This is probably old news to collegiate wrestling fans but I just saw the 2009 NCAA finals in the 149 lbs division between two undefeated wrestlers: Brent Metcalf and Darrion Caldwell. Metcalf is one of the latest in the long line of athletes that perfectly represented the Iowa Wrestling mindset.
Caldwell came out with an incredible (and to me, heartbreaking) performance to beat Metcalf. The match is worth watching all the way through:
Metcalf is an inspiration. He didn’t ever give up pushing forward, working for the takedown. And what was especially representative of that is the moment when Caldwell began celebrating early by doing a flip, Metcalf came at him anyway. Here’s a slow motion video of that exchange:
This was controversial at the time, and many people criticized both athletes. To me, I can’t help but draw inspiration and ultimate respect for Metcalf’s passion and determination.
In my own experience, I can tell a lot about where I am mentally from how I act during the last few seconds of a tough match or a cardio session. You have to push through and past the end with the kind of mindset that says you can go another minute or however long you need to. I know I’m mentally defeated if I’m counting seconds to the end.
I look to college wrestling for inspirational stories of athletes working harder than many believe is humanly possible. They train two or three times a day, at incredible intensity, while maintain a ridiculously low weight. Iowa wrestling represents that lifestyle completely, from Gable to Zalesky to Brands. But there are also wrestlers that pop in other programs that are shining icons of that hard working philosophy. A good example of that is Frank Molinaro of Penn State. Here’s him doing a nice circuit that’s designed to take his legs to exhaustion:
It’s clear that he has done this type of session many times before, and can effectively hit the wall and go past it pretty quickly. Workouts like that are just as much mental as they are physical.
As I see it, he is an example of a guy who is aware of his weaknesses, hates them, and works his ass off to eliminate them. I like that type of honesty in self-analysis in an athlete. This interview right after he won the NCAA title this year (after falling short the year before) is a great example of the honesty and toughness that he embodies:
He stepped up the training for his last college wrestling season and went from being good to being great, dominating most of his opponents, and going undefeated. He is definitely an inspiration.
And here is the finals match from the year before that Frank lost and arguably created the “Gorilla Hulk” of the 2011-12 season:
It’s painful to watch. Dake really stepped up for this match, and made a statement.