At first glance, the concept of having a wrestling meet outdoors — in November — hours before an evening football game sounds a little crazy.
Then again, one of the mainstay events for the Hawkeye wrestling team involves an artic plunge into the Iowa River in the middle of winter, so maybe this isn’t as far out of the norm as it might seem.
Regardless, Iowa will have its season-opening wrestling meet against Oklahoma State on November 14, 2015 and — weather permitting — will be held in Kinnick.
“The temperatures aren’t going to be balmy, but you never know,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “If the weather’s bad, you grow a beard and put a stocking cap on.”
Sporting a light beard (though he’ll have to shave it before the season starts), Iowa 125-pounder Thomas Gilman already looks the part.
He also sounded like he was ready to wrestle outside no matter what kind of weather was thrown at him.
“I always imagined wrestling outside, but it was never much of a reality,” Gilman said. “People ask about the cold, I love the cold. If it’s 30, 20 degrees — bring it on.”
To be certain, Oklahoma State will be bringing it on. The Hawkeyes hammered them 30-7 in Stillwater last season and one of their most storied rivals will have all sorts of motivation as they come into Iowa City.
However, picking the Cowboys for this event was done for a reason. Since the Big Ten has continued to expand, more and more weekends are being used for conference meets, thereby limiting the dates that can be used for non-conference meets.
Since this was the Hawkeyes year to host, the idea was bounced to Oklahoma State, who immediately were on board with the idea.
“I called [Oklahoma State head coach] John Smith was on board immediately with no hesitation,” Brands said. “It wasn’t, ‘Wait a minute, let me get this straight,’ it was ‘we’re in.’”
The dual will be the first held in a Division I football stadium and the Iowa athletic department is aiming for around 25,000 spectators. In fact, 25,400 reserve-seat tickets will be sold, while everything beyond will be general admission.
In case of bad weather, the first 15,000 tickets sold would also get a reserved seat in Carver-Hawkeye. Those who bought tickets but were outside of the first 15,000 would be able to redeem the ticket for any other Iowa dual.
“The more the merrier,” athletic director Gary Barta said. “Iowa fans are unbelievable and they’ve proven that. We’ve hosted one Olympic Trial, we’re going to host another, we’ve hosted national championships, and we’ve hosted Big Ten championships.
“It’s a real testament to our fans that we’re able to do this.”
It’s likely that Iowa will also be shooting for another goal — the single-dual attendance mark. The Hawkeyes set the record in 2008, and at that point, Brands said he talked with his staff about the possibility of having a meet in Kinnick if the record got broken.
Five years later in 2013, 15,996 spectators crammed into Bryce-Jordan Center for a Penn State-Pitt meet that still remains the biggest dual crowd in NCAA history.
On Feb. 8 of this year, the 2008 Iowa-Iowa State dual mark was again broken during the Iowa-Penn State dual in State College.
It’s a record they want back and the Grapple on the Gridiron seems like a prime chance to break the mark.
“It’s time,” Brands said. “It’s time to go to Kinnick.”