All the World's a Stage...

April 19, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — More than a decade ago, Ryan Morningstar, then a freshman at Lisbon (Iowa) High School, wrote the year 2012 on a poster and taped it to his bedroom wall.

Since that day, Morningstar won three Class 1A state high school wrestling championships, became a two-time Division I All-American competing for the University of Iowa, and began a college coaching career at the University of Wisconsin.

This weekend in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Morningstar will fulfill a dream by contending for a 74 kg (163 pounds) spot on the United States Olympic freestyle team. The Olympic Wrestling Team Trials will be held here Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22 — the first time the event has been in the state.

“I’m doing it for a love of the sport and because there is unfinished business,” said Morningstar, who was 110-40 during his Hawkeye career. “I still have that same piece of paper that says 2012 that I dated and put up when I was a freshman in high school. This is the highest level of wrestling and you can’t beat it.”

Morningstar will compete Saturday, April 21, with Session I beginning at 9 a.m. (CT); the second session begins at 6 p.m. Six other former University of Iowa wrestlers will compete in the Trials: Matt McDonough (55 kg/121 pounds), Mike Zadick (60 kg/132), Joe Johnston (66 kg/145.5), Brent Metcalf (66 kg/145.5), Phil Keddy (84 kg/185) and Steve Mocco (120 kg/264.5).

Zadick and Morningstar will compete Saturday; McDonough, Johnston, Metcalf, Keddy and Mocco will compete Sunday.

Nearly 12,000 of the Trials’ 13,700 all-session tickets have been sold, and it promises to be a pro-Hawkeye environment.

“It’s good to have fans behind your back,” Morningstar said. “It’s probably going to be a majority of Iowa fans here who will have our backs in tough situations.”

“I’m doing it for a love of the sport and because there is unfinished business. I still have that same piece of paper that says 2012 that I dated and put up when I was a freshman in high school. This is the highest level of wrestling and you can’t beat it.”
Ryan Morningstar
UI wrestling All-American

It’s also a plus to be able to put in some last-minute training with two of the world’s best wrestlers and coaches in Tom and Terry Brands. Tom won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics at 136.5 pounds and Terry, a world champion in 1993 and ’95, won bronze at the 2000 Olympics at 127.75 pounds.

“You can’t say enough about them,” Morningstar said. “They are guys I had a great relationship with the last six or seven years, and the training here is great. It’s good to be back around these guys.”

McDonough will have a bigger adjustment than most of this weekend’s competitors. He spent the past year wrestling folkstyle, and on March 17, McDonough won his second NCAA championship at 125 pounds. He will shed four more pounds to make the 55 kg freestyle class.

“It’s a lot of the same skills, a lot of the same techniques,” McDonough said. “The stakes are that much higher in this competition. It expands your spectrum of wrestling skills and makes you more of a complete wrestler in all situations and positions, no matter who you’re facing.”

Like Morningstar, McDonough is a native Iowan, growing up in Marion and winning three Class 3A individual state championships (2006 at 112 pounds, 2007 at 119, and 2008 at 130).

“When you’re young, you have those dreams and now it is slowly becoming reality,” McDonough said. “With each step I take, it’s becoming more real, but I can’t just have a goal in mind, it has to be a mission. I’m on a mission to do this, and I have to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Metcalf, a two-time NCAA champion and 2010 world team member, is one of the top contenders in the 66 kg division. His motivation is simple: to be the best in the world.

“You talk about the legend you leave here for yourself and the stats that you put on the wall,” said Metcalf, who was 108-3 at the UI. “When I was young, I used to open wrestling magazines and there were these kids’ faces in there. I would tell my dad, `I want my face in this magazine.’ He said, `You have to wrestle in this tournament, this one, this one, and you have to win them all.’ So that’s what we would do. I would go to the tournaments and win them all, and I would get in the magazine. To me, it was about being the best in wrestling.”

Eighteen former Hawkeyes have competed in a world wrestling championships, including Metcalf and Zadick. For Metcalf, it has been a long road since winning his last collegiate match in 2010.

“I love the process, I love the training,” Metcalf said. “I am focusing on being prepared for this event right now. There has been a lot of work going on for a number of years.”

And whether it is wrestling freestyle or folkstyle, Olympic Trials or Big Ten Championships, the objective is unchanged.

“The most joy you can have is on the wrestling mat when you get your hand raised after you win,” Metcalf said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”