As his hand was raised after his 2-1 semifinal victory Saturday, the only thing that Bubba Jenkins thought was, " 'That's not gonna get it done. That's not gonna get it done.' "
Minutes earlier, Iowa's No. 1-seed Brent Metcalf had majored his opponent, 16-4, on the mat diagonal to Jenkins.
Jenkins did not wrestle the type of match he wanted to wrestle, and the coaching staff agreed he did not have a great performance. But the bottom line, he said, was his hand was raised, propelling him into the finals at the 149-pound weight class, for a chance to avenge his loss to Metcalf in the NCAA finals last season.
"I'm real excited to wrestle Metcalf," Jenkins said. "Everyone deems him as unbeatable.
He knows I'm not afraid of him. I'm gonna go out there and give it my all. I honestly have nothing to lose."
In the match that assistant coach Matt Dernlan described as "the match everybody wants to see," the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked nationally ranked wrestlers at 149 pounds will battle for the first time this season.
Ever since Jenkins dropped the 149-pound NCAA final match of the year to Metcalf last year, he has had a rematch circled on his calendar.
That rematch was supposed to happen at the NWCA All-Star Classic. It didn't happen.
In the dual meet between the Hawkeye and Nittany Lions on Feb. 8, the rematch would likely occur. But an ankle-injury forced Jenkins to miss the potential rematch on his home floor at Rec Hall.
Now, however, Jenkins has the opportunity for revenge once again on his own campus.
"It's time to put up or shut up," Dernlan said. "You got to love that challenge or you shouldn't be in the Big Ten and you shouldn't be at Penn State, because we want to be on top."
Last season, Jenkins employed three different strategies to each of the three losses to his rival. Jenkins was leading in two of these matches, but Metcalf's conditioning was too much for the Virginia Beach native in the end.
To beat Metcalf, who is a combined 312-1 wrestling in high school and college and the winner of last year's Jesse Owens Big Ten Athlete of the Year award, Jenkins said he will bring out yet a different strategy.
"Last time I kept getting in low stances and he kept sucking me under and getting me tired," he said. "I'll stand up a little bit and handfight with him, keep my distance from him. Overall, I'll try to make it a boxing match more than a grueling, pounding match, kinda use my speed and my outside game to my advantage. He really doesn't get too many outside shots."
Head coach Troy Sunderland said Jenkins must control the action, score points, and continue to keep scoring if he wants to pull off the upset Sunday.
The real key to a victory, however, will not be anything tactical in the match, Jenkins said. With sweat dripping down his brow about 15 minutes after the conclusion of his match, the junior said he would be thinking about three things when he went home: "Make weight, wrestle to my ability and have fun."
Before his match against Northwestern's Andrew Nadhir on Saturday, Jenkins sat in a chair at the press table, joking around with a member of the media as he waited for his chance to wrestle.
That same sort of mentality is what Jenkins hopes to be the solution to conquer his rival.
"I'm gonna be all out fighting for sure," Jenkins said. "But when I'm relaxed and when I'm not tensed up, and all into everything else that's going on, I wrestle my best. So that's what I'm going to do. If I wrestle any other way, I won't beat him. I've got to go out there a wrestle to my ability."