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Coaches enjoyed Carver atmosphere during National Duals

BY CODY GOODWIN | FEBRUARY 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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Missouri wrestling coach Brian Smith did not mind the rowdy, mostly frustrated crowd of Iowa fans that made up the majority of those who attended the National Duals last weekend in Carver-Hawkeye. He smiled when he was asked about it, noting that this kind of atmosphere was nothing new to his team.

“We’ve had some grueling road trips where we had to wrestle a dual at night and then go and wrestle Ohio State the next day in the afternoon,” Smith said. “I knew we were prepared for it. You just have to have your mindset right.”

The Tigers had the right mindset, of course — they won the whole thing after upsetting Iowa, 18-12, in the finals. Smith said the championship dual — and really, the entirety of this year’s National Duals — was fun, and the crowd played a huge role.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I love the crowd. I just think they’re yelling for us. That’s how you have to think.”

Most every other coach enjoyed the crowd too, saying it added to an event that’s sorely struggled with attendance over the years. In all, a combined 13,852 wrestling fans filled Carver-Hawkeye over the two days — 7,006 came for the quarterfinals and semifinals on Feb. 21 and another 6,846 came on Feb. 22 for the finals.

To the casual Iowa-wrestling fan that frequents Carver during the season, a crowd of 6,000-plus fans is below average. The Hawkeyes led the nation in attendance last season by bringing in 8,835 fans per dual meet, more than 1,000 ahead of second-place Penn State.

But for schools such as Missouri — whose largest attendance ever at the Hearnes Center in Columbia is 2,772 — and Cornell, which averaged 1,406 fans per dual meet a year ago, a crowd of 6,000-plus seems like a whole new world.

“I love wrestling here,” Cornell coach Rob Koll said. “Our guys haven’t been in this environment, but that’s what they needed. It was different, certainly, a lot more intense than what we’re used to.

“Our biggest crowd this year was probably — you know, at Cornell-Oklahoma, we got close to 3,000 people. My assistant coaches are getting upset because fans are yelling at him. … But I don’t care. I don’t take it personally. I wish we had just as many rowdy and obnoxious fans back home.”

Koll likened the atmosphere to the NCAA championships, where attendance figures have, in recent years, neared and even broken 100,000 when all six sessions of the three-day event are combined.

With so many fans in one spot, the atmosphere can become wild and entertaining, just as it did over the weekend in Carver-Hawkeye. And Koll was not the only one who thought of the national tournament over the weekend.

“I think it’s more of an advantage because it kind of prepares you for the national tournament,” Missouri’s Alan Waters said about wrestling in Carver in front of the Iowa fans. “There’s going to be the noise, and coaches are going to have to yell over that noise, and you can’t hear much out on the mat.”

It is definitely an advantage for Iowa during the winter months. The Hawkeyes have lost only four duals in Carver since the 2008-09 season, and that includes unbeaten home records in four of those seven seasons.

Still, Koll said it shouldn’t matter if a team has an advantage or not. What matters most, he said, is that people come out to watch good wrestling.

“I don’t care who gets the advantage,” Koll said. “I just want people in the stands. I’ll come out here every year. It’s just a great opportunity for us to wrestle here.”

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


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