Senior Matt McDonough is the alpha male of the Iowa wrestling room — and that’s saying something.
On Saturday, a wet-behind-the-ears freshman rattled his cage in the wrestle-offs at 125 pounds. McDonough — a two-time NCAA Champion — needed a last-second escape to beat Cory Clark 3-2.
“It’s something I haven’t necessarily had since I’ve been here,” McDonough said. “Younger guys at my weight, trying to stake their claim.
“It’s something that’s a little bit of a shock. I’ve got to learn to embrace it.”
Clark is a four-time state champion from Southeast Polk. And to just earn the honor of facing McDonough, Clark had to beat freshman Thomas Gilman, a four-time Nebraska state champion, 3-1 in overtime.
“Don’t forget about Thomas Gilman, either,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “We have some good depth there, and that wasn’t by accident. We have a good situation down there for the future.”
Brands can’t hide a grin when thinking about how loaded the Hawkeyes are at the top of the lineup — and how it impacts McDonough.
“We’ve got a veteran that probably understands a little bit more why his practices are tougher,” Brands said. “He got a good reality check there. It’s not about how old someone is.
“When you have a good opponent, you have to be intent and focus on dismantling them.”
McDonough comes into the season with a 28-match winning streak and career record of 100-4.
The Linn-Mar graduate has his eyes on being the seventh three-time NCAA champion at Iowa and an Olympic career after graduating.
So a little iron sharpening works for him.
“It’s good to have some here in this room, multiple guys, that are going to bring up that challenge and challenge me every day,” McDonough said. “It’s just a matter of embracing that.”
Brands has seen the battles already (more smiles).
“Now it’s not just you blow on a guy and he falls down … which (McDonough’s) been used to a little bit too much,” Brands said. “So we like this.”
Clark and Gilman are expected to redshirt this season and compete in open tournaments.
Wrestlers who don’t go to the season-opening duals Friday in Chattanooga, Tenn., will compete at an open tournament at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
As for the future at 125, Brands figures it will all work out.
“With the rock and a hard place being 133 with (Tony Ramos), they might both vie for 125,” Brands said. “Who knows who is going to grow and who is going to stay where they are at.
“We like both those freshmen, Gilman and Clark. Let them have at it.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.