All signs are pointing to a wrestling dual meet and a national attendance record going down Nov. 14 at Kinnick Stadium.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said, “There’s something big coming. And we’re excited about it.”
The University of Iowa isn’t going as far to say the Hawkeyes will definitely host an outdoor wrestling dual (in what could be near-freezing temperatures) prior to that night’s 7 p.m. football game vs. Minnesota in Iowa City, nor is it confirming the opponent. Wrestling spokesman Chris Brewer said the 2015-16 schedule is not ready to be released.
“Our staff has been working on a significant and very exciting project involving our wrestling program,” said Rick Klatt, the UI’s associate athletics director for external relations. “We are just about done dotting all of the I’s and crossing all of the T’s in the planning process.”
The wrestling team’s official Twitter account (@Hawks_Wrestling) got the buzz started with a standalone tweet Tuesday that depicted “11.14.15” overlaying what appear to be football-field yard lines and hash marks. Later in the day, Hawkeye Wrestling Club member and international star Brent Metcalf tweeted, “@Hawks_Wrestling fans, tired of some other school holding the attendance record? This year (it) comes home.”
If the outdoor dual happens at Kinnick, it would almost certainly shatter the NCAA attendance mark held by Penn State, which drew 15,996 fans against Pittsburgh in 2013. That broke the previous record of 15,955, which Iowa set in a 2008 dual vs. Iowa State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Kinnick Stadium’s listed capacity for football is 70,585.
Iowa’s Big Ten Conference schedule has already been determined — and Iowa vs. Minnesota is already set for Jan. 30 — so the outdoor opponent is likely a nonconference foe. Brands has previously confirmed to Hawk Central that Iowa would host Oklahoma State, a program with 34 national wrestling championships, on this year’s schedule. A call to Cowboys coach John Smith’s cellphone was not answered Wednesday.
Minnesota coach J Robinson said Iowa did not approach his program about the possibility of a Nov. 14 Hawkeye-Gopher doubleheader at Kinnick Stadium. The Gophers are scheduled to wrestle the following day at the Northeast Duals in New York.
Robinson said he first heard about Iowa's plans Tuesday from his director of camp operations, Ty Eustice, a former Hawkeye whose brother, Luke, is Iowa's director of wrestling operations.
“I commend them for doing it,” Robinson said. “I think what they’re doing is great. I think it’s super positive and I applaud them for doing it. We’ve been thinking about doing it for years. It’s good from their standpoint.”
“It takes a lot of time, effort and getting people on board. There’s a lot of things I would do, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of commitment to get people to do stuff, especially stuff that’s out of the norm.”
You can cross Penn State off the list of possible opponents, too. In a story published Monday on PennLive.com, Cael Sanderson said the Big Ten bumped Iowa from his program's conference schedule and the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions were unable to set up a non-league date.
"It's not ideal," he said. "I was trying to make it happen. It just didn't seem to work out. It's up to us as coaches to try to figure it out and we just weren't able to figure it out.''
Outdoor wrestling isn’t brand new. For example, Cal-Poly has hosted a few Pacific-12 Conference outdoor duals. But the climate in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is far more conducive to being outdoors in a wrestling singlet. According to accuweather.com, the average temperatures in Iowa City for Nov. 14 range from a high of 51 degrees to a low of 32.
by Chad Leistikow and Andy Hamilton