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December 7, 2007

Iowa/ISU Wrestling Preview

While many Hawkeye fans pay more attention to who wins the in-state rivalry on the turf, the real clash for the champion of Iowa happens this Sunday. For decades, the state of Iowa has been wrestling's Mecca, and the winner of the Iowa-Iowa State match-up this season will likely sit atop the wrestling world once again.

Interim Assistant Coach Doug Schwab grew up watching the Hawks and Cyclones battle for supremacy, and was even privileged enough to have a hand in the outcome. This season, however, the former national champion gets his first opportunity to coach the contest.

"I'm just excited because we're going to compete against the number one team in the nation," he said, adding that the team has been working towards this moment since last March.

He believes this weekend's meet will give the squad a chance to see where they stand, and give them something to build on this year as they try to regain the national crown they've held so many times.

"Obviously [we] didn't finish up the way we wanted to last year, and we didn't accomplish the things we wanted to as a team, so this is a big step," Schwab said. "Going into a hostile environment, and a lot of fuel on the fire right not makes it even more exciting."

This weekend, more is at stake than a tally in the competition for the Cy-Hawk trophy. With the Cyclones already ranked number one, a win would see them further solidify their status among the elite programs in the country. A Hawkeye victory could see Tom Brands and company vault to the top of the rankings.

As a kid growing up in Osage, IA, Schwab said he grew up just waiting for the day of the meet to come, and he believes that's the excitement level this match-up needs to get back to.

The meet needs to make waves both in the state of Iowa, and throughout the rest of the programs around the country.

"I was reading some articles today on ESPN's college section; they got Tom and Sanderson's picture on there so that's exciting to get it there on the national scene."

On Sunday, Schwab won't be the only Hawkeye making a first when the two storied programs hit the mat in Ames.

Joey Slaton, Dan LeClere, and Jay Borschel will get their first tastes of what its like to be on the mat during the battle for Iowa after growing up watching the event, and having to sit out the past couple years.

"Those guys grew up in Iowa, they wanted to be Hawkeyes their whole life," their coach said. "This is their first opportunity of many to go out and become some legends and heroes of Iowa wrestling."

Brent Metcalf will also be making his first appearance in the Cy-Hawk challenge, and as well as his first since his shocking defeat to Darion Caldwell of N.C. State.

"It's hard to imagine that the guy could work any harder than he does, but he might have upped his efforts even more," Schwab said.

His coach, and occasional wrestling partner, doesn't see his first defeat as a Hawkeye as something that will dent his confidence. You have to understand that matches like his last match outing, where you get caught by a certain move, according to Schwab, and the only way to get past it is to get back to work.

That's exactly what Metcalf has done, and Schwab thinks the defeat might have even refocused the Michigan native.

While there are clearly plenty of headlines heading into this Sunday's clash, they were all trumped this week by the questions surrounding the status of national champion Mark Perry. With the senior officially out for the competition, win or lose, his absence will surely be talked about before, during, and after the meet.

Schwab sees Perry's absence as something that will force the rest of the team to bring out their very best. Match-ups that look to be in Iowa's favor on paper will need to be done so by bigger margins now.

"It adds to the excitement for those guys, because they know that that's much more important, they don't have their national champion to fall back on.

The coach feels the questions about how the team will do without their leader should give the rest of the line-up a spark. He said the team is full of tough guys whose goal is to win a national title, and help build a national title - not just Perry.

Even without controversy, Iowa-Iowa State week is always an exciting time, and Schwab can see that excitement in his wrestlers right now.

"It's kind of like the calm before the storm," he said, adding that everyone seems to be a bit more on edge this week.

While Schwab emphasized that this only one dual meet, he also understands that the team wants to set a precedent this weekend.

That precedent will be to restore the Iowa legacy that Schwab feels might have lost a bit of its luster the past few years.



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