NCAA Wrestling: The National Duals are making a comeback. Iowa and UNI will be there.

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The National Duals are back. 

Sort of.

Journeymen Wrestling, a New York-based wrestling event host and sponsor, announced the return and reformation of college wrestling's Division I National Duals on Tuesday. It is scheduled for December 20-21 in in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Iowa, the 2021 NCAA Champions, as well as Northern Iowa are among the 12-team field announced by Journeymen. The other 10: Arizona State, Michigan, N.C. State, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Central Michigan, Cornell, Lehigh, Oregon State, and Hofstra.

The 12 teams will be placed into four pools of three. They will be seeded and separated to avoid inter-conference opponents. Each team will wrestle two duals on the first day of competition. One the second day, the winners of each pool advance to a four-team bracket to determine the champion.

Frank Popolizio, the founder of Journeymen and the brother of N.C. State head coach Pat Popolizio, took on the mission of reforming the National Duals after the Division I portion of the event dissolved ahead of the 2017-18 season.

"Ever since my brother Pat wrestled in the National Duals while at Oklahoma State in the late 1990s, I have been fascinated by duals and particularly a dual championship," Frank said in a release. 

"Twice a year I would get on an airplane to go watch collegiate wrestling: NCAAs and the National Duals. It created an awesome ambiance. I know I'm not alone. I know wrestling fans appreciate duals and I thought the timing was right to bring a high stakes and unyielding dual competition back to wrestling."

Previously:NCAA Wrestling: Iowa Hawkeyes clinch national team title for the first time since 2010

The event had been previously hosted by the National Wrestling Coaches Association from 1992 through 2017. The NWCA continues to host the multi-divisional national duals for Division II, III, NAIA and junior college. Penn State won the last contested Division I competition, defeating Oklahoma State, 27-13, in 2017.

So while the event is calling itself the National Duals, it's still expected to feature some high-profile matchups for all 12 teams involved, and will add an exciting midseason competition to the Division I wrestling schedule.

The Hawkeyes return all 10 starters from last season's national title-winning team, and are expected to be among the favorites to repeat during the '21-22 season. Northern Iowa returns plenty of firepower from its 19th-place NCAA team finish, highlighted by Brody Teske (125) and Parker Keckeisen (184), both Big 12 champions in 2021.

This event will likely take the place of the Midlands Championships in both team's schedule. The Hawkeyes and Panthers both routinely compete at the Midlands every year in late December. 

Iowa 125-pound wrestler Spencer Lee, center, poses for a photo with the 2020 Dan Hodge Trophy with his father Larry Lee, left, and Iowa head coach Tom Brands on Jan. 5 at the McCord Club level of Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

More on the Hawkeyes:Iowa program's depth, future on display through spring competitions

Arizona State, Michigan, N.C. State and Missouri all finished in the top-10 at the 2021 NCAA Championships, at fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Virginia Tech and Northern Iowa both finished in the top-20. Cornell, normally one of the country's top collegiate wrestling programs, did not compete due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Invitations were extended to the top two returning teams in each wrestling conference. All representatives from the Southern Conference declined. Hofstra, which finished fourth in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, gained entry since Central Michigan was the only team from the Mid-American Conference to accept.

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