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How Iowa came to host the National Duals

BY CODY GOODWIN | FEBRUARY 19, 2015 5:00 AM

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When Mike Moyer started the process of finding a host for this season’s National Duals, he primarily looked at schools with strong fan bases, rich histories, and teams that would be in contention to win the event.

In the end, Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, said Iowa and Carver-Hawkeye Arena just made sense.

“When we looked at the ingredients of past National Duals, where we’ve had the biggest fan bases — those have really made a great recipe for success, to have that pageantry that you really want when you have a national championship event,” Moyer said.

“They have a terrific fan base, and their administration knows how to put on phenomenal wrestling championships.”

That terrific fan base was “a huge part of it,” Moyer said, and he did not shy away from the fact that the National Duals have struggled mightily with attendance over the last few years.

Two seasons ago, when Iowa last participated in the National Duals, Minnesota held the event at Williams Arena. On the final day, which included three of the nation’s four-best teams (plus Missouri, which finished seventh at that season’s NCAA championships), the crowd peaked at 2,334.

The year before, when the event was in Stillwater, Oklahoma, at historic Gallagher-Iba Arena with Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Illinois — teams that finished second, third, sixth, and seventh, respectively, at that year’s NCAAs — the attendance topped out at 4,453.

A look at Iowa’s successful history with attendance figures made bringing the National Duals to Iowa City a no-brainer. The Hawkeyes have led the NCAA in average attendance per home dual for the last eight seasons.

Even more, Iowa became the first school in history to host three duals with crowds of 10,000-plus people last year — against Penn State, 13,747; against Oklahoma State, 10,141; against Minnesota, 10,585.

“That was a huge part of the decision,” Moyer said. “And we’re also thrilled that the Big Ten Network is going to air the semifinals and the finals live, which was another huge contributing factor.

“As far as the recipe goes, the University of Iowa really had all of the ingredients for what will be a spectacular event.”

Moyer said that had Iowa opted not to participate in this year’s event, his Division I National Duals committee would’ve looked heavily into Missouri, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Cornell as possible hosts.

But every coach whose team has advanced to Iowa City for the quarterfinal round is excited about the event being in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“That’s probably one of the best places you could’ve had it,” Lehigh coach Pat Santoro said. “Carver-Hawkeye Arena — that’s a place where people love wrestling. It’s going to be a great environment.”

For Brands, the decision to host the event hinged largely on Iowa’s wrestling most of its bigger duals on the road this season. The Hawkeyes took down five of Flowrestling’s top-10 teams during the regular season, and just one of those wins came at home (over Iowa State in late November 2014).

In hosting the National Duals, teams such as Missouri, Ohio State, and Minnesota, among others, will all invade Carver and give those die-hard Black and Gold fans a weekend full of great wrestling that they mostly missed out on this year because of Iowa’s schedule.

That, Brands said, is something he felt he owed them.

“We were a little bit light on our home schedule,” he said. “We need to reward our fans. That was part of the thinking. I think it can be really good. We’ll see.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.


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