The Hawkeye wrestling coach discusses the thinking behind the Nov. 14 outdoor dual vs. Oklahoma State.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Planning key logistics for the Nov. 14 outdoor wrestling dual at Kinnick Stadium took a few months. The genesis of the idea, though, began inside Tom Brands’ brain seven years ago.
After 15,955 fans packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena to watch Iowa defeat Iowa State on Dec. 6, 2008, Brands knew someone else, someday, would aim to top that NCAA dual attendance record.
“I said to our staff, ‘If this gets broken again, we’re going to Kinnick.’” said Brands, then in his second season as Iowa’s head coach.
Now, in Brands’ 10th season, it’s go time. Iowa and Oklahoma State will clash in an 11 a.m. dual on a mat sitting on the turf near Kinnick’s South end zone, it was announced Thursday. And it’s possible the spectacle, which is being billed as the “Grapple on the Gridiron,” will demolish the current NCAA record of 15,996 fans, set at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center in 2013.
Kicking off eight hours later is the most anticipated home game on the Hawkeyes’ football schedule, a 7 p.m. Iowa-Minnesota showdown with the Floyd of Rosedale trophy (and maybe much more) on the line.
The “Grapple” pits college wrestling’s two most iconic programs, which have combined for 57 NCAA team championships, in the season opener for both teams. Oklahoma State is No. 1 with 34, and Iowa is No. 2 with 23.
It’ll be quite a day — even if guys in singlets are greeted by temperatures in the 30s.
“If the weather’s bad,” Brands said, “you grow a beard and put on a stocking cap. How’s that?”
Iowa coach Tom Brands discusses the possibility of poor weather Nov. 14 for outdoor dual vs. Oklahoma State.
The average temperature in Iowa City on Nov. 14 is a high of 50 degrees and a low of 32. There is a contingency plan in place for inclement weather: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the usual (heated) home wrestling venue, which seats 15,000-plus. Athletics director Gary Barta said anything below freezing and they’ll “have to have a serious conversation” about a change of plans.
“As soon as safety becomes an issue, we move indoors,” Brands said. “We’ve got a pretty good arena right across the street here for wrestling.”
But they’re not focused on that now. Instead, the thought is that in a little more than three months, an NCAA wrestling attendance record will be shattered, considering Kinnick’s capacity for football is 70,585.
Iowa’s wrestling program led the nation in average home attendance for the ninth straight season in 2014-15, averaging 8,358 fans per dual. Brands cautiously estimated 20,000 to 25,000 fans would attend, factoring in the football tailgate crowd plus the usual wrestling loyalists.
“We’ve got guys saying it’s probably going to go way north of that,” Brands said. “The important thing is we’ve got fans out there that embrace this sort of thing. They’re nutty enough themselves.”
For now, the best way to get a reserved seat is to buy season wrestling tickets, which not coincidentally went on sale Thursday: $80 for a seven-event schedule. Single tickets ($10 each) go on sale Oct. 1. The first 25,400 fans to buy a ticket will have a reserved seat for the outdoor dual; the rest will be sold as general admission.
A typical wrestling dual lasts about 2 hours. The 11 a.m. start time was chosen so that normal football game-day preparations would be unaffected.
“Eleven o’clock, our staff decided they could get everything set up, get everybody in, compete, get everybody out and be ready in a good amount of time to make sure the football game went off,” Barta said, “so that you wouldn’t even know there was an event in here earlier in the day.”
Oklahoma State coach John Smith didn’t hesitate in accepting when Iowa pitched the idea. In interviews Thursday, Smith said he told Brands, “Let’s do it.”
Smith has “shot Cape buffalo with a bow in Africa. That’s saying something right there,” Brands said. “He’s probably my kind of guy when it comes to adventure. I don’t think we’re going to go hang out together anytime soon, but certainly a lot of like-mindedness there.”
The Hawkeyes won last year’s dual in Stillwater, 30-7, and the Cowboys lead the all-time series 27-20-2.
Peaking in November isn’t customary for either program, but the approach will change for this mid-November. As Brands put it, “when it’s time to get the record back ... let’s do it in great, big giant fashion.”
It’ll kick off a huge year of wrestling in Iowa City. The Big Ten Championships are here March 5-6, then the Olympic Trials April 8-10.
But first, it’s an outdoor wrestling party.
“It’s awesome,” Iowa 125-pound All-American Thomas Gilman said. The junior would more than likely be the first Hawkeye to take the mat. “Some people think that we want to work our way into our season, which we do sometimes. But hey, we’re baptizing ourselves by fire, and we’re ready to go. If they want to wrestle right now, we’re ready to go.”
The Nov. 14 outdoor dual with Oklahoma State has the attention of Thomas Gilman and Brandon Sorensen.
- What: "Grapple on the Gridiron": Iowa vs. Oklahoma State wrestling dual
- When, where: Nov. 14, 11 a.m., Kinnick Stadium
- Key ticket information: A season ticket for 7 home dates is $80. Season tickets went on sale Thursday. The first 25,400 tickets sold for the outdoor dual are guaranteed a reserved seat at Kinnick Stadium; the first 15,000 tickets sold get a reserved seat at Kinnick and in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in case the event is moved indoors. Season ticketholders can purchase additional single-dual tickets. Single-match tickets ($10 each) go on sale Oct. 1. Tickets sold after the first 25,400 will be general admission.
- Students and children under 5: Free entry, but everyone must have a ticket. The first 350 ticketed students to show up will be able to sit in bleachers on the field surrounding the mat. Students may acquire tickets starting Oct. 1.
- How to buy tickets: Contact the UI Athletics Ticket Office by phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS, online at hawkeyesports.com, or in person at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.