116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands has never wavered on his opinion.
The Cy-Hawk Series dual with Iowa State is important. Always has been from its inception in 1912. It even reached new levels when former Iowa coach Gary Kurdelmeier and former Iowa State coach Harold Nichols resumed the rivalry after a 35-year intermission in 1973.
Add in the fact Kurdelmeier wrangled legendary Dan Gable to switch sides and usher in an era of dominance continued by Gable’s former wrestlers, which includes Iowa’s 16-0 mark in the series under Brands.
“Both teams are ranked up there, good,” Brands said. “I don’t downplay this because the rankings aren’t there and I don’t put more emphasis on it because the rankings are there. It’s the same every year.
“It was important at both places before I got here. It was important at both places before Gable got here. And that’s not changing.”
For the first time in about 13 seasons, the Cy-Hawk series is a battle between top-10 teams as second-ranked Iowa hosts No. 7 Iowa State Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at 1:30 p.m. This marks the 86th official dual between the two programs. Iowa owns a 67-16-2 advantage.
“You can hype it as much as you want because it’s the next date on the calendar and that’s fine with us because we circle it in red, we highlight it, we emphasize it and it is the most important event on our calendar because it’s the next event on our calendar,” Brands said. “Is it significant? You’re doggone right it is. You’re doggone right it is.”
So many storylines and powder-keg moments between the two programs, like Dave Osenbaugh’s pin that overcame a 9-0 deficit to Lou Banach for an Iowa State victory at Hilton Coliseum in 1981. Brooks Simpson contributed to the lore, sending CHA into a frenzy with a pin over NCAA champion Eric Voelker, setting up Mark Sindlinger to close out the victory in 1988.
Brands was a true freshman on the sideline for Simpson’s fall.
“It swung huge,” Brands said. “I remember it was unending enthusiasm. There are a lot of good memories.”
Last season, the post-dual kerfuffle during a handshake line garnered a lot of attention. Some point to that as a sign the rivalry was rejuvenated under Cyclones head coach Kevin Dresser and assistant Brent Metcalf and Derek St. John. All three were NCAA champions for Iowa.
The Cyclones just missed an upset in their last visit to CHA, falling 19-18 in 2018.
“For me, there’s always been the energy and juice,” Iowa 197-pounder Jacob Warner said. “It’s been close every year I’ve been here. Maybe not close on the scoreboard but it’s been at least heated every year I’ve been here. That hasn’t changed. That won’t change. I don’t see it going away.”
As for last year, Warner missed out on the exchange of pleasantries. He was reflecting on his result, a 4-3 loss to Yonger Bastida.
“I lost so I was in the backroom, so I didn’t see any of it,” Warner said. “I wasn’t worried about it. I didn’t know about what happened until I got on the bus, really. I heard the commotion but I was worried about myself, because I’m selfish.”
A rematch between the two All-Americans is expected at 197. He has watched that match and absorbed the performance. He isn’t dwelling on the past.
“He’s super athletic,” Warner said. “He’s not like a lot of guys at my weight. He’s explosive, fast. I just have to be on it and on top of my wrestling, doing what I do best.
“I’m looking forward to it. I know what I’m capable of.”
This year’s lineups could produce up to eight battles between ranked individuals. Much of that will depend who takes the mat for each team. Nelson Brands made his season debut at 174 last week. Three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee has not wrestled this season, undergoing ACL surgeries on both knees about 11 months ago. Graduate transfer Real Woods is listed as a possibility at 141 with Drew Bennett. Woods has yet to wrestle for the Hawkeyes.
“They’re making progress,” Brands said. “I’ll give the same answer I always give. I know they want to get on the mat. They’re excited to get on the mat and our fans want them on the mat. We want them on the mat. We just have to keep working toward it.”
The series hasn’t been competitive for a long time. Iowa has won 56 of the last 60 duals, including a 27-2 mark under Jim Zalesky and Brands. During Iowa’s current 17-dual win streak, the Hawkeyes have won by an average of 14.3 points. Iowa State hasn’t won since Bobby Douglas was at the Cyclones helm.
“It’s an intrastate rival,” Brands said. “It is hotly contested and, you know what, that’s a lot of fun. That’s a great environment and, you know what, that’s OK.
“It’s OK that it’s hotly contested. That’s what opportunities are about.”