Iowa-Penn State rivalry continues to raise college wrestling standards

Updated: January 29, 2020

Photo: The Jan. 31 dual between No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Penn State in Carver-Hawkeye Arena (with a capacity of 15,500) was sold out last fall.

By Mike Finn

At the start of the season, Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands looked at this Friday’s home dual meet with Penn State like any other Hawkeye fan.

“It was highlighted, circled, asterisked … and we are here,” Brands said three days before his top-ranked Hawkeyes are scheduled to host No. 2 Penn State in an event that was sold out months ago. “Early in the year, that’s something you do and (it) lets you see where you are at. We are here for Penn State.”

WIN Magazine will provide an in-depth review of the Iowa-Penn State dual in WIN’s February issue. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Brands is well-aware of the importance of his team’s match-up with Penn State, a program that has won the last four NCAAs and eight of the past nine national tournaments … while his program has not won an NCAA team title since 2010. That was the third straight under Brands’ leadership and 23rd in the history of Iowa’s wrestling program.

“There has been some perspective brought to our attention and it’s been for a period of time that they are a worthy opponent and we have to make sure we don’t miss anything,” said Brands, the former three-time NCAA champ who returned to lead his alma mater in 2006.

Iowa is ranked No. 1 with an 8-0 record and all ten Hawkeye starters are ranked in the Top 8 of WIN’s Jan. 27 rankings. That includes top-ranked Spencer Lee at 125 pounds, while Austin DeSanto (133), Pat Lugo (149), Alex Marinelli (165) and Michael Kemerer (174) are all ranked No. 2.

No. 2 Penn State is 7-1 after making a trip to Nebraska a week ago. The Nittany Lions feature seven ranked wrestlers with five in the Top 8, including three top-ranked wrestlers Nick Lee (141), Vincenzo Joseph (165) and Mark Hall (174). Penn State is trying to overcome the loss of heavyweight Anthony Cassar, the defending national champ who suffered a season-ending injury in December.

Brands expects a big battle with Penn State on Friday and confirmed that the Nittany Lions’ success over the past decade made him and Iowa work even harder to try challenge Penn State.

“They have made us better. We’ve had no choice and our administration has helped us get there; even in small ways that the public does not know about,” said Brands, who pointed out that the school announced on Jan. 28 its plans for a $20 million, stand-alone wrestling facility, which needs to be approved by the Iowa Board of Regents on Feb. 5.

“(Iowa athletic director) Gary Barta gives us everything we need and the new (proposed) facility is proof of that. We can’t miss anything when we try to compete at the highest level.

“(Penn State) set the standard. They set it high. The thing that matters is that it’s on the calendar, but now it’s time to go.”

Overall, Iowa leads the series with Penn State by a 27-10-2 margin, but the Nittany Lions won the last dual, which was two years ago.  Since Brands and Penn State coach Cael Sanderson both took over their programs in 2006, their teams have met 11 times with Iowa holding a 6-5 edge.

Considering these two Big Ten programs are ranked among the top wrestling programs in the conference, the Big Ten has not scheduled these schools every year; missing in 2014 and ’16.

Brands believes that will change.

“The ADs have talked and (Cael) Sanderson and (Tom) Brands have talked,” the Iowa head coach said, pointing out that the coaches found a way to schedule a dual on Jan. 21, 2013, when the Big Ten did not schedule a meeting that season. “I think you are going to see them on the schedule every year. They owe us a charter and we owe them a trip out there. The last time (2013) we did this without being on the schedule, we chartered them into Carver-Hawkeye Arena.”

Brands has no trouble calling Penn State a true rival now.

“They are a rival because they are very, very relevant,” he said. “We want the territory they’ve had.”

WIN Magazine will provide a weight-by-weight preview of the Iowa-Penn State dual meet tomorrow (Jan. 30).

Click here to read the story on Iowa’s wrestling pipeline of wrestlers from Pennsylvania.


All-Time Iowa vs. Penn State Series

Iowa leads 27-10-2

Season Location Result
1982-83 at Penn State Iowa 34-9
1983-84 at Iowa Iowa 26-19
1984-85 at Penn State Iowa 31-9
1985-86 at Iowa Iowa 35-5
1986-87 at Penn State Penn State 27-15
1987-88 at Iowa Penn State 19-18
1988-89 at Penn State Penn State 18-16
1989-90 Neutral (N. Duals) Iowa 22-5
Home Iowa 36-3
1990-91 at Penn State Iowa 32-6
Neutral (N. Duals) Tied 19-19
1991-92 at Iowa Iowa 30-11
1992-93 at Penn State Tied 18-18
1993-94 at Iowa Iowa 29-15
Neutral (N. Duals) Iowa 24-15
1994-95 at Penn State Iowa 33-6
1995-96 at Iowa Iowa 28-6
1996-97 at Penn State Iowa 22-15
1997-98 at Iowa Penn State 27-15
at Iowa (N. Duals) Iowa 23-9
1998-99 at Penn State Iowa 30-9
1999-2000 at Iowa Iowa 22-9
2000-01 at Penn State Iowa 33-10
2001-02 at Iowa Iowa 24-11
2002-03 at Penn State Iowa 26-10
2003-04 at Iowa Iowa 23-11
2004-05 at Penn State Iowa 23-16
2005-06 at Iowa Penn State 21-12
2006-07 at Penn State Penn State 24-13
2007-08 at Iowa Iowa 27-13
2008-09 at Penn State Iowa 31-6
2009-10 at Iowa Iowa 29-6
2010-11 at Penn State Iowa 22-13
2011-12 at Penn State Penn State 22-12
2012-13 at Iowa Iowa 22-16
2013-14 at Iowa Penn State 24-12
2014-15 at Penn State Iowa 18-12
2016-17 at Iowa Penn State 26-11
2017-18 at Penn State Penn State 28-13