Nov. 29, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Start strong, stay strong, finish strong. That’s how University of Iowa junior Alex Meyer is taught to approach each match.
It’s also been the scheduling approach to the 2015-16 season. It’s only Nov. 29, and already Iowa has wrestled Oklahoma State, won its Big Ten opener, and by night’s end, will have its oldest rival in the rear view mirror.
The second-ranked Hawkeyes meet No. 17 Iowa State today at 2 p.m. (CT) inside Hilton Coliseum. It’s the second time in as many years the Dan Gable Traveling Trophy will be decided before the calendar flips to December.
That’s a quick start to the season. In fact, it’s the only time in program history Iowa’s Big Ten opener, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State have come and gone in the first month of the season.
Is the front-loaded schedule a good thing? UI head coach Tom Brands believes any event on the schedule is a good thing.
“The philosophy has always been whatever the next date is, that’s what’s important,” Brands said. “As far as the time of year, or in succession of a Big Ten dual and then Oklahoma State, I think you just get ready. You know you’re aware of it, so you’re training with that mind.
“Good or bad, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. It’s reality. It’s what you go with, and I think that’s the best approach. That’s the healthiest approach for our wrestling.
Everyone knows why the Oklahoma State dual — typically a date on the January calendar — was scheduled to open the season. Iowa fans wanted the NCAA dual attendance record, and the Cowboys wanted to be a part of it. So when a Nov. 14 date opened on the Iowa football schedule, 42,287 fans piled into Kinnick Stadium for a piece of NCAA history.
Six days later, Maryland was invited to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to offer a more attractive product to Hawkeye fans at the Iowa City Duals.
Today, Iowa puts its 5-0 record and 11-dual win streak against Iowa State on the line. The Cyclones’ lineup includes five ranked wrestlers, including No. 11 Lelund Weatherspoon at 174. The Hawkeyes counter with No. 4 Alex Meyer at 174. The Pleasant Hill, Iowa, native is making his first appearance in the Cy-Hawk Series.
“We’re going to be prepared and we are prepared,” Meyer said. “We’ve wrestled in (environments) like that before. It’s nothing new. The emphasis is always to start strong, keep strong, and then finish strong.”
For the Hawkeyes to extend their win streak to 12, Brands is leaning on Meyer — one of five Hawkeyes ranked in the top five — to do what’s worked well in the past.
“(That means) getting ready to go, bonus points, and having our high powered guys do what they do best,” Brands said. “This is a big stage. Iowa-Iowa State is a big stage. A lot of stories in the history of the sport have been told in this series. Make your own story.”
The story of the 92nd meeting between Iowa and Iowa State begins at 2 p.m. (CT). It’s the final event of an incredibly “strong” start to the season, and it leads into a month headlined by the Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30.
January features six Big Ten duals, February sees the National Duals return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and March is championships season. The Big Ten Tournament is March 5-6 in Iowa City, and the NCAA Championships is March 17-19 at Madison Square Garden.
Starting strong is nearly complete. Up next: stay strong and finish strong.