When Iowa wrestling tweeted this, we had a pretty good idea of what it meant:
Wrestling in Kinnick Stadium? Hot damn. The only questions were who Iowa would face and how the logistics would be worked out.
Now we know:
Iowa is going to face longtime rival Oklahoma State in a dual meet at 11 AM CT at (legendary historic) Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, November 14th. Oklahoma State, the only team with more wrestling national championships than Iowa (34 versus 23), has been a regular Iowa opponent for decades, but usually the dual is held in January and alternates between Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, IA and Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OK. Usually Iowa's November duals are sleepy, one-sided affairs against whoever shows up for the Iowa City Duals. Not this year. This season Iowa will be kicking things off with a bang -- a dual meet against a top contender in front of what should be the biggest crowd ever for a dual meet in America.
Tickets for the meet cost $10 if bought individually; they're also available as part of Iowa's $80 wrestling season ticket package. As far as how ticketing will work at Kinnick Stadium (or at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, if the weather forces them indoors):
The first 15,000 tickets sold will have reserved seating at Carver-Hawkeye Arena should the dual move indoors. Tickets purchased after the first 15,000 will be redeemable for an adult admission ticket to any other home dual on the Hawkeyes' 2015-16 schedule.
There will be 25,400 reserved seats sold for the dual at Kinnick; the remainder of the seats will be general admission.
Ah yes, the weather. Outdoor wrestling? In Iowa? In November? It might not be that bad. Per AccuWeather, the average high in Iowa City on November 14 is around 51 degrees, with the average low around 32 degrees. So we're probably looking at temperatures in the 40s, barring a freakish heat wave or cold spell. That's cool, but hardly the end of the world. And if it is chilly, well, Tom Brands has some advice for you:
"If it's cold you grow a beard and throw on a hat," Tom Brands @IAwrestle— Nic Ryder (@Nic_Ryder) August 6, 2015
As for the wrestlers themselves, they have a plan for that, too:
They will keep the mat warm, per Brands, with under the mat heaters— Nic Ryder (@Nic_Ryder) August 6, 2015
The only weather that could be a serious impediment is probably rain/sleet/hail/snow. Let's all hope for a dry day on November 14.
The mat will be placed near the South end zone (aka, near the student section for football games), but it will NOT be elevated. UI Athletic Director Gary Barta said it would be "too logistically difficult" to elevate the mat on the same day as a football game. (Barta also said it would take "something significant" to move the dual inside.)
There's no doubt that the attendance record is at the forefront of the minds of the people planning this dual (you're gonna see that #breaktherecord hashtag a lot this fall, I guarantee). Iowa held the dual meet attendance record for years. A dual with Minnesota at Target Center in Minneapolis held the record for a while; more recently, Iowa held the record with Iowa State for a dual that packed 15,955 people into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on December 6, 2008. Penn State broke that record for a dual meet with Pitt on December 8, 2013 when they drew 15,996 attendees. Iowa intends to shatter that record with this event.
How high can Iowa push the record? It's a great question. Marketing this dual as a special event and hyping the record-breaking attendance factor is absolutely the best way to approach things. From a pure viewing standpoint, this likely won't be anything close to an ideal way to watch a dual meet. But it will be a spectacle and being part of a spectacle can be a lot of fun. (There's a reason the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor hockey games always draw huge crowds and it's not because it's fun to sit outside in seats with terrible angles on the action to watch hockey.) Hosting the event on the same day as the Iowa-Minnesota football game, the high point of Iowa's home football schedule, should also goose interest. (On the other hand, if Iowa football's season is in the tank by this point, it may not boost interest as much as hoped, although that's likely to be a bigger factor in terms of walk-up sales than anything else.) An 11 AM start-time doesn't seem ideal in terms of drawing a huge crowd from folks also there for the football game... but there should still be plenty of fans in the area by then. (And they might have had to start it that early in order to have enough time afterward to get things set up for the football game that evening.)
In terms of the choice of opponent, Oklahoma State is an intriguing choice. Iowa could have opted for a less imposing opponent and trust that the spectacle of the event itself would sell a ton of tickets. That would have ensured a win for Iowa and send folks home happy. Instead, they opted for Oklahoma State as the opponent -- likely the best opponent on Iowa's entire home schedule in 2015-16 (more on that later). Iowa trounced the Cowboys in Stillwater last season (a 30-7 beatdown), but it would be a mistake to assume that this year will be another easy Iowa win. Iowa is replacing five starters from that team and should have more weaknesses than they did a year ago, while Oklahoma State welcomes some key wrestlers into the lineup after injuries and redshirts kept them out last season. My way-too-early projection for how the dual might go?
125: Thomas Gilman (Iowa) DEC Eddie Klimara (OK ST) (IOWA 3-0)
133: Cory Clark (Iowa) MAJ DEC Kaid Brock (?) (OK ST) (IOWA 7-0)
141: Dean Heil (OK ST) DEC Topher Carton (Iowa) (IOWA 7-3)
149: Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) DEC Anthony Collica (OK ST) (IOWA 10-3)
157: Chance Marsteller (OK ST) DEC Brody Grothus (Iowa) (IOWA 10-6)
165: Alex Dieringer (OK ST) TECH FALL Burke Paddock (Iowa) (tied, 10-10)
174: Alex Meyer (Iowa) DEC Kyle Crutchmer (OK ST) (IOWA 13-10)
184: Sammy Brooks (Iowa) DEC Nolan Boyd (OK ST) (IOWA 16-10)
197: Nathan Burak (Iowa) DEC Austin Schafer (OK ST) (IOWA 19-10)
285: Austin Marsden (OK ST) DEC Sam Stoll (Iowa) (IOWA 19-13)
And it's not hard at all to flip things in favor of Oklahoma State -- Boyd beat Brooks at the dual last year; if he does that again, this becomes a 16-16 tie and it goes to criteria. I'm picking Brooks to win because he was defeating Boyd before making a mistake and giving up a big move last year, but a win for him is by no means a sure thing. Oklahoma State will be heavy favorites at 165 (Dieringer is the returning NCAA champion) and 285 (Marsden is a returning All-American) and a slight favorite at 141. 157 could be a good matchup of talent versus experience -- Marsteller was the #2 recruit in the nation in 2014, while Grothus would be a fifth-year senior. Iowa will be heavily favored at 133 and 197 and likely slight favorites at 125 and 149 (but Klimara and Collica are no pushovers). 174 and 184 could be pivotal weights in the dual.
But regardless of who wins the dual, this entire event should be a tremendous win for the sport of wrestling. It's going to attract positive attention and generate buzz, which is a great thing for wrestling. And if it ends with an Iowa win in front of a record-smashing crowd? So much the better. Well done to Iowa coach Tom Brands, Oklahoma State coach John Smith, and the Iowa administration for making this event -- it should be an absolute blast.