Small College Sports

Cedar Rapids set to host more NCAA national tournaments

2023 Division II and 2026 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at U.S. Cellular Center; D-III baseball awarded through 2023

The 2014 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.. (The Gazette)
The 2014 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.. (The Gazette)
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Cedar Rapids has served as a desired destination for national and international sporting events.

The city and NCAA has teamed together several times to hold national competitions and that relationship will continue.

The NCAA announced national championship sites for 2023-2026 Thursday and Cedar Rapids will host three tournaments. The 2023 NCAA Division II and 2026 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships will be held at the U.S. Cellular Center, while the 2023 NCAA Division III baseball World Series will be at Memorial Stadium.

The 2020 D-III Championships were scheduled for here before being canceled and the tournament will return in 2022.

“Cedar Rapids has showcased itself since 2008,” Former Wrestling Committee Chair and 2022 Championship Director Dick Simmons said. “I know the NCAA is really pleased with the city, people and venues.”

Upper Iowa University will host the D-II championships. It marks the third time the school has hosted in Cedar Rapids, including 2018 and 2008. Peacocks Coach Heath Grimm praised Athletics Director Rick Hartzell and his staff for the effort to earn the bid.

“I’m very excited,” Grimm said. “I feel things are starting to fall into place.”

Upper Iowa finished fourth in 2018, crowning an NCAA champion in 133-pounder Josh Walker, who was one of the Peacocks’ four All-Americans. The roster is loaded with many talented wrestlers from Iowa, giving them a chance to compete in their home state.

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“We’re on a quest and that’s to win a national title,” Grimm said. “No better place than to do it on home soil.

“It’s a dream. We host and we’re going to have a heck of a squad.”

The 2022 D-III tournament marks the eighth time Cedar Rapids has been awarded the event since 2008. Local organizers have left an indelible impression on the past attendees. Chapman (Calif.) University won the D-III baseball World Series here in 2019. Memorial Stadium will be home for the series in 2021 and 2022 as well.

“It’s a popular attraction for the NCAA and even the coaches,” Simmons said. “They love it.”

The NCAA also announced future NCAA Division I championship sites. The 2021 wrestling tournament still is set for Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., while Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena will host in 2022. The D-I NCAA meet will be held at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. (2023), T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo. (2024), Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center (2025) and Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in 2026.

Interestingly, NCAA wrestling had taken a large step in 2020, scheduling the three-day affair at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Organizers expected 45,000 fans per session, which would have blown away attendance records. The four announced venues from 2023-26 average a little more than 18,200 spectators. A considerable drop from what was anticipated in March before the NCAA canceled winter championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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