Despite crowning two individual champions, the Iowa Wrestling team finished second to Penn State at the Big Ten Wrestling tournment this past weekend, at Welsh-Ryan arena on the University of Northwestern campus. Penn State had five individual winners, while racking up 139 team points, to Iowa 138, making it the closest team race in the 98 year history of the tournament. The Hawkeyes do qualify 9 to next week's NCAA tourney in Philadelphia.
Just a few random thoughts on the tourney..
Make no mistake, Northwestern has a beautiful campus. Sitting along the shore of Lake Michigan, one couldn't ask for a more picturesque college campus (unless you bring up Pepperdine which sits on the Pacific ocean in Malibu, California). That said, the athletic facilities at NU are easily the worst in the Big Ten. Welsh-Ryan reminds me of the old Iowa Fieldhouse without the pillars. The site lines are terrible, and the seats are uncomfortable. The concession stands are little 'closets' that sit at the corners of the facility. Since that area is so small, the popcorn line for popcorn can stretch out a bit, creating a lengthy wait. The restrooms are terrible, if you can find one. I only saw two, and one was broken down. Someone mentioned that there was one on the other side of the arena, but I didn't see it, and I am not sure anyone else did either. That is because the rest room line was almost like halftime at Kinnick. Plus the restroom line at Welsh-Ryan crosses the line for the snack bar. It's bizarre.
Thing is, the restrooms weren't the worst I have ever seen. That honor belongs to the building next door to Welch-Ryan. That would be the Dyche Stadium, Northwestern's football field. Those were easily the worst anywhere. (If you wish to use the facilities at Dyche, figure a one quarter wait. Not enough of them and the line goes on forever).
One more thing before I leave the arena thing alone. I know Northwestern is huge on academics, BUT. Do they know how to write? Nothing is marked, and you are left to find a security guard to explain where you can sit. It would be so much easier if they had signs that eplained where General Admission was, and where the reserved seats start, and where you need to walk. I had the same experience at Dyche in November also. No one has any idea where they need to be. A sign would be nice.
Anyway. The hotdogs were pretty good, a lot better than Carver which is saying nothing at all. Carver will get my vote for the worst hot dog anywere.
The Big Ten said it was a sellout, and from where I was craning my neck to see, the arena did look full. It almost seemed like an Iowa home duel, as the crowd looked to be 80% Hawkeye. Then maybe 15% Bucky Badger, and the rest were famiy and friends of everyone else.
Last night on the way home, we stopped at the DeKalb travel plaza on I-88 in Illinois for a hamburger. Bad idea, as the place was packed with fellow Hawkeye wrestling fans. You literally couldn't move in the place with all the black and gold. There was one kid behind the counter, and maybe 40 people waiting to order.
Dan Gable was at the tournament, as one would expect. It is funny seeing Dan, as he watches the matches from the stands. He still sweats with the Hawkeyes, worries about what goes on, and complains about the officials. It is like he is coaching from his seat.
One thing I noticed about Gable, is that he is looking older that we all remember. He walks hunched over, as he has had both hips replaced. I think we all still see him as young and energetic, not as a 62 year old icon. We all remember his endless energy 'willing' his team to victory. He still has the energy, but it is harder for him to get around. And he still thinks that Iowa can win every match in every meet.
It was good to see an old friend of ours, Wisconsin coach Barry Davis. Davis is one of the most entertaining people in athletics that you will ever see. He gets very intimated as he is coaching, and it's great watching him. On Saturday, he was standing up at the bench, hopping around on one leg, trying to exhort his wrestler to 'hold on to the guys leg.' After a while you start laughing and realize that Barry hasn't changed since he was a kid. He is still having a good time in the sport he loves.
As far as the meet itself goes, it pretty much went the way it was supposed to. Penn State had five number one seeds, and came out with five champions. Iowa had one seed, and finished with two champions. You know the battle will continue at the NCAA tournament in two weeks.
The team Penn State has now, and will have in the future is kind of scary. Cael has recruited very well, and going into the NCAA, this is a very strong team. And they are young, and will be back. That's the scary part. They have a kid, reshirt freshman David Taylor that's a stud. Undefeated this year. Many experts I have talked to, say he could be another Cael, and not lose his entire career.
Actually, Cael Sanderson did lose once in his college years. Tonight's trivia question...Who beat him?
One last note, and it concerns another Prairie, and University of Iowa friend. Our condolences go to Jim Zalesky and his family, for the loss of his mother last week. Jimmy is one of the greatest wrestlers this state has ever seen (as was Barry Davis) and coached the Iowa team for nine seasons 1997-2006.
Answer...Iowa's Paul Jenn. It happened at the UNI open,during Sanderson's redshirt year. Jenn beat him 8-6. Because it happened during a red shirt year, and Sanderson was competing unattached, it doesn't count on the 'official stats.' Jenn was killed in an automobile accident in 2001.
We will discuss the NCAA's later.