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Grapple on the Gridiron lives up to the hype
By Mike Finn
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There is hype that comes with trying to break the NCAA’s attendance record … and then there was the hype that came with trying to break the record on a Saturday afternoon in November … and outside in an Division I football stadium.
The event — called Grapple on the Gridiron — did more than break the old record of 15,996, set by Penn State in a 2013 home indoor battle against Pittsburgh. The 42,287 fans who more than half-filled the 70,585-seat Kinnick Stadium today also saw how college wrestling held its own during a crazy college football season … and how WIN’s second-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes defeat No. 1 Oklahoma State, 18-16.
“The hype for the fans is what’s important for me, that’s what it’s about, our fans, I’m selfish that way,” said Iowa coach Tom Brands, who came up with the idea of wrestling outdoors when Penn State broke the attendance record once held by Iowa.
“I know it is great for wrestling and people in Russia and Iran are going to see this, as well. This is the city that Dan Gable lives in, that’s a big part of it as well, they will know about it internationally.
“I think the biggest message for a program like the University of Iowa, that is still trying to set the bar higher and higher, I think it’s a mentality and commitment to the program and administration. It goes with what we want to do; we want to get better every day and want to have better events every year.”
Brands also admitted that he had to remind his team that the dual meet was more than just an “event” that benefitted from 53-degree temperatures and plenty of sun.
“As a competitor looking back on this you can say that, ‘I was a part of it,’ and there is going to be a lot of posters and pictures for a long, long time. The biggest thing is that (the Iowa wrestlers) got ready to go. The performances that we had that were positive, those guys definitely got ready to go.”
By winning three of the first four duals, Iowa led 10-3 before the Cowboys battled back to win the next three bouts to take a 13-10 lead heading into the 184-pound weight class.
That’s where Iowa’s Sam Brooks provided the winning margin on a day both team won five individual bouts when the junior from Oak Park, Ill., dominated Jordan Rogers in a 17-2 technical fall to give Iowa a 15-13 lead.
Iowa and OSU then split the final two matches at 197 and heavyweight to preserve the Hawkeyes’ historic win.
“I can’t even describe this,” said Brooks, who was one of just two Iowa wrestlers to lose a bout in last year’s meeting, also won by the Hawkeyes, 30-7, in Stillwater, Okla. “It’s unbelievable. Last year, I had too many close matches. That’s not me. I don’t know how you could not come out in front of that many people and not put on a show. I just went out and wrestled, and that makes me happy,”
“It was a tough match, there were certain things that we appeared to not have today, it seemed like we let people in the match,” said OSU coach John Smith. “We just didn’t push the pace enough. I’m not too sure we were ready to do that. It definitely showed where we are and where we can really improve.”
Oklahoma State looked like it might score bonus points at 174 pounds where Kyle Crutchmer used a headlock to throw Iowa’s Alex Meyer to his back before officials ruled it was a potentially dangerous hold. Trailing 6-1, Meyer fought back to tie the match 9-9 before Crutchmer clinched the victory 11-10 … but Oklahoma State could have used those bonus points in the final team score.
“I don’t think (Crutchmer) had the angle to really pin him, you can look at that situation and hope for a better outcome,” Smith said
“The one thing you can take from this is that we’re not ready. Maybe they aren’t either but in the end, individually if you can recognize that to win tough matches you have to be tough. You need to make sure that your mental approach is for seven minutes, not two or three or six, it’s for seven minutes.”
Smith weighed in a pair of true freshmen — Kaid Brock at 133 and his son Joe Smith at 157 — and said he still might use them this season after Gary Wayne Harding lost to Cory Clark, 8-2, at 133 and Chance Marsteller beat Edwin Cooper, 14-11, but was penalized three times for stalling.
“I think we will continue to move through the season and give ourselves the opportunity. You can’t look at the NCAA Championship right now. There is a lot of season left, a lot of dual meets. I think that if we have that opportunity it looks very visible to me that we’re going to put the best team on the map.”
Smith also said he hoped Oklahoma State would attempt to hold an outdoor wrestling event in Stillwater and break Iowa’s new record.
“Yeah, I am really going to focus on creating big events at the beginning,” Smith said. “I think it is something you can just get ready for. You can get ready for the season and recognize how tough it is. I think that college wrestling is a sport you need those big events at the beginning of the year.”
Iowa 18, Oklahoma State 16
125 — Thomas Gilman (I) major dec. Eddie Klimara 9-1
133 — Cory Clark (I) dec. Gary Wayne Harding, 8-2
141 — Dean Heil (OSU) dec. Logan Ryan, 7-1
149 — Brandon Sorensen (I) dec. Anthony Collica, 6-1
157 — Chance Marsteller (OSU) dec. Edwin Cooper, Jr., 14-11
165 — Alex Dieringer (OSU) major dec. Patrick Rhoads, 17-5
174 — Kyle Crutchmer (OSU) dec. Alex Meyer (I), 11-10
184 — Sammy Brooks (I) tech. fall Jordan Rogers (OSU), 17-2 in 4:09
197 — #4 Nathan Burak (I) dec. Nolan Boyd, 5-3
285 — #5 Austin Marsden (OSU) dec. Sam Stoll, 6-1