For some competitors, second is not good enough and settling for silver is unacceptable.
Sometimes raw emotion can get the better of anyone, especially in wrestling when the intensity, passion and dedication it demands are unmatched.
There have been a few wrestlers who have discarded medals over the years.
One tossed his medal aside after his disappointing third-place finish at the Iowa state tournament, because he felt it cost his coach and teammates a chance for a trophy and place ahead of a rival. A colleague said he watched a defending state champion throw his runner-up medal away after being denied a repeat title. The wrestler denied it but his coach admitted it happened and the medal was retrieved.
University of Iowa 125-pounder Matt McDonough reacted to the disappointment to a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships on Sunday by throwing away his runner-up medal. It didn't shock me at all. I have seen it multiple times in the past.
Of course, many are having a field day with it. Some are taking shots at McDonough. None of them realize that even before leaving the state of Illinois McDonough was attempting to reclaim his medal, asking for contact information for it to be returned to Iowa City.
There is no denying McDonough got what he earned, but he doesn't have to be happy about it. He would be the first to admit it. Illinois' Jesse Delgado beat him in the finals and deserved the gold.
Listen, I would proudly wear a silver medal won in a pie-eating contest. Medals mean something different to everyone. I'm also not training the entire year, sacrificing and putting my body through the glorious mental and physcial torture to be the best on the wrestling mat.
I don't believe it is a sign of disrespect or poor sportsmanship. With the right mixture of paints you can color a picture anyway you want, so people will make that out to be the case. Just like some who cheer for McDonough will be glad he doesn't show signs of complacency with second.
Honestly, it shows the emotion of the moment and the standards at which McDonough has developed.
Critics will focus on the negative without acknowledging the maturity he exhibited when he became a steppingstone for national fame to Arizona State NCAA champion Anthony Robles after losing in the NCAA finals as a sophomore.
Those watching from afar are not two-time Big Ten champions, who just failed to join a select group in one of the nation's top wrestling traditions, and are not a three-time NCAA finalist with two national titles.
McDonough faces a tremendous amount of pressure just from his accomplishments that began when he accepted the responsibility to cut down to 125 to help solidify the Hawkeyes' lineup as a red-shirt freshman. Just the quest for a third Big Ten and NCAA title and reaching the finals in both all four years is enough pressure to crush an individual.
If he releases steam by tossing it out, so be it. His medal, his choice. I don't believe one of the wrestlers who placed third through eighth is offended and wants the discarded award. They all received what they earned, too.
The fact that McDonough quickly sought a way to regain it shows that he understands the medal is important. Even if not to himself, it means something to the program or even his family members, who have helped provide the opportunities to reach the elite levels of college wrestling.
When you lose less than seven times in a college career with one competition remaining, you receive a lot of attention. If you stumble, there is someone watching, and ready to let the digital world know. A mock Twitter account was devoted to McDonough, leading to inaccurate reports of his frustrations after he lost to undefeated, and now top-ranked, Alan Waters, of Missouri. He is accustomed to a big spotlight shining on him.
Also keep in mind, when an accomplished athlete does something like this, it is interesting. It may not be news, but it is interesting. Athletes have to be guarded if they don't want this to become public knowledge. It would have never been known had he done it in the locker room and away from the view of others.
A photo was posted via Twitter after the medal was recovered by reporters, one of which witnessed the action directly. Some criticized that move. Admittedly, I looked to see if the medal had been recovered. I may have taken a photo, if I found it. I did add a line about it in my story after student journalists found it, showing that McDonough no longer had it in his possession. It seemed indicative of a final round that many Hawkeyes might have wanted to throw out.
It was a way to express McDonough's disappointment and the fact that he is never satisfied with less than the best. It was similar to when I directly quoted his colorful word for "ticked" after Northwestern's Brandon Precin beat him in the Midlands Championships final in 2010. I received heavy criticism for it. It showed he loathes losing. Just like Sunday, which might be why only one college opponent has more than one win against him.Stop overreacting to McDonough's action, especially since he was looking to retrieve the medal shortly after parting ways with it. Also, understand that the reporter wasn't out of line either.