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Metcalf, Hawkeyes put exclamation mark on 23rd national title



Iowa's Brent Metcalf controls Ohio State's Lance Palmer. Larry Slater photo.

OMAHA, Neb. " Iowa senior Brent Metcalf called it redemption.

Redemption for a loss in last year’s NCAA finals.

Redemption for a loss 13 days ago in the Big Ten finals.

In the end, the second-seeded Metcalf earned a gritty, hard-fought 3-2 win over No. 1 Lance Palmer of Ohio State in the 149-pound finals at the NCAA Championships.

The pro-Hawkeye, sellout crowd of 15,919 fans at the Qwest Center rewarded Metcalf with a thunderous ovation as he won his second NCAA title.

In the process, Metcalf stamped himself as one of the best wrestlers to ever put on a black-and-gold Hawkeye singlet. Metcalf finished his three-year career with a 108-3 record. His .973 career winning percentage ranks second in Iowa history behind two-time NCAA champ T.J. Williams (98-1, .990).

“It feels good, it feels like I’m redeeming myself from last year,” Metcalf said. “You can’t get last year back, but you can feel better about it because you finish it off the way you did.”

Top-ranked Iowa added to its victorious point total, finishing with 134.5 points as the Hawkeyes won their third straight NCAA title and 23rd overall. Iowa’s Matt McDonough (125) and Jay Borschel (174) also won titles.

“It’s a lot more fun and it’s a lot more fun with the gap, the point spread, strings of victories, seniors going out the way they should,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “There’s a lot more to be content about as far as feeling good that there was a good job done. There was a good job done over the last three days for sure.”

Cornell finished with 90 points to take second. Rounding out the trophy winners were Iowa State (75) and Wisconsin (70.5).

Metcalf avenged a 9-3 loss to Palmer in the Big Ten finals on March 7 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Metcalf finished his career 5-1 against the Ohio State senior who placed fourth, eighth, fourth and second during his superb career.

Metcalf came right after Palmer just after the opening whistle, firing in on a low single-leg shot and quickly finishing for a takedown just 20 seconds into the match. Metcalf kept Palmer on the mat, piling up over a minute of riding time.

Palmer escaped in the first and second periods to tie the score 2-2. Metcalf, with nearly a minute and a half of riding time, chose neutral in the third period against the powerful Palmer.

Metcalf nearly finished on a double-leg shot in the third period, but Palmer fought him off. Palmer tried to shoot in late in the match, but Metcalf countered with a front headlock to preserve the win.

“I don’t have a game plan,” he said. “I just went out there to put pressure on him, hand fight hard and when that opening is there it’s there. You can’t plan, because that’s like betting " flipping a coin and hoping it lands on you.

“The first takedown was important, just to put pressure on him. He wants to ride you out, and that’s where he’s tough. Keeping him flat on the mat was important. We have wrestled six times and that’s the most offensive he’s been.”

Metcalf, from Davison, Mich., won the 2008 NCAA title and the Hodge Trophy. He entered the 2009 NCAA finals with a 69-match winning streak before being upset by North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell.

Metcalf lost a year of eligibility when he transferred to Iowa after spending one year as a redshirt at Virginia Tech. He was not released from his scholarship by Virginia Tech and was not allowed to compete as a freshman under NCAA rules.

Metcalf, second in the 2009 U.S. Nationals at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., said he will be back on the mat to wrestle freestyle after taking a short break.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “There are multiple World and Olympic championships ahead to aim for. How many (Olympic) gold medals did Tom Brands win? One. How many did Dan Gable win? One. Now I’ve got to win two.”

In the 125 finals, McDonough made a second-period takedown stand up in a 3-1 win over Iowa State’s Andrew Long in a battle of talented freshmen.

The third-seeded McDonough beat the fifth-seeded Long for the fourth time in as many matches this year. This match was considerably lower scoring than their previous bouts.

McDonough became Iowa’s first freshman champion since Lincoln McIlravy in 1993.

“For starters, it’s not done,” McDonough said. “I have three more years of this. This is what I’ve worked for all season. It’s a relieving thing to do, but I’m already looking ahead and I’m ready to keep training and bettering myself. You dream of this when you are little and now it’s a reality. Now that I’ve achieved the goal, it’s unbelievable. But I have to keep stepping it up.”

McDonough’s high school teammate, the second-seeded Borschel, followed suit with an impressive 6-2 win over No. 1 Mack Lewnes of Cornell. Borschel shot in for takedowns in the first and third periods, and piled up a whopping 3 minutes, 46 seconds of riding time.

Borschel, a senior, finished the season a spotless 37-0. Lewnes, who had not allowed an offensive point all season, dropped his first bout of the season.

"In most matches, to win you have to first score a takedown,” Borschel said. “That’s the game plan for me, to come out hard and strong, get that first takedown, and then go to work on top. You just have to have confidence in your techniques, and use them."

In the 133 finals, Minnesota’s top-ranked Jayson Ness rallied for a dramatic 6-4 win over No. 2 Daniel Dennis of Iowa. Down 4-2 in the closing seconds, Ness fired in on a double-leg attack and then body-locked Dennis to his back. The two-point takedown and two-point near fall gave him the stunning last-second victory.

