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Grapple on the Gridiron set for Iowa vs. Okie State
By Mike Finn
On the evening of Nov. 14, the Iowa football team hopes to score touchdowns against Minnesota in the south end zone of Kinnick Stadium.
Earlier that day — specifically at 11 a.m., and in the same location of the 86-year-old stadium — the Iowa wrestling team hopes to score an even bigger moment when the Hawkeyes and another legendary wrestling team — Oklahoma State — will meet on a 54-foot-by-54-foot mat in an dual meet event called “Grapple on the Gridiron” to open the 2015-16 season.
“It’s a concept we’ve been talking about for a while,” said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta. “Two historic wrestling programs in a historic site, Kinnick Stadium. We are excited about that and clearly Iowa has always been on the forefront and a leader in terms of wrestling.”
This would mark the first time two college wrestling teams have competed in a football stadium … and with at least a reserved seating of 25,400 located around the south end zone, Iowa also hopes to break the all-time attendance record of 15,996 set by Penn State vs. Pitt on Dec. 8, 2013, five years after Iowa and Iowa State drew 15,955 in a home dual in Iowa City.
“When we broke the (national college attendance) record in 2008, I said to my staff that if that record every gets broken — and at that time we thought it would be Minnesota — we’re going to Kinnick,” recalled Iowa coach Tom Brands. “Penn State broke it and so it’s time to go to Kinnick.”
Because of scheduling nine Big Ten meets, Brands said it became difficult to schedule a home dual with Oklahoma State in early January, the normal time the Hawkeyes and Cowboys have met in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Brands said he considered asking Penn State to take on this task, but first called Oklahoma State John Smith.
“It’s got a lot of excitement to it,” Smith said. “We usually wrestle it in January and Coach (Tom) Brands called and said he wanted to change the date and put it on the football field. I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s a rarity to open up our season with one of the better teams in the country. I think it’s something that will be fun.”
Barta said he took pride that Iowa was one of the few locations in the country that could pull off such historic moment.
“Iowa fans are unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve proven that. We’ve hosted one Olympic Trial (2012) and we will host another (next spring). We’ve hosted national championships and Big Ten championships (including this season). We lead the nation every year in wrestling attendance. That’s a testament to our fans.”
There will be separate tickets sold for the two events that day — the football game is set for 7 p.m. — and Barta said Iowa wrestling season ticket holders will get the first crack at attending this event. The first 15,000 tickets sold will also get that fan a seat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena if the event is moved inside. The remaining ticket buyers would get a chance to attend another Iowa home dual if the event cannot take place in Kinnick.
Barta said he checked to see what the average weather conditions were in Iowa City on Nov. 14 — a low of 32 and high of 50 — and said the event could be moved to Carver-Hawkeye Arena if the temperature is below freezing and conditions put the athletes in jeopardy.
“Weather is important,” Barta said. “That’s going to be driven by student-athlete safety and both sides have agreed to several concepts.”
“Our facilities crew is almost giddy over this,” Brands said. “They started putting their heads together. They have electric heaters with wires to keep the bottom of the mat warmer.”
“I welcome anything,” said 125-pound Thomas Gilman, a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa. “I love the snow, I love the ice. I love everything. If it’s negative-30 and ice and snow, I will be out there ready to go.”
|Top 5 NCAA Dual Meet Attendance Records|
|15,996||Penn State-Pitt||Dec. 8, 2013||PSU, 28-9|
|15,967||Penn State-Iowa||Feb. 8, 2015||Iowa 18-12|
|15,955||Iowa-Iowa State||Dec. 6, 2008||Iowa 20-15|
|15,646||Minnesota-Iowa||Feb. 1, 2002||Minnesota 22-15|
|15,400||Iowa-Oklahoma State||Jan. 7, 2012||OSU, 17-16|