Jan. 28, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Matt McDonough doesn't leave a wrestling mat often without having his hand raised in victory. It has happened only twice during his 53-match varsity college career. On Friday, he has a chance to avenge one of those setbacks.
Northwestern redshirt senior Brandon Precin scored early and held on for a 3-1 decision over McDonough in the 125-pound final of the Midlands Championships on Dec. 30 in Evanston, Ill. Precin (25-0) is ranked No. 1 in the country; McDonough (14-1), the defending NCAA champion, is No. 2 by Intermat and W.I.N. and No. 3 by Amateur Wrestling News.
"It never feels good to lose. It's a big deal getting another opportunity before NCAAs and it's another chance to wrestle the best in the country," McDonough said. "I know he's going to come out and he's going to fight, he's going to wrestle hard and that's what I'm excited for. That's the reason I train the way I do and prepare, because if you want to be the best, you have to beat guys that are going to come out and want to take your head off."
While McDonough was piecing together an NCAA championship campaign and a record of 37-1 as a redshirt freshman in 2009-10, Precin was using his redshirt, competing unattached, and winning 21 of 24 matches. He is 128-28 for his career. UI head coach Tom Brands remembers the most recent 125-pound finals match at Midlands.
"I don't know if we were ready to take it away from (Precin) and I know he was taking it away from us. Maybe what we have to get back to is not being quite so friendly. I think we got ambushed a little bit, but I think these coaches are cagy and smart across the country and they're not going to go where we're good. They came out and had a game plan and executed it pretty well."
UI head coach Tom Brands
"I don't know if we were ready to take it away from (Precin) and I know he was taking it away from us. Maybe what we have to get back to is not being quite so friendly," Brands said. "I think we got ambushed a little bit, but I think these coaches are cagy and smart across the country and they're not going to go where we're good. They came out and had a game plan and executed it pretty well."
While the No. 8 Hawkeyes (9-0-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten Conference) face top-ranked Penn State (13-0, 2-0) on Sunday, McDonough will have his brush with the nation's current individual No. 1 two days earlier.
"It's a big opportunity and it's an important weekend. Above all that, it's exciting because this is what we train for," McDonough said. "We don't train to wrestle lower competition. We train to try to beat the best in the country and getting a weekend like this where you wrestle the best in the country gives you a really good opportunity."
The first three McDonough-Precin matches are scheduled on Northwestern's home mat (Midlands, Friday's dual, Big Ten Championships). That fact doesn't disturb McDonough.
"It doesn't make any difference to me," McDonough said. "When you're on a big enough stage, the (fans) don't really matter because as far as I'm concerned, it's just you and the other guy."
McDonough's only other collegiate loss came in the finals of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament to Indiana's Angel Escobedo, 6-4.
Like all of his matches, McDonough has studied video of his first meeting against Precin. On Friday McDonough will attempt to move his feet more and be more dynamic. Or as Brands would say, work at a faster pace and open up more on offense.
"McDonough is McDonough when he's ready, so I feel good about him," Brands said. "We're fired up for this match. This is a big match. Good for McDonough...getting the chance to grab Precin again. We have to be on a scoring pace; a high pace favors us."
Iowa is coming off a 33-3 victory over Ohio State on Jan. 22 for its 31st consecutive home dual victory. Now the Hawkeyes look to extend their consecutive unbeaten streak to 71 and 72 -- but it won't be easy.
"You take care of one at a time," Brands said. "Ohio State -- done; now you go to Northwestern and then you go to Penn State. This weekend is a big weekend -- and they're all big -- but you don't always have the opportunity to wrestle the No. 1 team in a dual meet in their arena, so good for us."