Ness beat Dennis for the third time this season. Ness had previously been fifth, second and third in this event. He finished the season 31-0. Ness was named Outstanding Wrestler.

“I was just thinking about getting a takedown to tie it up,” Ness said of the frantic final seconds. “I came after him as hard as I could. Good things happen when you wrestle for a full seven minutes.”

Iowa State senior Jake Varner completed an undefeated season by downing rival Craig Brester of Nebraska 5-2 in the finals at 197. The match was tied 1-1 before Varner used a head shuck to go behind Brester for a takedown in the match’s final minute.

Varner also beat Brester in the finals of the 2009 NCAAs. Brester, from nearby Howells, Neb., beat Varner in the 2009 Big 12 finals. But Varner came back to win their final five meetings, including four this season.

“Craig’s a tough guy,” said Varner, a 2009 U.S. World Team member in freestyle. “We’ve wrestled a lot. I guess that’s why not a lot happens. We know each other pretty well, but I just kept to my game plan. I would have liked to score in that first period, but it didn’t happen. I got away as soon as I could like I wanted to. I scored with that front headlock, and that was a big, key point in the match. That last takedown, I knew he had to come after me and I was ready for it, and I ended up with that last takedown.”

Another Cyclone senior, David Zabriskie, scored a second-period takedown en route to downing rival Jared Rosholt of Oklahoma State 3-2 in the heavyweight finals.

Zabriskie was the No. 1 seed and Rosholt No. 2.

“This is my final meet as a college athlete, so just being able to come out and win an NCAA title, it's everything anybody could ask for,” Zabriskie said.

Missouri senior Max Askren won the third NCAA title for his family after controlling No. 1 seed Kirk Smith of Boise State 10-3 in the 184 finals. Askren joins older brother, Ben, on top of the podium after Ben won a pair of NCAA titles for the Tigers.

Askren, the No. 6 seed, moved down to 184 after being a two-time All-American at 197.

“It feels great,” Askren said. “I’m just happy I was able to do what everybody around me thought I could do. I know my technique was always up to par to be a national champion and in the finals it finally came out. I was the one hiding my ability. I was afraid of what I was capable of doing or not doing. The pressure was trying, and holding me back. At some point, I had to do it.”

In the 141 finals, Cornell true freshman Kyle Dake showed the poise of a senior in controlling Iowa sophomore Montell Marion in a 7-3 win. Marion shot in for a third-period takedown to cut it to 5-3, but could draw no closer.

The top-seeded Dake scored a first-period takedown and a two-point near fall on a tilt in the second period to seize control against the No. 6 Marion. It was Marion’s first trip to nationals as well.

Dake became the first true freshman to win an NCAA title since Minnesota’s Dustin Schlatter in 2006.

“Marion is a great wrestler,” Dake said. “He’s an Iowa wrestler, so you know he’s going to go hard. I just had to match it.”

In the 157 finals, Harvard’s top-ranked J.P. O’Connor gave up the first takedown before coming back to down No. 7 Chase Pami of Cal Poly 6-4. O’Connor countered a Pami shot late in the first period for a takedown and then scored a reversal in the second period to take command.

“I just had a fire and determination to win it this year,” O’Connor said. “I truly believed that I could win it during my sophomore and junior years, but it didn’t turn out that way, which was disappointing. I tried to turn it into a positive.”

In the 165 finals, top-seeded Wisconsin sophomore Andrew Howe controlled No. 6 Dan Vallimont of Penn State 9-3 in an all-Big Ten battle. Howe moved up a step on the podium after placing second last year.

“I wasn’t going to let this one get away from me,” Howe said. “I’ve been telling myself that for a whole year now. I’ve been thinking about that loss (in last year’s finals) every single day for that entire year and I didn’t want to go another year thinking the same thing.”

Wisconsin’s Barry Davis was named Coach of the Year.

The 2011 NCAA Championships will move to Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center.

FINALS RESULTS

125 Pounds
Matt McDonough (Iowa) dec. Andrew Long (Iowa State), 3-1

133 Pounds
Jayson Ness (Minnesota) dec. Daniel Dennis (Iowa), 6-4

141 Pounds
Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. Montell Marion (Iowa), 7-3

149 Pounds
Brent Metcalf (Iowa) dec. Lance Palmer (Ohio State), 3-2

157 Pounds
J.P. O’Connor (Harvard) dec. Chase Pami (Cal Poly), 6-4

165 Pounds
Andrew Howe (Wisconsin) dec. Dan Vallimont (Penn State), 9-3

174 Pounds
Jay Borschel (Iowa) dec. Mack Lewnes (Cornell), 6-2

184 Pounds
Max Askren (Missouri) dec. Kirk Smith (Boise State), 10-3

197 Pounds
Jake Varner (Iowa State) dec. Craig Brester (Nebraska), 5-2

285 Pounds
David Zabriskie (Iowa State) dec. Jared Rosholt (Oklahoma State), 3-2
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