Zero hour for wrestlers


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Several hours of workouts that would weed out Navy Seals.

Countless days have turned into weeks, weeks into months.

For the nine Iowa wrestlers who are set to throw it down next week at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, all of the blood, all of the sweat, all of the pain has finally come down to this.

“Zero hour” is here for the Hawkeyes.

Most of the nine qualifiers have danced to the beat of the national tournament before.

Junior Brent Metcalf is one such wrestler.

Metcalf dominated the 149-pound bracket en route to his first career NCAA title a year ago, earning the tournament MVP. But for the Davison, Mich., native, it isn’t just enough to win, especially when trying to please his ever-unsatisified coach Tom Brands.

There have be no signs of let down in Metcalf this season, evident in his 33-0 record which goes along with his 65-match winning streak. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the defending champion, though, is how he continues to widen the gap on his competition — particularly with archrival No. 2 Bubba Jenkins from Penn State.

So what is it that puts Metcalf head-and-shoulders above the rest of the country?

“Here is the thing — it’s his approach,” Brands said. “He doesn’t get bored in practice. On days where everybody else is on a light day, he spends 15 minutes on the mat, just hard drilling on his own, and every shot is real. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a lot of hard work and repetition.

“Most guys would drill 15 minutes, and they’re done, and then they are off onto a bike riding tenderly. He works for an hour and 15 minutes hard on the mat. He’s a fanatic.”

Other seasoned veterans such as Charlie Falck and Alex Tsirtsis are going dancing for the final time.

“Building happens all the way before zero hour,” Falck said. “This is my last chance. This is it. This is my last chance to do it.”

Ryan Morningstar has qualified for the NCAA championships twice but has yet to earn All-American status. That will likely change for third-ranked Morningstar, thanks in part to the wrestling mastermind of Brands.

“The formula is simple — score takedowns. Very simple. I didn’t say takedown, I said takedowns,” Brands said. “He needs to put himself into position to score takedowns.”

Seventh-ranked heavyweight Dan Erekson will make his first appearance in the NCAA championships, as will junior 197-pounder Chad Beatty.

While a simple thumbs up from Brands was enough to describe the leaps and bounds of Beatty over the course of the season, he had plenty to say about his Big Ten champion heavyweight.

“He’s made progression all year. At the beginning of the year, not sure what it was at the UNI dual, especially. He had a pretty good win against Arizona State, and then I’m not sure what happened that UNI meet,” Brands said. “He’s really learned to really focus on what’s important and what he can control, and that’s probably been the biggest issue to being able to wrestle for seven minutes or longer if he has to.”

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