Greed is a good thing for Iowa wrestlers

March 9, 2009

Big Ten Wrestling Photo Gallery (Session III) | Big Ten Network interview with Coach Brands

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — After winning a second consecutive Big Ten Conference wrestling team championship Sunday, University of Iowa head coach Tom Brands paid Hawkeye fans the ultimate compliment by calling them greedy.

“Our fan base is very greedy and I love it,” Brands said, after being named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

Greed for additional success continues to push the Hawkeye program toward almost unfathomable goals. With a 33rd conference title in tow, Iowa is now focused solely on national championship No. 22.

“This is a stepping stone only…only,” said Brands in a post-tournament interview. “You saw them out there. They’re ready to recover and analyze and then get back into training phase.”

Big Ten titles are impressive, especially considering that the conference is the toughest in the nation. But for Iowa, the hardware rests in St. Louis, host to the NCAA National Championships on March 19-21.

“There is a larger scope,” said UI junior Brent Metcalf after winning his second league title at 149 pounds. “This is only the Big Ten championships, this is not the NCAA championships.

Metcalf was awarded the Big Ten Tournament Outstanding Wrestler Award for the second straight season, the first time that has happened for a Hawkeye since Royce Alger in 1987-88. This is how the 2009 season compares favorably to 2008, from an Iowa team perspective at the league tournament:

Conference finalists — The Hawkeyes had four this season and two a year ago.

Conference champions — The Hawkeyes had two this season and one a year ago.

Total points/victory margin — The Hawkeyes scored 141 points and won by 27 ½ over runner-up Illinois this season. They scored 127 and won by 14 ½ over runner-up Minnesota in 2008.

Although Michigan had more individual champions (three) and Wisconsin had just as many finalists (four) as the Hawkeyes on Sunday, it was Iowa’s depth that provided distance in the standings. The Hawkeyes had six wrestlers finish in the top three (next closest were Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio State with four) and Iowa had nine placewinners in the top five (Illinois and Ohio State had six).

“The team title takes care of itself with individual performances and we had nine guys who scored pretty good points,” Brands said. “I think the team race was probably sewed up (Saturday) night. Just because it was sewed up, we weren’t celebrating or happy. You go back to the hotel and you’re working on guy’s minds and emotions right away. Let’s get as high up on the stand as you can, even if it’s only third. That’s a Gable principle. Who are you? Are you somebody who’s going to get up after you get punched in the face or are you going to sulk? We did a pretty good job coming back.”

Metcalf became Iowa’s first two-time Big Ten Champion since Cliff Moore in 2003 (133) and 2004 (141). Metcalf won by fall in the finals over previously unbeaten and second-ranked Bubba Jenkins of Penn State. Junior Dan Erekson became Iowa’s first conference heavyweight champion since Steve Mocco in 2003. Erekson won by major decision against Kyle Massey of Wisconsin, 10-2.

Brands wanted to see seniors Charlie Falck (125) and Alex Tsirtsis (141) on top of the award’s stand. Falck finished third, losing 4-0 to eventual champion Angel Escobedo of Indiana in the semifinals, and Tsirtsis was fourth.

“I want to see Tsirtsis win a championship, that’s what I want to see,” Brands said. “I want to see Falck win a championship. Those are two seniors.”

Brands commended Erekson and Metcalf for earning bonus points during their final-bout victories.

“Those are big things,” Brands said, before pausing and possibly feeling the itch of greed. “But I would like to see Metcalf times nine. Why not?”