BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 10, 2009 (Original Here)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. â€” The communal celebration didnâ€™t last very long inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.
After officially locking up their second-consecutive Big Ten championship with 141 team points, the Iowa wrestlers and coaches walked onto the main floor of the concourse, posed impassively for a couple dozen publicity photos, and then sauntered their way out of the arena to the applause of many lingering Hawkeye fans.
But the bravos didnâ€™t come without a large dose of sodium chloride. Five of Iowaâ€™s nine NCAA qualifiers placed lower than their pre-tournament seeds, including junior Daniel Dennis, who finished fifth despite entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed at 133.
Now, with the NCAA championships beginning on March 19, Dennis said there is only one thing he and the team can do â€” build.
â€œThere are places where we need to work,â€ the junior said. â€œWe just have to assess what we need to be doing and try to improve for two weeks from now.â€
Even two-time Big Ten champion Brent Metcalf said he needs to refine himself during the next eight days of practice before the national tournament.
Arguably the most-targeted Iowa wrestler this postseason, the defending NCAA titleholder is anticipating a brawl from every contending qualifier he may face in St. Louis â€” specifically citing North Carolina State 149-pounder Darrion Caldwell, who also won an individual title at the ACC championships on Sunday.
Aside from a No. 3 national ranking this postseason, Caldwell is best known for his showing at the St. Edward Duals in 2007 when he handed Metcalf his lone collegiate loss with a controversial 1:40 pin.
Ending the regular season 29-1, Caldwellâ€™s lone defeat came more than a month ago when he lost to Oklahomaâ€™s Kyle Terry by medical forfeit.
â€œThere are lots of challenges out there,â€ Metcalf said matter-of-factly. â€œI have to stick to my game plan and wrestle the way Iâ€™ve been wrestling â€” wrestle the way that I was brought up to wrestle â€” and Iâ€™ll have what I want.
â€œBut you have to be aware that there are other dangerous competitors out there, and there are guys who are going to give you their best shot every time out.â€
Fellow Big Ten title winner Dan Erekson is also preparing to fend off many of the nationâ€™s elite in order to obtain an NCAA championship. He currently ranks No. 7 on a prestigious list of names, though, and would likely face Iowa Stateâ€™s top-ranked heavyweight David Zabriskie.
For now, he isnâ€™t letting the challenges bother him. With a gold medal around his neck and a championship trophy cradled in his arms, Erekson was nothing but smiles at the end of the day.
â€œIt feels pretty good, but I just have to keep my mindset through NCAAs because this is the qualifier,â€ Erekson said. â€œMy eyes are on the prize.â€