A day after Tony Ramos booked a spot on the U.S. World Team heading to the World Championships in Uzbekistan in September, another former Iowa wrestler booked his own spot on the team, as Brent Metcalf claimed the starting spot at 65 KG. Metcalf beat former Oklahoma State wrestler Jordan Oliver in two matches to lock up his berth on the World Team. It's the third time Metcalf has earned a spot on the U.S. World Team, following berths in 2010 and 2013.
Metcalf's path to a spot on the U.S. World Team was less surprising than Tony Ramos' journey the day before -- and also less strenuous. Metcalf entered this weekend's World Team Trials as the heavy favorite at 65 KG. He won the 2014 US Open by an aggregate score of 39-0; no one really challenged him at all. His U.S. Open win also gave Metcalf an automatic spot in the Best-of-3 finals at the Trials, allowing him to bypass the challenge tournament earlier in the day. Jordan Oliver was the eventual winner of that challenge tournament, setting up a pair of matches between an ex-Iowa wrestler (and two-time NCAA champion) and an ex-Oklahoma State wrestler (also a two-time NCAA champion).
Adding extra intrigue to the Metcalf-Oliver showdown was the fact that Oliver was the last American wrestler to beat Metcalf, at last year's US Open. That event was one of the last competitions before FILA altered the rules for freestyle wrestling. The changes implemented by FILA have been a boon for wrestlers like Metcalf, as evidenced by his impressive run of form over the last year. But new rules or old rules, Oliver is still a tricky opponent and seemingly Metcalf's most challenging rival at this weight among Americans. Metcalf avenged his loss to Oliver from the 2013 US Open, but these matches were hardly a continuation of the 39-0 beatdown he put on the competition at the US Open a few months ago.
For the most part, both matches were cagey, tactical affairs. Metcalf won the first match, 4-2, after a scoring flurry in the second period, while he won the second match, 3-0. Four of Metcalf's points (two in each match) came via pushouts, while another point was garnered via a penalty on Oliver after he was put on a 30-second shot clock and failed to score during that 30-second stretch. He displayed some incredible defense in the first match, though, escaping several deep takedown attempts from Oliver, one of which he was able to reverse into his own points. There was an especially memorable narrow escape from Metcalf in the closing seconds of the first match, when Oliver seemed to have him dead to rights before Metcalf managed to use some incredible hip control to wiggle out of danger. Metcalf wrestled a more cautious second match, which wasn't much of a surprise -- much of the danger he found himself in during the first match resulted from Oliver re-shots after Metcalf's own shots. Metcalf took fewer shots in the second match, but he also gave Oliver fewer opportunities to counter, which drastically reduced the danger he could pose to Metcalf.
Still, even if it wasn't a splashy showcase of takedowns and turns, these matches were solid wins over a very good opponent -- and wins that set him up to now challenge for a gold medal at the World Championships this fall. Job well done, Brent. We're proud of you and wish you the best of luck as you vie for hardware in a few months.
GO IOWA AWESOME.
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Metcalf's former Iowa teammate, Phil Keddy, was also in action on Sunday. He won his first match in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion over ex-Penn State wrestler Quentin Wright, 13-6. Keddy met another ex-Penn State wrestler in the next round (Ed Ruth) and the results were much less favorable: he lost via 14-4 technical fall. Keddy also seemed to pick up an ankle injury during that match, which led to him injury defaulting out of his next match (against ex-Oklahoma State wrestler Chris Perry) in the consolation bracket.
BEST 2-OF-3 FINALS
Brent Metcalf DEC (4-2) Jordan Oliver
Brent Metcalf DEC (3-0) Jordan Oliver
Phil Keddy DEC (13-6) Quentin Wright
Ed Ruth TECH FALL (14-4) Phil Keddy
Chris Perry INJ DEF Phil Keddy