Q&A: Brent Metcalf

Nov. 24, 2009

Two-time All-American Brent Metcalf began his senior wrestling season last Friday for the University of Iowa. In two seasons, he has compiled a collegiate record of 77-2 and won the 149-pound national championship in 2008, the year he received the Dan Hodge Trophy. Metcalf, a sociology major with a minor in health and sports studies, is a key reason the Hawkeyes have won 43 consecutive dual meets and two straight Big Ten and NCAA team championships.

Q: How emotional is it knowing this is your final season of collegiate wrestling?
A: There’s a sense of urgency. You realize this is your last chance, so you want to make sure you’re doing everything top-notch on a daily basis. There are checks and double-checks when you’re going through your workout or finishing up a workout. It’s different because I didn’t have what I wanted last year. That plays a big role in it as well. You really don’t take things for granted.

Q: You mentioned you didn’t get what you wanted last year. How much did that 11-6 loss to North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell in the NCAA finals sting?
A: It hurt a lot…as much as you would expect it to and probably a little more. I was doing a really good job and having success all year long and for whatever reason, I just didn’t get up for that match. I didn’t approach the match the way I needed to and I didn’t do what I needed to do, which was win and have my way. It hurt badly and it will probably continue to hurt. Even if you win a national title this year, you still don’t feel better about getting second the year before. One of my chances to leave a legacy was ruined and it was my fault. You have to move on, but you can’t forget.

Q: What do you remember about the NCAA finals match last season?
A: I’ve been in situations like that before. Being down by points isn’t a big deal to me. My mindset is to escape, go back and score. The problem in that match was that every time I went back to score, he won the scrambles and ended up scoring, so I was digging myself an even bigger hole. I never panicked. He had a game plan put together and he took the match away from me. I wasn’t prepared from a mental point of view that this guy was going to throw everything he had at me right away. When I got back to the legs to score, I didn’t score.

Q: Will it be disappointing if you don’t get the opportunity to meet Caldwell this season?
A: I’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove myself. It’s not about an individual. To me, it’s more about going out and having success. If he happens to be the guy that’s in the way, then he’s the guy in the way. It can’t be focused on `I lost to this guy, I have to go and beat this guy now to make myself feel better.’ It’s about winning.

Q: There are so many accomplished wrestlers in college today. Did you always feel that you would be the most dominant?
A: I don’t think I would have ever imagined that when I was in high school. After you get around coach (Tom) Brands and the way I approach the sport and had his influence as well, it makes sense looking back on it now. I’ve done it the way I’ve wanted to do it. That’s a tribute to our coaches and to me and this program and what the Hawkeyes can do for you. I grew up with a (high school) coach (Roy Hall) that said, `That is your expectation. Go out and dominate and never be satisfied unless you have the ultimate.’ Until you pin everybody and win the Olympic gold medal, you can’t be satisfied. That is Gable-esque. You have to keep that hunger. I was raised that way.

Q: What do you want to accomplish this season?

“I’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove myself. It’s not about an individual. To me, it’s more about going out and having success. If (Darrion Caldwell) happens to be the guy that’s in the way, then he’s the guy in the way. It can’t be focused on `I lost to this guy, I have to go and beat this guy now to make myself feel better.’ It’s about winning.”
UI senior Brent Metcalf

A: Finish what was not done and keep a good thing going with this team. I had a letdown last year and our entire team had a letdown. Whether it was my letdown that let down that whole team view, that might be true, but we need to finish what we started. Let’s finish it this year and feel good about it.

Q: With 11 seniors on the 2009-10 roster, what steps are being taken to assure that the cupboard will not be bare a year from now?
A: There’s a lot of recruiting that goes on. Making sure you get guys in the spots where we’re going to be empty. Make sure you’re developing those guys who are already in the room. Make it clear to them that they’re going to be expected to perform in a year. You’re expected to perform now, but also know that you’re not going to be able to sit in the shadows behind Jay Borschel or whoever it may be. We need you now and we may need you this year. That’s the expectation of our coaching staff — guy No. 2, 3, 4 down the line needs to be ready. It’s the same, tough, hard-nosed team out there every time. They’re doing a good job this year. They’re training for a purpose and they’re training to be the national champion at their weight class.

Q: Who is a wrestler that isn’t a household name yet who could surprise Hawkeye fans in the near future?
A: We have a whole lot of young guys that I like a lot. Names that come to mind are Matt McDonough at 125 pounds. If the kid keeps things going the way he is right now, he’s going to be tough. Montell Marion and Dan LeClere…we’ll see who comes out there at 141. Montell’s been doing a lot of work and he looks good. The young, young guys — I really like Ethen Lofthouse — I think he’s going to be tough. Derek St. John is going to be tough. We have a lot of guys doing a good job in the room. These freshmen are hard-working kids who fight, and that’s the biggest thing in this sport.

Q: What are some of your post-collegiate wrestling goals?
A: After I graduate I plan on continuing to train here and win world and Olympic championships. I can see myself wrestling until 2016 at least. We’ll see where the world of wrestling takes me, but I plan on being here. This is the best atmosphere for me here with this coaching staff.

Q: Looking back on your college career, are there any regrets?
A: I don’t think so. That year that I had to take off because I was ineligible…I probably made the most gain I’ve ever made in my entire wrestling career. I had opportunities to wrestle internationally (Russia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Canada) and because of the training environment I was in, whether it be in Colorado Springs or Iowa City. I don’t regret that one bit. That was a huge confidence-builder for me. I wrestled the best guys in the world.

Q: What is the highlight of your freestyle career?
A: I haven’t had much of a highlight if you ask me. I did a whole lot of great things in high school. I won quite a few national titles. I placed second at the U.S. Open last year, which to an outsider is good. Well, I lost to a guy I had beaten two times earlier (Trent Paulson), so I don’t feel too good about it.

Q: You are one of the most idolized wrestlers in the country. Who did you look up to when you were growing up?
A: Tom and Terry Brands were two guys that I looked up to a lot. They were done competing by the time I was in high school, so names that come to mind are Ryan Bertin, who wrestled for the University of Michigan. There were a few other Michigan guys, but none that were really big names.

Q: You looked up to wrestlers from Michigan and Iowa. Why didn’t you originally select those colleges to attend and compete?
A: Michigan was an option because my brother wrestled there. My decision was more that I wanted to leave and do something different. When coach Brands approached me, I knew that was the guy I wanted to go with. I knew that since the moment he sat at my dining room table. I knew right away that I was going to go wrestle for him. The motivation just wasn’t there to visit Iowa at the time.

Q: Are you satisfied that you finally landed in Iowa City?
A: It’s awesome. I’m glad I did make this change. This is one of the greatest wrestling atmospheres you could ever ask to be in. It’s amazing to me because I come from Michigan where there isn’t this atmosphere. You don’t see this in Michigan. How much the people care about the sport of wrestling and the expectations and the crowd is educated in the sport and I love it. You put on a good show and they love it.