Iowa State is no stranger to firsts when it comes to wrestling.
Iowa State hosted the first-ever NCAA Wrestling Championships in 1928 at State Gym.
Iowa State had the first-ever undefeated, four-time NCAA Champion in Cael Sanderson.
And on Nov. 26, Iowa State will once again make wrestling history. For the first time ever, ESPN will broadcast a collegiate wrestling dual — Iowa State vs. Iowa in Hilton Coliseum.
Dual meets have been broadcast on ESPNU and rarely ESPN 2 in the past. The Big 10 Network has done a good job of broadcasting the big duals like the Penn State and Iowa dual, for example. ESPN has also been the home of the NCAA Championships’ final round for years.
When the news was announced by Iowa State on Friday, I spent most of the day asking a bunch of people if a dual meet had ever been broadcast on ESPN before. I reached out to coaches, former coaches, sports information directors, wrestling enthusiasts, other members of the media, statisticians and a few people on the ESPN communications team. Basically, anyone who I thought would know or might know someone who knows.
Almost all of them had the same response: “If this isn’t the first time a dual meet has been broadcast on ESPN, it’s one of the very few.”
But at 4:27 PM on Friday, six hours and 27 minutes after the news was announced, I got an email from Bill Hofheimer, ESPN’s senior director of communications that read in part, “Both our research and programming teams have checked their records. … This is actually the first time a regular season meet will be televised on the main ESPN network. We have had a few regular season meets on ESPN2 in the past, but not on ‘E1’.
“This will be a big event.”
I don’t know how closely Hofheimer follows college wrestling, but “a big event” is an understatement. Cy-Hawk dual meets are always “a big event” in the wrestling world. This is something more.
Most of the time Cy-Hawk rivalries across all the sports are contained to the state of Iowa. Sicko football fans will watch the football game, but even that is mostly just Iowa and Iowa State fans watching.
Wrestling is different, not necessarily bigger, but different.
The Cy-Hawk wrestling dual is watched or followed by most wrestling fans nationwide. It’s a dual that pits two of the most historic programs in the nation against each other. Iowa has been a Big 10 and National title contender for the last several years and Iowa State has been a Big 12 contender. Oh, and that doesn’t mention any potential head-gear spikes, wrestlers yelling into the microphones of play-by-play announcers or color commentators, or post-meet kerfuffles.
Wrestling fans have a knack for coming together to support the sport. I remember watching an Oklahoma State dual meet a couple years ago because it was on ESPN 2. I had it on to watch wrestling, sure, but also to help the ratings and hopefully help the sport become more regularly televised.
I’m confident that will happen all across the nation in the wrestling world. That’s what makes the sport special, too. We all want to see the sport grow, succeed and be viewed by a wider audience more regularly.
The state of Iowa has a tendency to be at the center of the wrestling universe. ESPN knows this and that’s why, once again, our state will take center stage on Nov. 26, as nearly every wrestling fan across the nation tunes into ESPN. And who knows, maybe even some non-wrestling fans who are curious (or just lost the remote) will tune in and we can convert a few more to this wonderful sport.
This is a historic first for the sport, and hopefully not the last.