LEWISBURG - Bucknell's Kevin LeValley isn't going to admit he was happy losing just a one-point decision to NCAA champion Brent Metcalf on Friday. But the Bison's 13th-ranked 149-pounder will admit he got the confirmation he was looking for.
LeValley wrestled maybe the best match of the night by any Bucknell wrestler in the loss to Iowa's top-ranked Metcalf. And even though the Bison lost the dual, 29-7, to the Hawkeyes before beating Rutgers, 26-12, the fifth-year Division I program has a lot of positives to work from, including LeValley's affirmation that he's All-American material.
"I've always believed (I could be an All-American). And the coaches have always believed," LeValley said after losing 3-2 to Metcalf, the 2008 NCAA champion at 149 pounds. "But this is a nice measuring stick. It's reassurance you are doing the right things on and off the mat. It's definitely some motivation as we go in to Christmas break."
"I think what Kevin is doing is surprising to some," Bucknell head coach Dan Wirnsberger said. "But pretty soon, he's not going to be a surprise to anyone."
Prior to last night's battle in Sojka Pavilion, LeValley had spent just over 10 minutes on the mat with Metcalf in two bouts, both of which ended in pins for the Iowa senior. But LeValley found a way to force his style of match on to Metcalf last night.
He slowed the pace, not allowing the explosive Hawkeye to hit big-point moves. When Metcalf did get in deep on four or five single-leg takedown attempts, LeValley could force his style, countering a more offensive wrestler to get into positions that favor himself better.
So with Metcalf needing just to latch on to the second of LeValley's two ankles nearly a half-dozen times for a match-sealing takedown, the Bison junior from Colorado sprawled, kicked, and outmuscled the NCAA's best all-around wrestler to give himself a chance to win late in the third period.
LeValley didn't win as Metcalf fought off a deep single-leg attempt with 15 seconds left, and an even deeper one with 5 seconds to go to pull out a 3-2 win. But LeValley, who has beaten three ranked wrestlers, including No. 6 Matt Kyler of Army, in recent weeks, put notice out that he's ready to take the next step.
"I'm not thinking stalemate (in scrambles)," LeValley said. "I feel like I can score from any position. Whether he's in on my leg or not, I feel like I can score. If I was just looking for a stalemate, I wouldn't be looking to win the match, and I was looking to win."
"I have to work harder to finish in that position," Metcalf said. "These guys are not going to fall down for you. When you give yourself a chance to score, finish, because that makes a difference. That guy's fight at the end is going to be different if you've got two or three takedowns under your belt, as opposed to if he has a chance to win."
Iowa won eight of the 10 bouts against Bucknell, with only returning All-American Andy Rendos and Brantley Hooks picking up wins for the Bison. But head coach Dan Wirnsberger stressed to his team in a meeting earlier in the week that the focus of the night had to be on EIWA rival Rutgers, and not the top-ranked Hawkeyes.
The Bison listened well, winning six straight matches from 149 to 197 pounds to pick up important individual wins toward tournament seeding. LeValley, after coming so close to beating Metcalf, dominated 20th-ranked David Greenwald for a technical fall. Derrik Russell, Hooks, Rendos, Shane Riccio, David Thompson and Jay Hahn also won for the Bison.
"We knew everybody was going to be coming here to watch the Iowa match, but no matter what happened there we had to have our focus on Rutgers," Wirnsberger said. "I think there was a lot of talk out there that Rutgers could just slide in here and win, and we put the Iowa match aside and got the job done."