FARGO — Brandon Metz entered his senior year at West Fargo High School a two-sport commit to North Dakota State for wrestling and football.
Metz had given verbal commitments to wrestle and walk on for football, with wrestling as the priority. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound heavyweight was projected to be a nose guard or interior defensive lineman in football.
Metz, who now wrestles at NDSU (3-2) and is in the midst of a successful redshirt sophomore campaign, wanted to give both sports a shot. And for some time, he did. After shuffling with the decision over the course of his senior year in high school, he ultimately decided to just wrestle.
“Logistically it's very hard to do both of those things at this level. It was easier to go with the one,” Metz said. “My goals in wrestling have always been very high and I thought I could see myself reaching those goals at this level at North Dakota State. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
Originally planning to both wrestle and play football, a sport he was a North Dakota Class 3A all-state first team pick in, he was torn.
“I think wrestling was just kind of stronger for me because I had done it eight, nine months out of the year ever since I was like a seventh- or eighth-grader,” Metz said. “All the relationships I had created were just so great.”
The decision has worked out well. Metz is 11-2 overall this season and was ranked in the top 20 in the country at heavyweight in the most recent InterMatWrestle.com poll.
The solid redshirt sophomore showing comes at the heels of an "OK" year for Metz, who was displeased with his performance last season.
The heavyweight tallied a 15-12 overall record (6-8 in duels) last year as a redshirt freshman. Metz won four straight heading into the Big 12 Conference tournament, most notably a pin over Utah Valley’s No. 11-ranked Tate Orndorff.
What would’ve been a celebrated season for some, Metz saw he needed to tweak and refine some technical aspects. The 2017 West Fargo graduate sat down with his coaches at the end of last year to discuss what he needed to change and improve upon.
After a tough-grinding summer, Metz has made plenty of progress. He’s been consistently ranked in the top 30 in the nation this season.
“It feels really, really good, considering I was a little disappointed in my year last year,” Metz said. “I guess the ranking mostly symbolizes just the fact that I did put in the changes; but we're not done yet. But it's nice to know the changes that we initially have made have worked out.”
NDSU head wrestling coach Roger Kish said the gains Metz has made over the last couple years has put him in the position where he is right now, a top-tier heavyweight in the nation.
“He’s a top-20 ranked guy in the country among all Division I heavyweights. That’s an impressive feat for a young man at that weight class,” Kish said. “These are big, strong men that he's competing against, and to be able to have the success that he's had at such a young age has been really impressive.”
Metz finished 3-2 at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas earlier this month, losing 12-4 in a major decision to then No. 14-ranked Brian Andrews of Wyoming in the second consolation quarterfinals. Metz defeated Jack Heyob of then No. 16-ranked Northwestern by pin in 2 minutes, 20 seconds in November. He also posted a 3-1 decision against Indiana’s Rudy Streck and a 9-6 decision over David Eli of then No. 25 Purdue, and claimed an individual championship at the Bison Open on Nov. 9, winning all four matches.
Metz, who was a three-time high school state champion at heavyweight, said his college career has been a good, steady rise, with noticeable improvements each season.
“I would say a lot of what I've put into it I've gotten out of it so far,” Metz said of this season. “I'm having a little bit more of a successful season than I did last year, which I think goes back to all the hard work in the summer and the offseason that I put in. And, my want to just make changes to not only just my wrestling, but my body, my mind and my extracurricular stuff.”
Metz wrestled unattached at 285 pounds in five open tournaments his redshirt season, landing in the top three in four of the events. He boasted a 16-4 record with six pins and a major decision, and won five of six matches to record a third-place finish in his first collegiate tournament (Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open).
Metz, who holds the record for fastest pin in North Dakota from high school, said he’s made a lot of changes in the past year, and continues to make adjustments each time he’s on the mat.
“I just pick up different things that I've seen that need improvements, and my coaches have really helped me identify those areas. I think that's what's helped me the most,” Metz said.
When Metz arrived on campus, his ability to attack was relatively one dimensional, Kish said. Now, he’s grown and has found multiple ways to attack his opponents and score points. Kish, who is in ninth season at the helm of the team, said that has helped accelerate his wrestling.
“I think that's something that we really focused on over the summer and changing some things in his daily business,” Kish said. “It gave us kind of a wide scope of things to work on technical aspects. Trying to really groom those technical aspects that he's continuing to build was a priority.”
With Metz hailing from West Fargo, Kish said he had a pretty good idea of what type of athlete and person Metz was.
“His overall wrestling IQ has grown so much over the last couple of years,” Kish said. “He's such a smarter wrestler since the moment he’s got here to this point. The maturity and mental maturity has really helped him improve in a lot of ways.”
Though where Metz, who was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Wrestling first team last year, shines is off the mat, Kish said.
“On the mat, he’s a very serious guy. Once he steps off the mat, he’s about as bubbly as they get,” Kish said. “He's a pleasure to have a part of our program, and he’s developing into a heck of a leader for us. He's gonna have a lot of success before his time is done.”
Metz said he thinks the best is yet to come for him. With two years of eligibility left, he will have a couple more seasons to carry out his goals, which include solid performances at the Big 12 Wrestling Championships and trips to nationals.
“I've done some good things, but nothing I don't think that I'm capable of,” Metz said. “I still have a lot to prove to myself.”