.

“There’s a lot of uneasiness and unsatisfaction that I’ve carried since then,” Metcalf said. “I’ve been just a win shy of what I’ve wanted every time.

“You’re motivated, like always, but there’s an extra sense of urgency because you don’t want it to end up like last year.”

Still, Metcalf “has to do the job,” says Jones. The red, white, and blue singlet isn’t going to be handed to him — especially this year, when Metcalf must down a pair of young contenders in Jordan Oliver (formerly of Oklahoma State) and Kellen Russell (a two-time NCAA champ from Michigan).

The stakes are raised even further because Metcalf must beat them both. His third-place finish at the 2013 U.S. Open in April left him as the second-seeded wrestler in this weekend’s Challenge Tournament at 66-kilograms. Oliver’s second-place U.S. Open finish — he beat Metcalf in the semifinals, 1-0, 0-1, 1-0, under the old rules — earned him the first seed.

Russell will sit out until a tournament champion is crowned. He’ll face the winner in a best two of three series to decide who will represent the country in Budapest, Hungary.

“It’s a very tough weight-class, and [Oliver]’s going to have to have his best day,” Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith said at Thursday’s press conference in Stillwater. “And he’s been known to give some great days.”

Said Metcalf: “The change has to be me making him work. The rules are more in my favor, but I have to make him work that whole six minutes — put the crank on him and have what I want.”

Follow DI wrestling reporter Cody Goodwin on Twitter for updates from the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials.

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