Dec. 17, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa was only halfway complete with its 46-0 dismantling of Buffalo when Tony Ramos acknowledged what wrestling fans had been thinking since early fall — it’s time for Penn State.
“We can start looking ahead now,” said Ramos. “There are some guys still wrestling but I’m done. I can start looking ahead. It’s real big.”
It is big, and it almost never happened.
Iowa head coach Tom Brands and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson sent the wrestling world scrambling when they bantered back-and-forth via Twitter on Sept. 5.
Iowa and Penn State should fix an omission on the Big Ten schedule and convene for a nonconference dual.
One day later the schools released a joint statement — the Nittany Lions would visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Dec. 21.
“You don’t look ahead in sports or life, but now we’re here,” Brands said last Thursday after the Buffalo dual. “Let’s get ready for now and let’s get ready for Penn State.”
At a school like Iowa, who has led the nation in average attendance for seven consecutive seasons, that preparation extends beyond the wrestlers and coaches. Food service, ticket office, merchandise, parking, security — the list goes on and on — are anticipating a crowd similar to last season when 15,077 watched No. 3 Iowa defeat No. 1 Penn State, 22-16.
It was the largest dual crowd of the 2012-13 season, and at the time stood as the seventh-largest dual crowd in NCAA history. That was until Dec. 7, 2013, when Penn State and Pitt battled in front of 15,996 fans to break Iowa’s previous record of 15,955.
“We’d like to own (the record), and they’d like to own it,” said Brands. “It’s a competition, but that’s not my focus. We’ll let the marketing people figure that one out. If we put a good team and dynamic wrestlers on the mat the fans will show up.”
Senior Ethen Lofthouse is one of those wrestlers. Ranked No. 2 in the country at 184, Lofthouse is scheduled to face top-ranked Ed Ruth on Saturday, and he’ll do so on a stage he considers unique to any other wrestling environment.
“There is nothing else like it in the world,” said Lofthouse. “I’ve wrestled in some of the biggest high school tournaments and biggest college arenas in my career, and there’s nothing like wrestling in front of Iowa fans going crazy for you to step out on the mat. It’s unbelievable.”
Junior Mike Evans is 20-0 all-time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, including a 4-3 win over Penn State’s Matt Brown last year.
“There’s a hum (wrestling at Carver),” said Evans, who meets Brown again on Saturday in a matchup of the third and sixth-rated 174-pounders in the country. “There is a lot of energy in there, and it creates quite an atmosphere.”
The Hawkeyes should benefit Saturday from the return of Bobby Telford. The third-ranked 285-pounder missed some time with an undisclosed injury before returning to the mat last week. A year ago his 9-2 decision over No. 17 Jon Gingrich cemented Iowa’s 22-16 win.
“You try to stay calm when you’ve got the place rocking already,” said Telford, who is expected to face No. 12 Jimmy Lawson on Saturday. “We have some of the most tense, crazy, and best fans in the world, not the United States, but the world. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been.”
Saturday’s dual is the inaugural Black & Gold Spirit Match. Fans sitting in rows 15-29 are encouraged to wear gold. Fans sitting in rows 1-14 and 30-and-above are encouraged to wear black. Click HERE to see the seating diagram.
More than 11,000 tickets have been sold. A sellout is expected, so fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are available by contacting the UI Athletic Ticket Office over the phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS or online at hawkeyesports.com.