IOWA CITY – Brent Metcalf has an undeniable passion for wrestling.
As hard as it might be to believe, the sport is no longer his greatest love.
The former University of Iowa two-time NCAA champion will compete in the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, beginning Monday. Metcalf makes his second World Championships appearance, but it is the first since becoming a father. Metcalf and his wife, Kristen, welcomed their son, Chase Joseph, on March 29.
The arrival of his 8-pound, 6-ounce son has opened his eyes to new emotions, and Metcalf said the experiernce has been awesome.
“People talk about it being life changing and it really is,” said Metcalf, who will compete in the 145.5-pound weight class. “It’s a whole different type of love you can’t feel, express or tell someone until you go through it.”
Wrestling fans are accustomed to a confident competitor with nerves of steel and an unshakeable tenacity. Expecting a son was one of the rare occasions where he faced doubt, which is common in new parents. Instincts took over after the birth.
“The nine months leading up to it you’re nervous,” Metcalf said. “You don’t know if you can handle it.
“It’s easy. It just comes naturally. You have so much love for him. The diapers, it’s easy to do because you want to do it. You want to provide. I’ve loved it so far.”
Metcalf lights up when talking about his young son, melting away an icy exterior that is normally visible when he talks wrestling. Seated on the bleachers of the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena shortly after winning gold at the Sargsyan International tournament in Armenia last month, he grinned ear-to-ear sharing Chase Metcalf’s developmental stages.
“It’s fun every day to see the new things that he does,” Metcalf said. “When they do those monumental things and I’m able to be a part of those things that has been nice.”
Competition and training to be the world’s best hinders his ability to be there at every milestone moment. He travels about two weeks at a time with brief stops at home. Just in the last month, Metcalf has spent multiple weeks overseas. Metcalf said there are drastic changes and it takes time to get used to the growth and new routines.
The Metcalfs resort to Skype to make contact every other day. They also try to call or email one another, but multi-day travels and limited internet access make it tough. The face time is well worth the trouble.
“I like to be able to see him,” Metcalf said. “I like to see the giggles or new noises he’s making.”
When Metcalf returned from one of his recent trips, Chase Metcalf was pushing himself up off the floor and trying to crawl. Metcalf said it was “cool” to see the night and day difference. Joy can be delivered by the simplest things.
“In the morning, you wake him up and the first thing he does is open his eyes and he has a big smile on his face, because he sees you,” Metcalf said. “He recognizes you. Those are great.”
Chase Metcalf is named after his late uncle, who died in 2005, following a car accident shortly after his 21st birthday. Metcalf had always entertained the idea of honoring his brother, a former University of Michigan wrestler, who was a prep standout at Davison, Mich.
“It’s just after my brother and for good memory,” Metcalf said. “I also liked the name. It’s a cool name. It means a lot to me (and) my family.”
A new family member can be a distraction. Mike Duroe, who also travelled to Armenia and helps Tom and Terry Brands with Metcalf’s training, said the opposite is true. The new role has allowed him to focus.
“His wife, Kristen, is really good about minimizing his duties with the baby,” Duroe said. “He’s getting a lot of support from home. He’s got a great support system with Tom, Terry and his family.”
Parenthood has created a new approach, which has alleviated some self-imposed pressure. He maintains the internal drive to win. It would be nice to show his son a gold medal, or have him in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, but Metcalf doesn’t just draw motivation from proving himself to his son.
“I’ve always been a fierce competitor and put wrestling first,” Metcalf said. “Everything I do in my world revolves around the sport of wrestling and then when you have a child it’s like I love the sport, but I’d do anything in the world for this guy.
“You always know at the end of the day you’ll have your family, your son and things of that nature there, win or lose.”
Metcalf faces a strong challenge, looking to improve his 2010 World Championships performance. He has thrived under the new Fila rules that changed to two three-minute periods and cumulative scoring. Duroe said Armenia served as a good tune up competition.
“He’s stayed relatively healthy,” Duroe said. “He’s been really consistent in his training.”
Metcalf overcame tough opponents in Jordan Oliver and Kellen Russell in the World Team Trials to qualify for the U.S. squad. He also beat Russian 2010 World silver medalist Alan Gogaev and the World entrants from Georgia and Armenia at the Sargsyan tournament.
“Every time you win a tournament you feel good about yourself,” Metcalf said. “It’s been a number of years since I’ve actually won an overseas tournament. It helps because it affirms what I already believe in myself, which is I am the best in the world. I can be the World Champion.”
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