Dominant in All Phases
Metcalf will be remembered as a true champion
by Darren Miller, OSR Managing Editor
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Two-time NCAA wrestling national champion Brent Metcalf learned his trade from the biggest names in the sport, but a cartoon Martian printed on a piece of garbage gave him his start.
"I was walking out of school one day and there was a flyer on the ground," Metcalf recalls. "It had a Martian, our school mascot, in a singlet. To me, that was the coolest picture I had ever seen. Our school mascot was looking all strong and muscular. I had no idea what the sport was, but I loved the picture, so I got involved."
Metcalf, a University of Iowa senior, won his second NCAA individual championship at 149 pounds March 20 in Omaha, Neb. A three-time All-American and NCAA finalist, Metcalf finished with a career record of 108-3 with more than 42 percent of those victories coming by fall.
"He was dominant in all phases of his life," UI head coach Tom Brands said. "He controlled the outside influences and knocked those down and he certainly knocked a lot of opponents down."
Metcalf grew up in Goodrich, Mich., where his first love was BMX bike racing. He started wrestling when he was eight and he was groomed in the youth programs in Goodrich. Right before Metcalf entered high school, the head wrestling coach at Goodrich retired, so the Metcalf's moved to nearby Davison, where Brent competed for former Goodrich assistant Roy Hall. Metcalf was 228-0 with 156 falls in high school.
When Brands, then head coach at Virginia Tech, offered a scholarship, Metcalf followed.
"As soon as he called me I was going there," Metcalf said. "I grew up with Tom and Terry Brands being my gods in wrestling. Their word is like the Bible in the wrestling world, so to have the opportunity to be coached by them is amazing."
The University of Iowa hired Brands prior to the 2006-07 season and Metcalf transferred, even though the NCAA forced him to forfeit a year of eligibility. He never regretted the decision.
"This has been more than I could have ever expected my college experience to be," Metcalf said. "Looking back, I'm so glad I got the opportunity to be here. I'm really glad I got to be part of this program because what Virginia Tech couldn't have had is what we have here at Iowa - the fans and the expectations and the history and the media and the excitement."
Metcalf will graduate in May with a degree in sociology and a minor in health and sports studies. He is engaged to marry Kristen Knipper in October. Metcalf wants to continue to train in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, at least through the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
"I know that I would like to be a college wrestling coach one day and that would involve getting coaching experience," Metcalf said. "We'll see where that goes. Right now I just want to worry about enjoying some downtime and getting on to the next phase, which is the next world championships."
Saying that "you have it in you or you don't," Metcalf was competitive from an early age. He also participated in football (running back and defensive back), pole vault, diving, gymnastics, soccer and skateboarding.
"We were young boys," Metcalf said of him and his older brother, Chase. "My parents wanted to keep us active; it was something we loved to do and we loved to do it together."
After the 2002 high school wrestling season when Brent and Chase both won state championships, the brothers celebrated by getting a tattoo between the shoulder blades inscribed with the words Family First.
"If I didn't cry I came pretty darn close," Metcalf said. "It was just torture, but at the time it was binding with my older brother and I wanted to make him happy."
Chase Metcalf died in a car accident on Sept. 8, 2005.
"(The tattoo) means more now than it did then; it's a memory thing," Metcalf said. "The relationship my brother and I had was pretty strong, especially in the sport of wrestling, because that's where we were the closest."
Since first stepping foot in Iowa City, Metcalf has been the polarizing poster child of a dominant Hawkeye wrestling program that, during his tenure, compiled a 68-1 dual record (24-0 in the Big Ten Conference) and won three consecutive NCAA, league, Midlands and national duals championships.
"When you're a winner, people gravitate toward you," Brands said. "He was a natural pick for team captain, because of the way that he marches and people follow him. He is the face of the program and sometimes as a student-athlete, you don't get the luxury to choose whether you are or you aren't. Winners create followers and that's what he's done."
Intense on the mat, Metcalf said he is a "goofy, laid-back guy" off the mat. He enjoys hunting, watching movies and cooking. His specialty in the kitchen?
"My new creation is banana, brown sugar, vanilla pancakes, so they have a lot of ingredients," said Metcalf with a smile. "I like blueberries a lot, too."
It's unlikely that Metcalf's cooking prowess will unseat him as a Hawkeye wrestling icon.
"To me, it's more important to be remembered by the way I represented our program and myself on the wrestling mat," Metcalf said. "That's an aggressive style; the old Iowa wrestling style. You want to be remembered as a champion and hopefully that will continue to be Iowa wrestling, which is kicking butt, taking names and walking out."