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1 vs. 2: Hawkeyes, Cyclones ready to make run at national attendance record

1 vs. 2: Hawkeyes, Cyclones ready to make run at national attendance record
Craig Sesker USA wrestling

In the photo: Olympic gold medalists Tom Brands of Iowa (left) and Cael Sanderson of Iowa State will lead their teams into Saturday night's dual in Iowa City. Des Moines Register photo.

Who says an early December college dual meet doesn’t matter?

Not the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones.

Ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, Iowa and Iowa State have a chance to make history when they step onto the mat for their much-anticipated dual meet Saturday night at Iowa City’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The returning NCAA champion Hawkeyes are hoping to break the national college dual-meet attendance record when they face their in-state wrestling rivals from Ames.

Minnesota set the national record of 15,646 fans when it scored a 22-15 win over Iowa on Feb. 1, 2002 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. That broke the record of 15,291, set in 1992 when Iowa beat Iowa State in Iowa City. Iowa coach Tom Brands wrestled in that dual as a Hawkeye senior.

It would only be fitting that Iowa broke the attendance mark on Saturday. Iowa has been involved in 43 of the 44 largest dual-meet crowds in NCAA history, helping to set the national attendance record 10 times. Of those 44 top crowds, 29 came during Iowa-Iowa State duals. 21 of those 29 Iowa-ISU duals were in Iowa City.

Iowa officials said Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s capacity would be close to 16,000 fans for Saturday’s dual. The University of Iowa Sports Information Office said Tuesday that more than 12,000 tickets had been sold for the dual.

“This is a tribute to the team we have,? Brands said. “Without the guys we have, you don’t have a product that is worth breaking the attendance record. This is important to the program because we have the horsepower in the lineup to entertain. And the competition will be there to entertain.?

Iowa State coach Cael Sanderson said his team embraces the challenge of competing in front of a packed house.

“It’s going to be awesome, it’s exciting for the wrestlers,? Sanderson said. “This is just great for the sport. It gives the best athletes in the country a chance to compete in front of a huge crowd. That’s what we work for, to perform in front of a lot of people. I hope they can break the record. Even though we’re not the home team, it would mean a lot to our program to break it.?

The Iowa-Iowa State dual on Saturday is expected to be closely contested as both teams boast experienced, proven and talented lineups. Each team features six All-Americans.

Iowa is led by returning national champion and Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf at 149 pounds. The Hawkeye lineup also includes All-Americans Charlie Falck (125), Joe Slaton (133), Alex Tsirtsis (141), Jay Borschel (174) and Phil Keddy (184).

Iowa State is led by two-time NCAA runner-up Jake Varner at 197. ISU also will put All-Americans Nick Fanthorpe (133), Nick Gallick (141), Cyler Sanderson (157), Jon Reader (165) and David Zabriskie (heavyweight) on the mat. The Cyclones have seven juniors, two sophomores and a freshman in their lineup.

“This is a real good test for us,? Brands said. “We will be ready, and we will step up and compete. Every competition on our schedule is important and this is the next one on our schedule. It’s a big dual meet, and then we will move on.?

Iowa has won the last three meetings with Iowa State, but the Cyclones did earn back-to-back wins over Iowa in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.

“We view this dual as a big test for us,? Sanderson wrestling shoes said. “There is a nice rivalry and that adds a little more fuel to the fire. We’re definitely excited about this opportunity. It’s going to be a fun match. Our goal is to be national champions, and that environment is very similar to the national tournament. You have to go out there and fight and attack. It’s great preparation for us.?

Brands, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, is in his third season as the head coach at Iowa. His first Hawkeye team finished eighth at the NCAA tournament before Iowa won the national title this past March in St. Louis. Metcalf, Falck and Keddy each earned wins at the recent all-star dual in Columbus, Ohio.

Sanderson, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, is in his third season as the head coach at Iowa State. His first Cyclone team placed second in the NCAA meet before ISU finished fifth last year. Gallick and Varner are both coming off impressive wins in the all-star dual, with Gallick knocking off returning NCAA champion J Jaggers of Ohio State.

Iowa has won both duals against Iowa State since Brands and Sanderson took over as head coaches at their respective alma maters.

Iowa’s return to the top of college wrestling has given its home attendance a huge boost.

The Hawkeyes drew 14,332 fans to Carver-Hawkeye Arena this past January for a dual meet against Oklahoma State. It was the largest college wrestling crowd in the country in nearly six years and was the seventh-biggest dual crowd ever. The Hawkeyes lost the meet 19-14, but rebounded to win the National Duals before earning team titles at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Sanderson has had his share of experiences at Carver-Hawkeye Arena as a Cyclone wrestler and a coach. He won his third of four NCAA individual titles in 2001 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena en route to finishing his college career with a 159-0 record.

“It’s a great environment,? Sanderson said. “I’ve always looked forward to going over there and competing. Seeing that kind of fan support is great for wrestling.?


Home-Visitor Date Attendance
1. Minnesota-Iowa Feb. 1, 2002 15,646
2. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 22, 1992 15,291
3. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 19, 1983 15,283
4. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 18, 1986 15,210
5. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 21, 1987 14,760
6. Iowa State-Iowa Feb. 19, 1982 14,507
7. Iowa-Oklahoma State Jan. 5, 2008 14,332
8. Iowa State-Iowa Feb. 19, 1977 14,300
9. Iowa State-Iowa Jan. 7, 1978 14,300
10. Iowa State-Iowa Jan. 9, 1976 14,293
11. Iowa State-Iowa Jan. 15, 1983 13,805
12. Iowa-Iowa State Dec. 3, 2006 13,732
13. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 16, 1988 13,575
14. Iowa-Oklahoma State Feb. 14, 1998 13,240
15. Iowa State-Iowa Jan. 9, 1981 13,192
16. Minnesota-Iowa Feb. 20, 2000 13,128
17. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 6, 1979 12,951
18. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 18, 1978 12,900
19. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 9, 1982 12,900
20. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 21, 1976 12,890
21. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 21, 1981 12,750
22. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 14, 1984 12,568
23. Iowa State-Iowa Dec. 10, 1999 12,327
24. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 7, 1977 12,250
25. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 16, 1980 12,200
26. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 3, 1975 12,200
27. Iowa-Oklahoma Feb. 15, 1975 12,195
28. Minnesota-Iowa (St. Paul, MN) Nov. 15, 2002 12,180
29. Iowa-Iowa State Dec. 8, 2000 12,145
30. Iowa-Oklahoma State Feb. 9, 1991 12,112
31. Iowa-Oklahoma State Feb. 11, 1995 11,845
32. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 18, 1996 11,679
33. Iowa-Oklahoma State Feb. 16, 1985 11,583
34. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 19, 1989 11,391
35. Minnesota-Iowa Jan. 23, 1998 11,284
36. Penn State-Iowa Dec. 6, 1996 11,245
37. Iowa State-Iowa Jan. 5, 1980 11,100
38. Iowa-Oklahoma State Feb. 4, 2000 10,498
39. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 20, 1994 10,290
40. Iowa-Iowa State Jan. 13, 1973 10,268
41. Northern Iowa-Iowa Feb. 5, 1976 10,200
42. Iowa-Iowa State Feb. 23, 1985 10,115
43. Iowa State-Oklahoma State Jan. 7, 1972 10,100
44. Iowa-Minnesota Feb. 18, 2001 10,048