Brent Metcalf upsets to make US freestyle team
In March, Brent Metcalf put the finishing touches on a varsity wrestling career that included two NCAA championships and a record 108-3, the second-best winning percentage (0.972) in the University of L’s rich history. ‘Iowa.
While those accolades weren’t easy, they are pale compared to what the Davison native hoped to accomplish next – representing his country in an international freestyle competition.
For that to happen, Metcalf was going to have to find a way to beat opponents who had fought with him in recent World and Olympic Team Trials.
“It was about deciding that I wasn’t going to lose to these same guys again,” said Metcalf, the only four-time undefeated Readiness Champion in the Flint area. “That was a big part of it – I was so sick of losing to them that I was finally going to beat them and move forward with my goals.”
Never one to apologize or doubt himself no matter the odds, Metcalf went 4-0 last week
in Council Bluffs, Iowa, taking out two enemies he had gone 0-6 against before. Therefore, Metcalf will be the United States freestyle representative for the 66 kilograms (145.5 pounds) at the World Championships September 6-12 in Moscow.
At 23, Metcalf is the youngest member of this year’s World Team and the first Flint area grappler to be part of a World Team since Central graduate John Matthews made his sixth and final. Greco-Roman world team in 1982.
Metcalf, who graduated in sociology from Iowa last month, changed his workout routine this time around, which prepared him better.
“My coaches (Olympic medalists Tom and Terry Brands) wanted me to take almost a complete break after the varsity season, which isn’t what I usually do,” he said. “It was really beneficial. It kept me motivated and ready to go when the trials arrived.
Metcalf ranked among the 14 wrestlers in the World Team Trials as one of three wildcards chosen by national coaches. All except senior U.S. National Champion Jared Frayer have competed in challenge rounds, with the winner taking on Frayer in a best-of-three series of matches for the national team spot.
Metcalf started off with a 4-1, 2-0 sweep of four-time American champion and two-time NCAA champion Teyon Ware in Oklahoma.
It was just a tune-up for his next opponent, 2008 Olympian and 2007 World Team member Doug Schwab, a three-time All-American while in Iowa and assistant coach of Metcalf over the past four seasons. Metcalf had never beaten him in competition before, but made a 1-1, 1-0 decision, winning the first round on a tiebreaker.
“Last year he scored with seven seconds left in one period and 10 seconds left in another to beat me, so I knew I was about to beat him,” said Metcalf. “It was just a matter of feeling the game and keeping moving to beat it. He didn’t say anything to me afterwards.
Next, Metcalf beat University of Michigan All-American Josh Churella 2-0, 1-0 three times, earning the right to meet Frayer, who had beaten him four times in the past three years.
Frayer, a University of Wisconsin assistant coach and two-time All-American while in Oklahoma, won the first game 1-0, 1-0 before Metcalf won the second 3-0, 3- 4, 2-1. Metcalf lost the first period of the final game 6-0 before shutting out Spawn the rest of the course, 4-0, 2-0. The third period ended 0-0 before Metcalf easily broke free of Frayer’s clinch in overtime for the winning points.
“It was about getting hard and bringing it to him,” Metcalf said. “I was hesitant in the first game, but when it was do or die in the second game, I was able to fight and score points. I felt he was getting tired in the second half of the second game and I knew that I could take it. It wasn’t going to beat anymore. “
Metcalf’s performance propelled him to the top of the US 66 kilogram freestyle rankings. He came fourth in the Trials behind Frayer, Schwab and Churella.
His only competition before the World Trials was a match against Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intreped on May 13 in New York City. Metcalf had beaten Jenkins four times in college competition, including for the 2008 NCAA 141-pound Championship. Metcalf beat the NCAA qualifier triple by technical fall this time around.
Metcalf was initially scheduled to face Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State, who inflicted two of his college losses on him, but an injury to Caldwell forced Caldwell to retire.
“I felt bad for the fans who were expecting to see this game, but Jenkins is no slouch and it was a great experience,” said Metcalf. “It was exciting wrestling outdoors on the deck of a Navy ship and it was my first time in New York.”
Metcalf, who is engaged on Oct. 9, will spend most of the summer at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs preparing for world competition. The team will test themselves in a double encounter in Azerbaijan next month.
“Right now my focus is on being the best international wrestler I can be and being part of the Olympic team in 2012,” said Metcalf. “I can definitely see myself becoming a coach someday and the more I accomplish on the mat, the better off position I’ll put myself in for it.”
Metcalf, who finished with a cumulative grade point average of 3.46, recently completed his collection of academic awards with a pair of prestigious academic accolades. He was one of only two wrestlers and two Big Ten athletes named to the 15-member ESPN Academic All-America team.
Metcalf was also Iowa’s Big Ten Medal of Honor choice. It is awarded annually at each Big Ten institution to a senior male and female student-athlete who has demonstrated a high degree of scholarly and athletic competence.