Hawkeyes worrying about their job on the mat

March 20, 2009

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Brent Metcalf has been the poster child for University of Iowa wrestling for two seasons. His 149-pound semifinal match later this evening against Lance Palmer of Ohio State will go a long way in determining if the Hawkeyes or Buckeyes haul home the NCAA team championship trophy.

Metcalf (36-0) met Palmer last season in the NCAA semifinals and held on for a 3-2 victory. He also posted a 5-3 victory in the 2008 dual.

The stakes could be even higher this evening with Ohio State leading the team race after three sessions with 61 ½ points and four semifinalists. Iowa is in fourth place with 53 ½ points and seven wrestlers alive — two on the championship side (Metcalf and Ryan Morningstar at 165 pounds) and five in the consolation bracket (Charlie Falck at 125, Daniel Dennis at 133, Jay Borschel at 174, Phillip Keddy at 184 and Dan Erekson at 285). Alex Tsirtsis and Chad Beatty have been eliminated.

“We need to worry about our job,” Metcalf said after scoring a 14-6 major decision against No. 9 Kyle Terry of Oklahoma in the quarterfinals. “My job later tonight happens to be an Ohio State guy, so I can get my job done there.”

The pressure to repeat as NCAA champions hasn’t fazed Metcalf, who said that every time a wrestler pulls on the Iowa singlet, he better be prepared for the heat.

“I think any time you’re an Iowa Hawkeye, there’s pressure to win,” Metcalf said. “You hear two loud screams (at the NCAA tournament) and that’s when the Hawkeyes win and when the Hawkeyes lose, so you know you’re being watched.”

Morningstar secured his first All-American award and in his eyes and the eyes of the UI coaching staff, he was being watched a little too closely by mat officials. Morningstar’s opponent in the semifinals — Colt Sponseller of Ohio State — was awarded two stalling points that sent the match to overtime before Morningstar prevailed with a takedown.

“I don’t understand how you can get a stall call with 14 seconds left in the match when I stick a leg in and I’m working on top and he’s just sitting there in a tripod,” Morningstar said. “How can I be called for stalling? That’s extra motivation for us and makes us tougher.”

Morningstar takes a 30-5 record into tonight’s semifinal bout against Andrew Howe of Wisconsin. Howe is 2-0 this season against Morningstar, winning 4-3 in the dual and 2-1 in the finals of the Big Ten tournament.

Although certainly nothing new, with every session, the crowd at the Scottrade Center is becoming more vocal in traditional anti-Hawkeye fashion.

“We have the best fans around and everyone here knows that and that’s probably part of the reason why they cheer against us,” Morningstar said. “It’s good to go out there and stick it to them a little bit.”

Although the semifinal results from Metcalf and Morningstar are crucial, so to are the performances of the five Hawkeyes in the wrestleback phase.

“We have to have those weights win and win with bonus points,” Metcalf said. “Your job is to go out there and win and the rest will take care of itself.”

Action resumes this evening at 6 p.m. with the championship semifinals and two rounds of wrestlebacks. Any student-athlete alive after this evening will be an All-American.