BACK IN BLACK Metcalf Perry win titles as No 1 Hawkeyes cap dominating performance at NCAA Championships
ST. LOUIS - Surrender a couple of early takedowns in the finals of the NCAA Championships and typically you are in big trouble.
Unless your name is Brent Metcalf.
The super sophomore from the Iowa Hawkeyes fell behind early against 2007 Junior World freestyle champion Bubba Jenkins of Penn State. But Metcalf quickly recovered by putting his superior conditioning on full display in a decisive 14-8 victory.
Metcalf's workmanlike performance in the 149-pound finals epitomized a weekend where he and his top-ranked Hawkeye teammates used their tenacious style to steamroll to the team title at the 2008 NCAA meet. Hawkeye senior Mark Perry followed by capturing his second straight national title at 165 pounds.
Coach Tom Brands' Iowa squad piled up 117.5 points in winning its 21st national title and first since 2000. The Hawkeyes clinched the title Saturday morning in the consolation finals and then added to the winning total Saturday night before 16,154 fans at the Scottrade Center.
"The Iowa program is building and working toward dominance," said Metcalf, named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. "(Winning by) 30 points isn't enough. We want to set the record. We want 300 points, if that's possible. We are enjoying our win, but at the same time we still have work to do. I've got work to do."
Brands, in just his second year as Iowa's head coach, was named Coach of the Year.
"Individual titles are why we come to this tournament," Brands said. "The team will take care of itself. What did we win by? 38.5 points. That's a tribute to this team. They came not to squeak by, but to dominate."
Metcalf was one of three Iowa transfers from Virginia Tech who placed in the top three in their first NCAA meet. Joey Slaton was second at 133 and Jay Borschel took third at 174. All three are sophomores.
"It was good to see our team come out and perform like we did," Metcalf said. "We have had a dramatic change from what we had last year."
Big Ten schools finished 1-2-3 in the team race. Eighth-ranked Ohio State recorded its highest-ever finish by taking second with 79 points and two champions. No. 11 Penn State was third with 75 points and one champion. Fifth-ranked Nebraska was fourth with 74 points despite having no finalists.
In the 149 finals, Metcalf shot in on a leg attack and won a scramble near the mat's edge to close the second period. He broke a 5-5 tie at that point by catching Jenkins on his back for a five-point move. He led 10-5 after the second period and added two more takedowns in the final period.
"I'm happy with the win, not so much with the performance," Metcalf said. "I don't like giving up points - that's not how you want to wrestle."
Metcalf, the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, capped a phenomenal first college season where he finished 35-1 and won his final 32 matches. The sophomore did not wrestle collegiately last year after losing a year of eligibility. Virginia Tech refused to release him from his scholarship after he left there and followed Brands to Iowa.
The second-seeded Perry avenged a loss from the Big Ten finals by beating No. 1 Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan 5-2 in the NCAA finals. Perry scored a quick early takedown and rode Tannenbaum out in the first period to gain control.
Perry finished second, third, first and first in four trips to the NCAA tournament. He became Iowa's first two-time NCAA champion since Eric Juergens and T.J. Williams each won their second titles for the Hawkeyes in 2001.
"I was really excited to get another shot at (Tannenbaum) after Big Tens," Perry said. "I was ready to go. I came into the match planning to win 8-0. I felt real good, as good as I have at a national finals."
Sixth-seeded J Jaggers of Ohio State broke a 1-1 tie with just under a minute to go, taking down and stacking top seed Chad Mendes of Cal Poly for a two-point near fall en route to a 5-2 win in the 141-pound finals.
"When I got to this tournament, I realized that nothing is guaranteed," said Jaggers, a junior. "Next year isn't guaranteed for me. I could blow something out in the first week of practice. I knew that I could win it this year and I just had to go take it."
Ohio State sophomore Mike Pucillo outlasted top-seeded Jake Varner of Iowa State in the finals at 184. The match went through two cycles of overtime and Pucillo prevailed with a six-second edge in riding time through the four 30-second tiebreaker periods.
Pucillo, seeded second, continued his momentum in St. Louis after winning Big Tens a couple of weeks ago. Pucillo was sixth in the country in 2007.
"I beat (Varner) at his own game," Pucillo said. "He's real good on top and I feel like I'm pretty good on bottom. It worked out for me."
Penn State senior Phil Davis, second in this event two years ago, capped his career with a 7-2 win over No. 4 seed Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan in the 197 finals. The win by Davis, the No. 2 seed, moved Penn State past Nebraska and into third place in the final team standings.
"This means a lot - I don't know how much just yet," said Davis, a four-time All-American. "This is just amazing."
Oklahoma State senior Coleman Scott ended his career in dramatic and stunning fashion when he cradled and pinned Slaton just 49 seconds into their 133-pound final.
The third-seeded Scott, a four-time All-American who was second in the country last year, powered in on a leg attack for a takedown and quickly locked the fourth-seeded Slaton in a cradle. Scott, a past U.S. Junior World Team freestyle member, had the pinning combination locked up tight and the referee slapped the mat just a couple of seconds later.
