April 20, 2012
CORALVILLE, Iowa -- Having home-field advantage can be key to success in athletics. An athlete can sleep in his own bed, compete in a familiar setting, and use a certain comfort level to his advantage. Brent Metcalf doesn't want any of that this weekend.
The former University of Iowa wrestling star is one of 220 athletes competing at the 2012 Olympic Wrestling Team Trials, held in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Saturday and Sunday. Metcalf never lost a match in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in his three years at Iowa, compiling a 28-0 record.
Those numbers won't matter to Metcalf once the weekend rolls around.
"I'm trying to pull myself away from the comfort of being home," Metcalf said Friday at a pre-event press conference held at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. "I don't want to be rolling into game-day relaxed and comfortable. I want to be on edge and I want to have a hyper sense of awareness. From a comfort perspective, I'm trying to eliminate that and be on my toes, ready to go."
Metcalf has taken the appropriate measures to ensure that comfort level won't be an issue when the time to arrives. Metcalf still lives in Iowa City, but he won't be in his home this weekend.
"You just have to physically do it," Metcalf said. "Staying at a hotel and getting out of the house. It would be more comfortable for me to keep my stuff in my locker (at Carver-Hawkeye Arena). Well, I'm taking it all out, just like I would at any other competition. I don't want to have that relaxed feeling. I really want to have a super high sense of urgency."
Metcalf understands the advantages of competing in an arena that he is familiar with, but that's the only advantage he wants to take when wrestling in Iowa City.
"Any advantage in the arena is that I know what it's like and I've been there before," Metcalf said. "For me, it's a huge motivator. When you score points and you hear that roar, it's cool. I've been in the atmosphere a few times."
U.S. National Men's Freestyle head coach Zeke Jones thinks treating this weekend like a road match is a smart move for Metcalf.
"To win an Olympic gold medal, you have to go on the road," Jones said. "You don't win the Olympics at home, you have to go away.
"He's going to take the advantages that make sense," Jones said. "Home-crowd advantage and family. But he is still going to go on the road and get away from the distraction."
In his introductory statement at the press conference, Jones used terms that Hawkeye wrestling fans are accustomed to hearing.
"It's pretty simple, we want to dominate," Jones said. "We want to go into the Olympic Games and dominate. We want to do it with style and class. We want to do this for our country. It's about America; it's about our country."
That's a motto that Metcalf can buy into.
"He really supports what I'm all about and the way I like to wrestle," Metcalf said. "That's exciting. I hope to go out and perform that way, separate myself from the rest of the guys in the country."
Iowa fans were able to appreciate the dominance of Metcalf for three seasons. Jones sees the same attitude from the former Hodge Trophy winner inside USA Wrestling.
"I love that guy," Jones said. "He loves to wrestle, he loves to train, and he is true to the sport. Who doesn't want to see an American go out and smash somebody? That's what we all want to see."
Jones also spoke of childhood dreams and aspirations, for all competitors, to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. Any wrestler at the elite level has that goal. Metcalf is no different.
"I've been thinking about that (winning a gold medal) since I was very young," Metcalf said. "Even before I knew a whole lot about the process about making an Olympic team and all that, you know as a child that the ultimate prize in any sport is an Olympic gold medal.
"The way I was raised was to set your bar high and that's where I set it."
Metcalf's bar has always been at a level that the average person couldn't touch with a pair of stilts. His first step in getting over that bar comes this weekend by making the U.S. National Team.
Should that happen, Metcalf would not only be representing himself and his former school, he would be representing his country in front of the entire world.
That's just fine with his head coach.
"He epitomizes what we want to be when we compete as a country," Jones said. "I don't think you can explain him any better than that."