For the first time in its 44-year history, ESPN is set to air a regular-season college wrestling dual this Sunday at 2 p.m. The spotlight shines on the highly anticipated Cy-Hawk matchup, a top-10 showdown that will unfold in Ames.
Hilton Coliseum will take center stage on the flagship sports network, something Athletic Director Jamie Pollard is psyched about.
“Everyone likes to be part of the first and something that is historic,” Pollard said. “You’ll always be able to say, ‘Who was the school that got to host the first-ever collegiate dual meet on ESPN?’ and the answer will be the Iowa State Cyclones.”
Under head coach Kevin Dresser’s leadership, the historic rivalry has become more competitive in recent years. The Cyclones, now ranked No. 8, bring added excitement to Sunday’s showdown and should give the No. 4 Hawkeyes a tough test.
“Kevin (Dresser) has restored the competitive nature of our wrestling program, and that was sorely needed both for Iowa State and the sport of wrestling,” Pollard said. “He’s also brought an awareness. He’s a marketing genius. He has brought such an exciting level of excitement to our wrestling program and quite frankly to the sport.”
Iowa’s associate head coach Terry Brands acknowledged during the program’s weekly media availability that ESPN’s decision to broadcast the Cy-Hawk is a testament to the rivalry that has resurged in relevance.
“I think it shows you the magnitude of the series, of the match, of the rivalry. ESPN isn’t stupid either, you know?” Brands said. “They’re going to put something on that they can sell and that they can have a product on there that’s going to have people tune in on a Sunday that goes head-to-head with the NFL. The wrestling purist or a casual sports fan wouldn’t be disappointed to tune into ESPN.”
The Cyclones are showcasing their best product in recent years to go head-to-head with the Hawkeyes and have a real chance at a win. When you look at the potential matchups from top to bottom, there are more toss-ups than guaranteed wins for either program.
“When you put two really good products together, you get a big-time dual meet, and I think that’s what’s going to happen on Sunday,” Dresser said. “It’s going to be on a big stage. The state of Iowa is excited, our guys are excited about it, and I know (Iowa head) coach (Tom) Brands’ guys are excited about it.”
Iowa State will bring a team led by national champion David Carr, alongside gritty new additions Will Feldkamp and Cody Chittum, young talent like Casey Swiderski, and powerhouse Yonger Bastida anchoring the team at heavyweight.
There is a lot on the line with this weekend’s matchup.
The Cyclones are vying to break an 18-dual losing streak against the Hawkeyes while handing Brands his first Cy-Hawk loss since taking over the program.
“When I got hired and our coaching staff got hired, I knew what the charge was,” Dresser said. “Let’s face it, if you’re in the state of Iowa, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrestling, playing basketball, or whatever, one of the big checklist items is to beat the other school. We know what that is, and they know what that is. It’s going to be fun.”
The Cy-Hawk rivalry has not only brought positive action on the mat but it’s also never without its dramatics. It’s what makes the rivalry so notorious. For example, the last time the Hawks were in Ames, the dual ended with both team benches rushing at each other exchanging words, and coaches pointing fingers in each other’s faces.
“Well, we know that dual is always a lot more intense than the other duals. Some of the theatrics that come with that particular match lends itself to some drama that will be interesting to see play out (for) a national audience,” Pollard said. “But then I look at it and go, it’s a huge opportunity for Coach Dresser and our team. I know they’d love to beat the Hawks in the dual meet, and if we’re successful doing that, then it’s on national TV, that’s even better.”
The Cyclones head into this dual after an impressive 42-0 shutout victory over the No. 18 Wisconsin, hosted in Humboldt. Kysen Terukina’s commanding 14-3 win against No. 5 Eric Barnett earned him the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week accolade. Notably, Casey Swiderski and David Carr secured wins against top-15 opponents, while Will Feldkamp and MJ Gaitan secured consecutive first-period pins.
Iowa State’s dominance in the initial three duals of the season is evident through their 117-8 takedown advantage over opponents.
The Hawkeyes arrive following a 25-11 victory over No. 16 Oregon State. This win featured freshman Gabe Arnold (174 pounds) securing a 4-2 upset victory over No. 11 Travis Wittlake, surprising the wrestling world. Their starting lineup boasts three All-American wrestlers: Real Woods (141 pounds), Jared Franek (157 pounds), and Michael Caliendo (165 pounds).
On Sunday, it all boils down to who wants it the most.
“Let the circus begin,” Dresser said.