"This is awesome - it's what you dream about," said Scott, who edged Slaton 8-6 earlier this year in a dual meet in Iowa City. "You go to sleep at night and that's what you're picturing, getting that pin. Everything just worked out perfectly."
Scott was believed to have recorded the fastest fall in the NCAA finals since Andy Daniels of Ohio pinned John Azevedo of Cal State Bakersfield in the 118-pound finals in 1978. That fall occurred in just 30 seconds.
"It was my last chance and there was no more coming back if I lost," Scott said. "My tournament life was on the line. I didn't want to end my college career with a loss, especially in the national finals. So I just told myself, 'Go for it. Whatever happens, happens. Do whatever you have to do to win."
Indiana sophomore Angel Escobedo continued his mastery over Minnesota sophomore Jayson Ness by posting a 10-3 win in the 125 finals.
The top-seeded Escobedo led 3-2 before he barreled in on a textbook double-leg takedown and finished to take a 5-2 lead with 55 seconds left. The second-seeded Ness, fifth in this event last year, escaped to cut it to 5-3 before going to his own back after trying a desperation throw in the closing seconds.
Ness' last three losses are to Escobedo, who was wrestling with a shoulder brace. He lost to him in the 2007 NCAAs before falling to him two weeks ago in the Big Ten finals. Escobedo, fourth in the country last year, gives Indiana its third national champ at 125 in the last four years. Joe Dubuque won back-to-back NCAA titles for the Hoosiers in 2005 and 2006.
"Watching (Ness) throughout the year, I knew he was really offensive," said Escobedo, a member of the 2007 U.S. Junior World Team in freestyle. "I knew it was going to be a hard seven-minute match. Whether he's down by two or down by five, he's still going to try getting a big move. So I knew I had to keep the tempo up."
Cornell junior Jordan Leen capped his surprising run by edging Mike Poeta of Illinois 5-4 in the 157-pound finals. The second-seeded Poeta tied the match 4-4 after spinning behind the No. 8 Leen for a takedown with just under a minute left. Poeta then cut Leen, but was unable to secure the takedown he needed.
"I don't know what this feels like," Leen said. "I'm just kind of a mess right now to be honest with you. I just feel so lucky. I know I didn't deserve it any more than any of the other guys in the bracket. It just happened to be my weekend. I feel ecstatic that I was the guy that got to put together a good weekend."
Top-seeded Keith Gavin of Pitt capped an unbeaten season with a 4-1 win over No. 2 Steve Luke of Michigan in the finals. Gavin, a senior, placed second in the NCAAs in 2007. He was ranked No. 1 all season.
"I am so relieved," Gavin said. "It was a big weight off my back. I've been doing this and working toward this for so long. It just finally paid off."
Northwestern senior Dustin Fox scored a takedown in the second sudden victory period to outlast Big Ten rival J.D. Bergman of Ohio State 4-2 in the heavyweight finals. The top-seeded Fox repeated his win over the No. 2 Bergman from the Big Ten finals.
It was a physical match which was stopped numerous times after Fox suffered a gash on his face.
"This is a dream come true," Fox said. "I'm sure everyone says that, but it's still true. My nose is probably broken, my face is all beat up, but I did it. I achieved all my goals."
Hofstra's Lou Ruggirello (133) won the Gorrarian Award for recording the most falls in the least amount of time.
Total attendance for the three-day tournament was 94,190 fans, the third-highest total in NCAA history. St. Louis has now hosted the three-most attended NCAA tournaments. The event drew 96, 944 fans to St. Louis in 2000 and 95,459 fans to St. Louis in 2005.
The NCAA Championships will return to St. Louis again in 2009 before moving to Omaha in 2010 and Philadelphia in 2011.2008 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES125 POUNDS
Angel Escobedo (Indiana) dec. Jayson Ness (Minnesota), 10-3133 POUNDS
Coleman Scott (Oklahoma State) pinned Joey Slaton (Iowa), 0:49141 POUNDS
J Jaggers (Ohio State) dec. Chad Mendes (Cal Poly), 5-2149 POUNDS
Brent Metcalf (Iowa) dec. Bubba Jenkins (Penn State), 14-8157 POUNDS
Jordan Leen (Cornell) dec. Mike Poeta (Illinois), 5-4165 POUNDS
Mark Perry (Iowa) dec. Eric Tannenbaum (Michigan), 5-2174 POUNDS
Keith Gavin (Pitt) dec. Steve Luke (Michigan), 4-2184 POUNDS
Mike Pucillo (Ohio State) dec. Jake Varner (Iowa State), 3-3 TB2197 POUNDS
Phil Davis (Penn State) dec. Wynn Michalak (Central Michigan), 7-2HEAVYWEIGHT
Dustin Fox (Northwestern) dec. J.D. Bergman (Ohio State), 4-2 SV2