Iowa’s wrestling schedule hit its athletic department webpage this week with two events noticeably absent on a docket dotted with marquee duals and no regular-season individual tournaments.
The Hawkeyes aren’t wrestling Northern Iowa for the first time in 14 years, and the Midlands Championships are missing from the Iowa schedule for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab said Wednesday the two programs “couldn’t make a date work this year” after the Panthers adjusted their schedule to add the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and take on schools such as Cornell, Michigan, Ohio State and Oregon State.
“It’s a heck of a tournament and we want to put ourselves out there,” Schwab said. “We want to see where our team’s at and there’s no better way to put yourself on the map than to beat some of the best guys in the country.”
In recent years, the Hawkeyes and Panthers wrestled their annual dual in December on the Thursday night before first-semester final exams. That spot on the calendar would have scrambled Northern Iowa’s travel plans, forcing the Panthers to wrestle the Hawkeyes on Dec. 6, fly overnight to Las Vegas, and weigh in the next morning to compete later in the day.
Schwab said the Cliff Keen Invitational was later pushed ahead to start on Nov. 30. By the time of the tournament schedule change, however, Iowa had filled the Dec. 6 vacancy on its schedule with a home dual against Lehigh.
Schwab said he’s optimistic from conversations with Iowa coach Tom Brands that the series will resume in 2013-14 in its former place on the calendar.
“That’s the date we’ll go on from now until hopefully the end of time,” Schwab said. “As far as I understand, they had it set on their schedule for this year and we wanted to move it around and it didn’t work out.”
Schwab was a sophomore at Iowa during the 1998-99 season, the last time the Panthers didn’t wrestle the Hawkeyes in a dual.
“Wherever Iowa goes, usually it’s a great crowd,” Schwab said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to wrestle one of the better teams in the country and to wrestle in the state of Iowa against Iowa. Guys look forward to that. We want to have that on our schedule.”
The Hawkeyes still have duals lined up against rivals Iowa State and Oklahoma State, but Iowa overhauled most of its nonconference schedule. The Hawkeyes open the season Nov. 17 at Tennessee-Chattanooga, they wrestle Bucknell and Hofstra on Dec. 16 at the “Grapple at the Garden” in New York City and they wrap up their home dual season on Feb. 16 against Edinboro, which will make its first appearance in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 1987.
Edinboro coach Tim Flynn said he contacted several Big Ten schools in search of a marquee home dual. He said Brands offered an opportunity for the February meet at Iowa in exchange for a dual at Edinboro the following season.
“I just jumped at the chance,” Flynn said. “Anytime we can get Iowa on the schedule is a good thing for us. The tradition, certainly all the wrestlers in Pennsylvania know Tom Brands, they know the Iowa program and they’ve got clearly a number of great wrestlers. Even the people on our team who don’t know (Iowa’s) history, they know who their athletes are.”
Iowa’s absence at the prestigious Midlands Championships means the Hawkeyes won’t compete in a multi-day individual tournament until the Big Ten Championships.
Brands could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But it’s worth noting that Ohio State comes to Iowa City to tangle with the Hawkeyes five days after the Midlands Championships.
Iowa will wrestle at least six duals against programs that finished in the top 10 at the 2012 NCAA Championships, including a Super Bowl Sunday showdown on Feb. 3 against defending national champion Penn State in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.