IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When the college wrestling season ends each March, there are only 10 people who achieve the ultimate goal of national champion.
University of Iowa senior Matt McDonough has been there twice, glowing in the spotlight after winning 125-pound championships as a freshman in 2010 and as a junior in 2012. McDonough entered his senior season with 100 wins, a 96.2 winning percentage, and three trips to the finals of both the Big Ten Conference and NCAA Championships.
The exclamation point was to come in 2012-13 for one of the greatest lightweights in Hawkeye wrestling history. Despite making a fourth trip to the conference finals, McDonough admits the season "didn't end how I wanted."
"I hit a big bump at the end, but in my mind, it's not over yet," McDonough said. "I'm still passing over the biggest bump I've had so far since I started college, but sometimes that gives you the most momentum, so I think it has been fun, and I'm not ready to be done yet."
McDonough didn't speak specifically during the season about factors that were holding him back in his final year...until now. In a feature in the next issue of Hawk Talk Monthly (arriving to in-boxes later this week), McDonough talks about the hardships of making weight, a shoulder and neck injury that required postseason surgery, and his future plans.
McDonough finished his final collegiate season 22-5, and one win away from becoming a four-time All-American. He said he was at his best prior to and during the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in February. That stretch included a win by technical fall over Eric Coufal of Nebraska in a dual Feb. 10, and a victory by major decision against Kory Mines of Edinboro on Feb. 16, the last time he was on the mat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
At the national duals, McDonough faced three nationally ranked competitors -- No. 5 Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, No. 13 David Thorn of Minnesota, and No. 4 Alan Waters of Missouri. McDonough defeated Garrett, 8-3, and Thorn, 8-2, before slipping to Waters, 4-0.
"I was wrestling pretty well until that last match, but I felt pretty good," McDonough said. "You have to feel you're wrestling your best at Big Tens and nationals. I didn't feel I was wrestling bad there, it is just some things I didn't let leave my mind; I kept in the back of my mind. You have to throw those negative thoughts and those worries about how healthy you are, you have to leave those emotions out."
McDonough was a combined 4-3 at the 2013 Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
During his career, McDonough had memorable scraps with Zach Sanders of Minnesota, Andrew Long of Iowa State, Nico Megaludis of Penn State, Brandon Precin of Northwestern, and Jesse Delgado of Illinois.
"You're not super-close with your competitors," McDonough said. "It's fierce competition and sometimes people hate people right down to the core. Myself, I don't hate anyone. Do I want to beat the crap out of them on a wrestling mat, do I want to put their face in the mat and rub it around? Of course, but there is no bad blood. Being a person of faith, I don't think there is any reason to hate anyone you compete against."
Aside from winning and winning often, McDonough was also known for his pre-match pauses as he crouched in prayer near the edge of the mat.
"You have to ask God to be with you and help you overcome the challenges," McDonough said. "Having a faith-filled life has been awesome, and I never want to end that. Being able to have a connection with God and Jesus Christ brings a lot of power to my wrestling."
Being a three-time NCAA finalist and a two-time champion means you have competed against the best the wrestling world has to offer. There have been tough opponents, but no one that McDonough wouldn't relish seeing again on the mat.
"I would want to wrestle every single person I wrestled again 10 times over," McDonough said. "It's so much more fun when you have someone that puts up a good fight, and it's even more fun when you have someone that puts up that kind of fight and you blow the match open."
Watch for the June edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, for an extended feature on McDonough.
The University of Iowa completed its five-member swimming and diving coaching staff with the addition of Brandon King as an assistant coach.
Ron Rainey and the Hawkeye women's soccer team open the season Aug. 23 at Drake. Iowa has its home opener two days later against Western Michigan. Click HERE for the complete 2013 schedule.