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AMES — The scene seemed odd.
Four familiar Iowa Hawkeye wrestlers, who each had turns taking down Iowa State, were decked in rival cardinal-and-gold. Fans will have to get used to it now that they are leading the charge to resurrect the Cyclone program after it plummeted to 57th in the country at the NCAA Championships in March.
Iowa State’s recently hired head coach Kevin Dresser introduced Mike Zadick, Derek St. John and Brent Metcalf as part of his staff Tuesday at a news conference in Hilton Coliseum. Zadick will serve as Associate Head Coach and each will serve various tasks within the program.
The newly named assistants combined for 10 All-American honors and three national titles at Iowa.
“The fact that they’re all Hawkeyes is maybe a coincidence,” Dresser said. “I’ve always prided myself on hiring really good people and really qualified people and I think I did pretty good.”
Zadick and St. John seemed likely to make the move with Dresser, serving on his Virginia Tech staff the last two seasons. But Metcalf was the biggest shock.
Metcalf had already secured a coaching gig at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He had been hired there to become the national freestyle developmental coach with USA Wrestling, starting in a full-time capacity in May.
Dresser reached out to him with an offer to stay in Iowa, providing a chance to enter the college coaching ranks and for his wife and children to stay in state.
“It was certainly a hard decision mostly because I’m about my word,” Metcalf said. “When you give your word that you’re going to do something it was hard to go back on that.
“Really what it came down to is my family and career and this was going to be the best move for both of those two things.”
Dresser who inquired about Metcalf to an acquaintance and then consulted Zadick and St. John on whether he would mesh with their approach. When Metcalf’s former coach and teammate supported the move, Dresser landed him in about three days.
“When you hire anybody, you have to have references and I had pretty good references,” Dresser said. “Brent Metcalf was a home run for me initially and I just wanted their blessing on it.”
Metcalf said he didn’t have many suitors in the past, presumably due to his longtime association with the Hawkeyes that started when he transferred from Virginia Tech to follow Tom Brands to Iowa.
Metcalf was a fan favorite, winning two NCAA titles in three finals appearances and earning the 2008 Hodge Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top collegiate wrestler.
As a member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Metcalf was a member of the U.S. Men’s Freestyle National Team member four times, winning gold at the 2014 and 2015 World Cup.
Few seemed more destined to be a permanent fixture in the Hawkeye wrestling room.
“I don’t take things to seriously,” Metcalf said. “It is what it is. They have a job to do. I have a job to do.
“This transition from Iowa to Iowa State is probably a little easier for me because I didn’t grow up in the state. I love the Hawkeyes. I loved my time there.”
He said he hasn’t given much thought to staring across the mat and seeing the face that used to be in his corner. The competitive nature of all involved could lead to some memorable moments in the CyHawk Series, similar to the iconic image of former Iowa Coach Dan Gable at center mat yelling at former Cyclone Coach Cael Sanderson and his assistant Tim Hartung.
Metcalf said that will make it more entertaining.
“I think the rivalry is good,” Metcalf said. “The more intense you can make that rivalry the better. It’s good for the state. It’s good for the sport of wrestling.
“I don’t think any of us have any sort of grudge, chip or something to prove. We certainly don’t come from that mindset. ... We’re going to set our bar at being the best period and they will be in the way. The reality is we are going to wrestle them every year.”
Metcalf wrestled freestyle through the 2016 Olympic Trials, stating new rules with multiple-day events, weigh-ins two-hours before wrestling and a bigger gap between weights will likely keep him out of competition.
The window was shrinking and coaching seemed like the next step. Cedar Rapids Prairie gave him his first official coaching experience last season. Metcalf began to hone his craft with Prairie, preparing him for this chance.
“The biggest thing I learned is to adjust to different personalities and adjust to different guys’ needs,” Metcalf said. “It will continue to be a process for me as I step into this level, a whole different level. I’m excited about that. This is a great opportunity.”
The Cyclones are aware of the opportunity to train with and learn from a two-time Big Ten champion and one of the most dominant wrestlers during his college career from 2008-10.
“This is awesome because I grew up watching these guys,” said Austin Gomez, an Iowa State recruit from Illinois who is the 14th-ranked wrestler in the 2017 class. “I’m excited because I loved their style of wrestling.”
Gomez is an example of the potential in the talent, along with younger wrestlers like freshmen Kanan Storr and Ian Parker. Dresser’s additions have already made an impact with the Cyclones already in the practice room.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to have such great coaches like these guys and I’m excited to be able to work with guys like this and to be able to pick their brains as much as possible,” Iowa State freshman and former Cedar Rapids Jefferson three-time state medalist Brenden Baker said. “I think it’s great for our team and that we are going to be real tough and open up a lot of eyes of what we are capable of.”
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