The March Toward March Begins

Nov. 20, 2009

Video interview with M. McDonough

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the Nov. 19 edition of the Official Sports Report (OSR) for the University of Iowa. OSR is a daily e-newsletter exclusively about the Iowa Hawkeyes. Click HERE to learn more.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Matt McDonough loves competing in front of thousands of fans, but the key to his wrestling success comes when no one is in sight.

McDonough will fill the void at 125 pounds for the top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team when it kicks off the season Friday, Nov. 20, by hosting the six-team Iowa Duals inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Last season, while wrestling unattached at 133, McDonough compiled a record of 22-8. Six of those losses came against teammates Montell Marion and Nate Moore. So with All-American Daniel Dennis established at 133, McDonough slipped down a weight class, where he will take over for graduated 2008 All-American Charlie Falck.

“Pushing yourself is the key for me,” McDonough said. “When no one’s watching, what am I doing? Am I taking the easy way out or am I making it hard on myself?”

Taking the easy way into the Hawkeye varsity lineup was not an option for McDonough. First, he had to control his weight. Then he had to win two wrestle-offs. McDonough’s first opponent on Nov. 7 was Iowa State transfer Tyler Clark, who won 25 matches for the Cyclones last season, including one at the NCAA championship. McDonough won that bout, 5-1. In the finals, he faced sophomore J.J. Krutsinger and won, 10-3.

“I went in there and wanted to get after it and show everybody that I’m not just here to fill in,” McDonough said. “I’m here to do my part. It was a good wrestle-off and I’m on the right track to where I want to be.”

Falck held the 125-pound slot in the Iowa lineup since 2004, going 95-34 during his career (he took a redshirt in 2005-06). Falck was 26-6 last season.

“I learned a lot from him. We wrestled a lot,” McDonough said. “I saw some of the things he did really, really well and I saw some of the things I could work on to improve.”

McDonough is working toward the future — March 20 to be exact — and a place on top of the NCAA award’s podium.

The No.1-ranked Hawkeye wrestling team opens the season at home Friday against Coe College (10:30 a.m.), Cornell College (noon), Iowa Lakes Community College (1:30 p.m.), North Carolina-Pembroke (3 p.m.) and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (5 p.m.)

“We don’t shoot for little stuff here,” McDonough said. “I want an NCAA title. That’s what I’ve had my eye on ever since the summer started when I decided I was going to go down to 125. I know there’s a lot of tough competition in the whole country, let alone the Big Ten. It will be a real tough season and I’m just working for March.”

Iowa is the two-time defending NCAA champion and the Hawkeyes have won 38 consecutive dual meets. They don’t expect to slow during 2009-10 — the school’s 100th season of wrestling. With 11 seniors, this group of Hawkeyes is one of the most talented and experienced teams in the nation. The seniors have combined for 504 career victories, an individual national championship, three Big Ten titles and nine All-American honors.

That doesn’t leave much room for underclassmen in the starting lineup, but McDonough is one of the few.

“It’s exciting. That’s why you come to the University of Iowa, to wrestle and to get out there and compete, win national titles and beat the best of the best,” McDonough said. “There’s nervousness, there’s anxiousness, there’s all sorts of feelings. But when it comes down to it, I’m getting myself ready for battle.”

During his career at Linn-Mar (Iowa) High School, McDonough won 151 of 166 matches with three state championships. He was a prep teammate with current Hawkeye 174-pounder Jay Borschel in 2004-05.

“Matt does things the right way and he’s very determined,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “He comes in with a good attitude every day.”

Even when no one else is around.