Big Ten Network to provide extra coverage of Iowa-Penn State wrestling dual in Iowa City

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The Big Ten Network is beefing up its coverage of Friday night's Iowa-Penn State wrestling dual.

The Chicago-based television network will air a 30-minute predual show before the meet. Big Ten Network also will unveil two digital extras found exclusively on its YouTube page ahead of Friday's contest.

The dual, featuring the No. 1-ranked Iowa wrestling team and No. 2 Penn State, is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and will air live on Big Ten Network. Tim Johnson and Jim Gibbons will be on the call for BTN's live broadcast. The predual show, titled "BTN Live: From Iowa" is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

"BTN Live: From Iowa" — the network's first-ever wrestling-oriented preview show — will feature interviews with former Iowa coach Dan Gable and current Iowa coach Tom Brands. It will break down the dual, which features 18 ranked wrestlers in Trackwrestling's latest set of rankings, including seven who are ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 at their respective weights.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands gestures as Austin DeSanto, top, wrestles Ohio State's Jordan Decatur at 133 pounds during an NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual on Jan. 24 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The two digital extras are video features from Big Ten Network's "On The Mat" series, and can be found on YouTube.

The first is on Jeff Byers, the award-winning radio voice of the Penn State wrestling program and his perspective on the Nittany Lion dynasty over the last decade. The second is on the Pennsylvania natives on Iowa's roster, specifically on Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto and Gavin Teasdale.

All of this is part of Big Ten Network's continued emphasis on wrestling coverage. In Trackwrestling's latest Division I poll, nine Big Ten teams are among the top-20, including each of the top five: No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Wisconsin.

Ratings for the Big Ten Network's televised dual meets have increased tremendously during the 2019-20 season, up 55% per telecast from the 2018-19 season, per BTN. Last weekend, three Big Ten duals shown on Big Ten Network averaged more than 106,000 viewers each:

  • Penn State's 20-18 win over No. 8 Nebraska last Friday average 106,950 viewers;
  • Iowa's 24-10 win over Ohio State, also on Friday, averaged 159,486 viewers, the second most-watched wrestling telecast of the season (so far) and the seventh most-watched regular-season wrestling broadcast ever on Big Ten Network;
  • The Buckeyes' 22-13 win over Minnesota last Sunday averaged 162,719 viewers, the most-watched wrestling telecast of the season (so far) and the fifth most-watched regular-season wrestling broadcast ever on Big Ten Network.

Big Ten Network plans to be on site for studio shows ahead of Penn State's home dual against Ohio State on Feb. 15 and the Big Ten Championships on March 8 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Friday's dual between Iowa (8-0, 5-0) and Penn State (7-1, 4-0) sold out in early December. The Nittany Lions have won eight of the last nine NCAA team titles, a run of dominance that followed the Hawkeyes' three-straight championships from 2008 to 2010. 

Iowa is 27-10-2 all-time against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions have won the last two meetings — 28-13 in 2017-18, and 26-11 in 2016-17. The Hawkeyes last won on Feb. 8, 2015, 18-12 in State College.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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