Six weeks ago Iowa State added some spice to the dormant Iowa-Iowa State wrestling rivalry by naming Kevin Dresser their new head coach. That was a spicy hire both because of Dresser's roots (he's a former Iowa wrestler) and because he's not shy about speaking his mind to the press. He also had some beef with Tom Brands and Iowa while he was at Virginia Tech. Well, if that hire added some spice to the rivalry, the hiring announcements yesterday constitute dumping the entire spice rack into the pot.
That's not one, not two, but three former Hawkeyes joining Dresser's staff. Zadick and St. John were both on Dresser's staff at Virginia Tech, while Metcalf had recently taken on a position as National Freestyle Developmental Coach for USA Wrestling. All three are most famous for their exploits in black and gold, of course. Zadick was a three-time All American and Big Ten champion in 2002. St. John was a four-time All-American, as well as a national champion and Big Ten champion. Metcalf is the most decorated of the bunch -- and probably the most decorated Iowa wrestler of the last 15 years. He was a three-time All American, three-time NCAA finalist, two-time NCAA champion, and three-time Big Ten champion. Their arrival is certainly going to add some fire to the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, which has been a complete shambles over the last decade. Tom Brands has never lost to Iowa State while serving as Iowa's head coach and few of the duals have even been close. That seems likely to change now.
Outside of Zadick serving as Associate Head Coach, the exact titles for St. John and Metcalf haven't been ironed yet, although it's believed that Metcalf will be running Iowa State's Regional Training Center, which will support wrestlers competing in post-college freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions. Dresser himself stated that all of the coaches would be working with the RTC wrestlers as well as the guys on the ISU team in his presser introducing the staff today.
While it is certainly very awkward to see so many Hawkeye greats wearing cardinal and gold instead of black and gold, we should probably stop to consider a few things before we go all Et tu, Brentus?! There are a very limited number of coaching positions available on a wrestling team and Iowa simply didn't have any slots available right now. There's a knee-jerk desire to have Metcalf replace Morningstar, but Morningstar has been Iowa's most dynamic recruiter and seemingly the coach most responsible for helping land some of Iowa's biggest recruits in recent years (Alex Marinelli, Spencer Lee, Jacob Warner). Perhaps Metcalf could have done the same, perhaps not. It's a risk.
Berhow is Iowa's primary coach for the upper weights and, overall, things seem to have improved a bit there since he took over, given the results from Bobby Telford, Sammy Brooks, Nathan Burak, and (pre-injury) Sam Stoll in recent years. Replacing him with a Metcalf or a St. John would give Iowa very little coverage among the upper weights. (Of course, it is interesting to note that Dresser's ISU staff doesn't appear to have anyone who specializes in coaching upper weights -- Dresser, Metcalf, and St. John are all middleweights, while Zadick specializes in lightweights. It will be interesting to see what impact that has on Iowa State's upper weight wrestlers over the next few years.)
Personally, I suspect the biggest threat to Iowa is not in the presence of Dresser or any of these assistant coaches, although they should certainly improve the quality of the Cyclone wrestling team. The biggest threat is in the Regional Training Center (RTC) that Dresser is building for the Cyclone Wrestling Club. Iowa has its own RTC and the Hawkeye Wrestling Club for post-graduate competition, but it hasn't had the best support in recent years. One of the things that's helped spur the tremendous growth of Penn State and Ohio State wrestling in recent years has been the strength of their own RTCs. That matters to recruits and it's not an area where Iowa can afford to fall any further behind. (If you want to support the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, you can find more information here and here.)
But yeah: this is weird. Really, really weird. It may not really sink in until the first Iowa-Iowa State dual (which will be in Ames in 2017), but seeing all those former Hawkeyes on the ISU sideline -- especially guys like Metcalf and St. John for whom we cheered our brains out -- is going to be very strange. But the Cy-Hawk Series just got a whole lot more interesting.