Iowa’s Brent Metcalf sets lofty goals for this season and beyond

Craig Sesker USA Wrestling

Iowa’s Brent Metcalf shoots in on North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell during the 2009 NCAA finals in St. Louis. Photo by Larry Slater.

IOWA CITY “Brent Metcalf took the college wrestling world by storm during the 2007-08 season.

Metcalf’s first season as an Iowa Hawkeye was a memorable one as he won his first NCAA title, led Iowa to the national team title and won the Hodge Trophy as the best college wrestler in the country.

He came back strong again last season, extending his winning streak to 69 matches before he was upset by North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell in the 2009 NCAA finals. Metcalf helped the Hawkeyes edge Ohio State for the team title last March. Iowa won the title without crowning an individual champion.

Metcalf jumped right into freestyle competition after the NCAAs and placed second at the 2009 U.S. Nationals. He fell short of placing at the U.S. World Team Trials.

He just started his senior season as the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 149 pounds for the No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes.

Metcalf took time out of his busy schedule to grant an interview with USA Wrestling’s Craig Sesker following a workout last week at the wrestling room in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

You and your Iowa Hawkeye team are favored to win NCAAs this year. How eager were you for this season to start?

We have a great group of veterans in this room, and we have a great group of young guys who are in here fighting hard every day. It’s great to see, that’s for sure. The young guys are really pushing the older guys and keeping them honest. The way last year ended, we are not in here feeling like we are the national champions and feeling like we are on top of the world. It was disappointing how we finished. We feel like we are still fighting for something because we really didn’t get what we wanted. There are a lot of guys in here who are really motivated.

You are a senior now, how different is that for you?

It shouldn’t be any different. You live and train the same way. The philosophy is the same whether you are a freshman or a senior, so for me it’s not any different. You can’t go into panic mode or think this is all or nothing because it’s my last shot as a senior. For me, I have a job to do and I do it at the highest level that I possibly can. The biggest thing for us again is we’re a little bit ornery and a little bit unsatisfied because we didn’t get what we wanted last season.

What did you learn from finishing second at the NCAA tournament last season?

My philosophy on wrestling is the guy who wants it the most is going to win. If I’m going to answer the question “why did I lose the match? “because I didn’t want it the most. Do I feel like I didn’t want it the most? No, probably not, but that’s got to be my answer because that’s my philosophy. What I have to take away from that is I have to make sure I’m going out there to take a championship away from my opponent. You don’t step out there to just continue what you’re doing. It’s not another match. You can’t be complacent. You’ve got to get yourself amped up and get your mind and body ready to win a championship every single time. Especially in those big matches. I need to go out there and win and take what I want. I have to have extremely high motivation to win every time I go out there. I need to have a high sense of need and want and desire. If that’s what was lacking last year, then that’s what has to change this year. I felt good going into that match. I just have to work toward that perfect preparation to get ready for a big match.

Did you take a break after the World Team Trials?

After the World Team Trials, I took a pretty good break and spent time with my family and my fiancée. I’m not a big break guy. It’s harder to take a break when you’re not happy about how you’ve wrestled. I was still thinking about those losses. When you don’t perform the way you wanted to it’s hard to take your mind away from wrestling because you’re constantly thinking about it.

You lost close matches at the 2009 World Team Trials to Olympian Doug Schwab and eventual Trials runner-up Jared Frayer. Does that just add more fuel to the fire when you compete internationally?

I don’t know if losing is motivation. I think the fact that I didn’t perform the way I performed against those guys in this practice room is what motivates me the most. I wrestled both those guys a lot in the room. I felt like I took a step back when I lost to them at the Trials. You can’t concede anything to them, even if they are your coaches. I just need to learn from that and keep improving.

What kind of advice has Iowa head coach Tom Brands given you entering this season?

Just keep doing what I’m doing “continue to have that same drive and motivation. Once you get to being the best, you still have to find what pushed you to get to that level. You have to go back to your younger days and think about what you did when you were scrapping and trying to prove yourself.

What is it like being around twins Tom and Terry Brands on a daily basis?

It’s an honor, and a dream come true. It’s awesome. These guys were my idols when I was growing up. It’s more than just wrestling when you talk about Tom and Terry Brands. They care about you personally and they take the time to get involved with your life and what you’re doing off the mat. They are special people who live the right way. I’ve become a better person by being around them. They teach you how to lead a championship lifestyle “from the way you treat your girlfriend, to the way you treat your neighbor, to the way you treat your teammates, to the way you take care of yourself. They live by very high standards on and off the mat.

How excited are you about competing internationally in freestyle wrestling once you are done with your college career?

My goal is to win multiple World and Olympic championships. I have very high standards for what I want to do internationally. Last year, there was maybe too much focus on freestyle where I maybe looked past the NCAA Championships to the World Championships. Right now, the focus is on this season and Omaha 2010 for the NCAA Championships. I want to win the NCAA title and then worry about everything that comes after that.

Jake Herbert came right out of Northwestern earlier this year and won a silver medal in his first trip to the World Championships. Did you watch any of his matches at the World Championships in September?

It doesn’t surprise me, what Jake Herbert did at the Worlds. He’s a competitor. He wrestles offensively and he doesn’t hold back out there. He goes to his offense and he works really hard out there to win. His style is similar to mine in that respect. I hope he’s not happy with the silver and I know that he isn’t. Hopefully, he will continue to work hard and he will get where he needs to be. It doesn’t matter where you come from as long as you have that drive and focus to be the best. Like I said, I want to be the best wrestler in the World. I know I have to keep working hard to get there.

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