Focus is on the World

Sep 3, 2013

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 — Nearly seven months after the IOC delivered a once perceived death sentence, wrestling is now just five days away from learning it fate in the Olympic Games.

The IOC general assembly is convening in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week to determine which sport – wrestling, squash, or baseball/softball – will complete the 2020 Olympic program. A decision is expected Sunday, Sept. 8, and as wrestling’s international governing body campaigns for its preservation, the very people FILA represents, the wrestlers, have turned their attention elsewhere.

“Right now the focus is the World Championships, because all we have control of is how we do at the World Championships. I guess that’s my charge going forward and that’s the feeling I get from everyone,” said Brent Metcalf, a two-time World Team member and the United States’ 66 kg representative at the 2013 World Championships.

Metcalf is one of 18 wrestlers – seven in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman, and four in women’s freestyle – departing Tuesday for Belarus as members of the United States World Team.

Team USA trained together from Aug. 18-27 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and UI head coach Tom Brands, who is in his second stint on the U.S. coaching staff, said all was well with the room’s mindset.

“They’re pretty focused,” said Brands. “It’s how it should be. Remember we’re still in (the Olympics) for 2016. Right now really what (FILA) is doing is fighting for the future. We’re fighting for the young people more than anything else.”

Metcalf says he thinks about the IOC decision only when brought up. He’ll do radio spots, accommodate interview requests, and make promotional appearances – like the Rally4Wrestling send-off in Atlanta Labor Day weekend – but that’s the extent of his control of the situation.

The World Championships, on the other hand, is always on his mind.

“Every day, every 30 minutes, every hour – it just depends,” said Metcalf. “Some days you think about it all day, some days most the day. When you’re lifting weights you think about it. When you get away and you’re doing whatever you’re doing – I get break with my son, but then your mind goes there. You think about who you’re going to have or who you could have, and how you’re going to win. Maybe there is a number of things you need to do and you know you need to sharpen up, so you can visualize yourself winning those positions.”

Metcalf won Gold at the Sargsyan International in Armenia this summer, where he beat 2010 World silver medalist Alan Gogaev. He also earned silver medals at the World Cup and Yarygin events this year, and enters the World Championships rated No. 12 in the FILA World Rankings.

Russia’s Magomed Kubanaliev, last year’s Junior World Champion, is rated No. 1. Kubanaliev fell to Jordan Oliver at the United 4 Wrestling dual in Los Angeles in May, and Metcalf defeated Oliver in the challenge finals of the World Team Trials in June. Of course all of that means nothing on Sept. 16, which even in the storm of the looming IOC decision, is the only date circled on Metcalf’s calendar.

“Everything is good. My shape is the best of my life right now,” said Metcalf. “I always say that because I hope to always make it better. The OTC training camp was good for me. My body felt good. My shape was good. Everything was good. I got good competition in with (Jordan) Burroughs, (Kyle) Dake and (David) Taylor. Those are some of the best guys in the country, and the world. It’s good to have those tests and see where you stand.”

The World Championships are hosted by the PAPP LÁSZLÓ BUDAPEST SPORTARENA in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 16-22. Metcalf’s weight class competes on the opening day.