IOWA CITY — One match doesn’t define University of Iowa wrestler Brent Metcalf.
You won’t see him celebrate a win or dwell on a rare loss.
So, it’s not surprising that his focus to recapture a national title and reassert himself as the nation’s top wrestler isn’t blurred by a need to avenge last year’s disappointing national finals loss to North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell.
“My job is to go out and wrestle and go out and win,” Metcalf said. “It really doesn’t matter to me who’s in my way.”
Something he’s done with regularity in two seasons with the Hawkeyes, compiling a 72-2 record and winning the 149-pound national title in 2008.
But it was Caldwell, who handed Metcalf his only two collegiate losses, that snapped his 69-match win streak with an 11-6 decision in the 149-title bout in March.
Like a scar, it lingers but you function with it when the pain subsides.
“You can’t lose a match and can’t not care about it,” Metcalf said. “That’s not how it works.”
Metcalf said he was affected briefly, but had to rebound before his next competition — U.S. World Team Trials in May.
“You’re never going to put something like that completely behind you because you care about it enough that it matters to you,” said Metcalf, the 2008 Dan Hodge Trophy winner, given to the nation’s top wrestler, and Jesse Owens Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year. “At the same time you can’t let it drag you down.”
Caldwell is red-shirting this season after undergoing surgery Oct. 5 to repair an injured shoulder. Caldwell told NCSU’s student newspaper that he suffered the injury while rollerblading Labor Day weekend. His absence prevents a rematch, but that’s not the top priority.
“Would you like to have another crack at the guy?,” Metcalf said. “Of course you would, but it’s not my decision.”
Metcalf has been compared to former Hawkeye wrestler Lincoln McIlravy, a 3-time national champion who was upset in the finals as a junior by Illinois’ Steve Marianetti.
Metcalf said he talked with McIlravy, but more so with former Iowa Coach Dan Gable, whose only college loss came in the finals of his senior season at Iowa State.
Gable went on to the most dominant Olympic wrestling performance by winning a gold medal without allowing a point in 1972 at Munich, Germany. McIlravy was also an Olympic medalist.
“Just reminders that what defines you is what is going to happen in your career,” Metcalf recalled of Gable’s advice. “Just positive stuff. Just moving forward and continue to what I’m doing at a higher level.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands noted that Metcalf is motivated by being the best. Extra motivation is unnecessary, but remains a factor.
“It’s a catalyst,” Brands said. “I don’t think Brent Metcalf has any more urgency with this loss though. I think his work ethic and his approach is where it needs to be regardless.”
Metcalf said his mindset is the same and that’s becoming the best wrestler in the country, in the world and even of all-time. Nothing has derailed his preparation, according to Brands.“He’s pretty much doing what he needs to do. He’s done it all summer,” Brands said. “Getting better every day is the focus it has to be. His philosophy is to get better every day. To get tough when it’s time to get tough.”