Sports

Another strange sports week in an unusual week

Ogden column: State wrestling is here ... and so is college football

This strange season gets a little stranger this week when the UNI football team opens its season and the Iowa wrestling
This strange season gets a little stranger this week when the UNI football team opens its season and the Iowa wrestling team, including Max Murin (left), is sidelined by COVID-19, (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

It’s been said many times in many ways in recent months, but this is one strange sports season.

And this week could be the strangest yet.

This typically is one of the busiest weeks of the year, with the high school state wrestling championships kicking off Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

That’s happening and is not strange. It’s rather refreshing.

The girls’ basketball season starts its march toward March with regionals that get bigger and better the deeper we head into the postseason. Boys’ basketball district tournament games tipped off last night for the smaller schools while their bigger brothers wrap up the regular season.

College sports don’t take a holiday during this time. The Iowa men’s basketball team plays at Wisconsin on Thursday, the Hawkeye women host Penn State that afternoon.

You want more? There’s plenty.

Coe is hosting the three-day Liberal Arts Championships swimming meet. starting Thursday; Cornell is hosting Coe in a men’s basketball game Friday night; and Mount Mercy has a pair of home men’s volleyball matches tonight and Wednesday. There’s also indoor track and field meets, a sprikling of bowling events and men’s and women’s gymnastics.

All of that is fairly normal for this time of year. There’s usually a lot going in mid to late February, leading into the kickoff of spring sports in March.

But there’s also a few of those strange global warming/pandemic-related events, especially when your thermometer tells you the temperature outside is below 0 and all you see out your window are piles of snow.

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All of these events, of course, are “subject to change” at a moment’s notice and you likely are not allowed to attend most of them.

But here comes the unusual, if not outright strange.

The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team was supposed to be crushing opponents right now on its way to a delayed and long-awaited national title. But all action is on pause because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The team is cleared for “limited activities,” but Friday’s dual against Northwestern is postponed and Sunday’s trip to Wisconsin is iffy.

The Iowa State men’s basketball game against Texas on Thursday in Ames is postponed, not by COVID-19 but by a winter storm in Texas.

Here is the Midwest, it’s almost college baseball season. Seriously.

Mount Mercy opens its season on Sunday, albeit inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The UNI softball team already has played seven games, all inside.

The Mustangs’ first home game, by the way, is scheduled for March 6 against Saint Ambrose. Weather pending, of course.

That brings us to one of the strangest February events on the schedule. Friday night inside the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, college football returns with UNI — ranked as high No. 3 in some polls — hosting South Dakota State — ranked as high as second.

Strange, yes. But kind of exciting, too.

“When you’re in this program there’s only one way to do things and that’s the standard we live by,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said last week during a Zoom media day. “Whether we’re playing in January or playing in October.”

The Panthers, by the way, open the second 2021 season on Sept. 4, at Iowa State.

“I can’t even feasibly think of waiting for next season or next fall,” Farley said.

Let’s play ball.

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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