Matt McDonough glossed over the video, but there really wasn’t anything the replay told him that he didn’t already know that night in late December when he walked off the mat.
Iowa’s defending NCAA champion had been defeated. Perhaps more surprising, McDonough had been shackled for seven minutes, unable to score a takedown and limited to a career-low scoring output in a 3-1 defeat against Northwestern’s Brandon Precin in the 125-pound title match of the Midlands Championships.
McDonough knew then that he had fallen into Precin’s trap. That he idled down from his typical rapid pace. That he hadn’t been able to get to his offense and get to a prime scoring opportunity with both hands on a leg.
“I felt a lot of it during the match,” McDonough said. “It was a situation where you’ve got to be more aware to start the match and be more fired up off the first whistle.”
McDonough gets another shot tonight at Precin when the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes (9-0-1) wrestle No. 18 Northwestern (15-1) at 7 p.m. in Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“I kind of can’t help but look at it as a chance to redeem a loss that I really didn’t feel good about,” McDonough said. “You never feel good about a loss, but that was definitely one I can turn around and I’m going to have my shot at it.”
The showdown at 125 is the marquee match on a bout card. The other weight with two ranked wrestlers going head-to-head is 157 pounds, where No. 14 Iowa freshman Derek St. John takes on seventh-ranked Jason Welch.
Precin, a two-time All-American, moved to the top of the national rankings after beating McDonough in their first career meeting. Precin placed third at the NCAA Championships as a junior in 2009. He redshirted last year when McDonough compiled a 37-1 record on his way to the national title.
“I know he’s going to come out, and he’s going to fight,” said McDonough, who dropped to No. 2 in the rankings after losing to Precin. “He’s going to wrestle hard. That’s what I’m excited for. That’s the reason I train the way I do and prepare. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat guys who are going to come out and want to take your head off.”
Precin gained control of the previous meeting against McDonough when he scored on a throw-by with 44 seconds remaining in the first period. The Northwestern senior fended off McDonough the rest of the match.
“I think we got ambushed a little bit,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “I think these coaches are cagey and smart across the country and they’re not going to go where we’re good. I think they came out and had a game plan and executed it pretty well. I think smart coaching is also going to say we’re going to be ready for that again.
“I think (Precin is) probably going to come out and try to score on us right away and slow the match down that way. (But) it’s really not about what we predict and whether they follow our prediction or not. It’s about being ready so when they come to you hard, you’re stopping ’em and knocking ’em out hard. It’s about wrestling your match and if things do start going catty wonkus a little bit, you can adjust quicker. Really, when you look at that match it took us about six minutes to adjust in my way of thinking, and the last minute it was almost like panic urgency instead of where you’ve at least got a little bit of the clock to work with.”
McDonough has posted staggering offensive numbers during his two seasons with the Hawkeyes. He’s 51-2 with 15 falls. He averaged a shade more than 11 points per match in his 38 bouts that didn’t end in fall. Precin is one of four opponents who have limited McDonough to less than six points in a match.
“I don’t know if we were ready to wrestle,” Brands said. “I’m not saying we went out there not ready to wrestle. But I don’t know if we were ready to take it away from him and I know he was taking it away from us. What we’ve got to get back to is not being quite so friendly.”