March 21, 2009
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Before the University of Iowa locked up its 22nd NCAA wrestling team championship Saturday at the Scottrade Center, the Hawkeyes tossed their support toward a Big Ten rival in the 184-pound final.
If defending champion Mike Pucillo of Ohio State won that match and scored bonus points against 2007 champion Jake Herbert of Northwestern, the Buckeyes could tie or overtake Iowa in the standings. Herbert received warm and loud support from the Hawkeye fans and won his second NCAA individual title, 6-3, crushing Ohio State's title dreams.
In his post-victory press conference, Herbert praised the Iowa wrestling program and its fans.
"I finished my career wrestling (Phillip) Keddy and Iowa had a lot more people there than we did for Northwestern," Herbert said of his 3-2 decision on Feb. 22 in Evanston, Ill. "It was my senior night and the Iowa fans clapped for me. Iowa wrestling is great. (Northwestern head coach) Tim (Cysewski) comes from it. I couldn't imagine if I went to a university that had a following like that. We have a great fan base at Northwestern, but it's nothing like the Hawkeyes -- they bleed black and gold. Just knowing that I had them on my side gave me three-fourths of the arena really rooting for me."
Cysewski lettered for the Hawkeyes from 1973-76. He was an All-American in 1976, placing third at 134 pounds for head coach Gary Kurdelmeier.
Herbert also acknowledged his admiration for Iowa 149-pounder Brent Metcalf who dropped an 11-6 decision to Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State in Saturday's championship.
"I'm older than Brent, but I look up to him," Herbert said. "He's one of my idols and he's relentless when he wrestles. I love the intensity the Brands' bring. That whole program is nothing but greatness and it's great to have that in our sport."
Metcalf (72-2) lost for the first time since being pinned by Caldwell early in the 2007-08 season. The 149-pound final ended with Metcalf stalking Caldwell, with the latter using the final few ticks of regulation attempting a cartwheel on the mat. Boos filled the arena.
"I don't know who they're booing," Metcalf said. "To me, they're booing the man who was turning his back and running. If they're booing me, fine. You boo me your entire life, you boo the Hawkeyes your entire life. You love to see us lose and I love that and that's fine. The entire world has a big smile on its face right now and that will motivate me."
The Hawkeyes captured their second consecutive team championship with 96 ½ points -- 4 ½ more than runner-up Ohio State. It is the first time Iowa has won an NCAA crown without an individual champion since 1978, the first of Dan Gable's 15 titles. In 1978 the Hawkeyes had six All-Americans -- Bruce Kinseth (150) and Randy Lewis (126) were runner-up, Dan Glenn (118) and Scott Trizzino (142) were third, John Bowlsby (heavyweight) was fifth and Mike DeAnna (167) was sixth.
"No individual got what they wanted," UI head coach Tom Brands said. "(Metcalf's) match is sour, but he's a competitor and he'll get up. He's already going forward in his head and that's a tribute to him. A lot of positive things happened on the back-side of the bracket to win this championship."
Brands did not watch Herbert seal Iowa's fate, spending time instead with Metcalf. He did take time to compliment the graduating Wildcat.
"Herbert is a competitor, too," Brands said. "Those things are out of our control, but of course you want to win the team championship."
Before the final round, Herbert said he wanted to return a favor to the Hawkeyes. In 2007 Mark Perry's title at 165 pounds over Johny Hendricks of Oklahoma State allowed Northwestern to place fourth in the team race -- 2 ½ points ahead of the fifth-place Cowboys.