Adapt and adjust. Do whatever it takes.
College wrestling coaches and programs have had to tweak their schedules in this shortened and restricted season.
Open tournaments are gone, but extra matches held in conjunction with regular duals are now an option. Some face restraints on travel and some have been relegated to conference-only competition.
Everyone is forced to find a new way to provide competition for their wrestlers and sharpen their routine and skills in a condensed two-month season for NCAA Division I programs.
The quadrangular at Iowa State on Sunday will be an example of the different approach. Four top-20 teams will throw down in Hilton Coliseum, beginning with the 10th-ranked Cyclones and No. 11 Arizona State and No. 9 Missouri against 20th-ranked Northern Iowa at 2 p.m. Iowa State will follow with a dual versus Missouri, while UNI takes on Arizona State.
“It’s obviously a really big weekend,” Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser said. “It’s nice to be here at Ames to experience it.”
UNI Coach Doug Schwab echoed Dresser’s excitement.
“I look forward to Sunday,” Schwab said. “Hopefully, fans get to come. We’d love as many fans as we could possibly get there. I’m sure they would, too.
“We’ll be ready to scrap on Sunday.”
Now, neutral site duals aren’t rare. This is different. Conference and in-state rivals are hosting each other in consecutive weekends, but not to wrestle each other. It’s to give the other an opportunity to wrestle a similar foe. Iowa State will make the first of two trips to Cedar Falls on Jan. 24, facing Oklahoma. The Cyclones return Feb. 13 for a double dual with Northern Colorado and UNI.
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Triangulars and quads aren’t unusual either, but assembling four ranked teams to duke it out in the same afternoon isn’t the norm. Heck, Iowa State just wrestled NCAA Division III power Loras and one of the top D-II programs in Nebraska-Kearney, winning 19 of 20 matches.
Consecutive duals against teams that sandwich you in the rankings at the edge of the nation’s top 10 is quite a test. One that could mimic the season’s final exam, according to Dresser.
“I know in my fourth year here now, we’ve never had back-to-back matches like this at Hilton,” Dresser said. “I told our guys this is kind of indicative of what you could face at the NCAA tournament in St. Louis in March. You get a high-quality guy twice in one day.”
Coaches will do whatever is needed to accelerate the learning curve and help develop talent, especially since CVOID-19 testing could affect who is available at any time, even the postseason. Extra matches have become a method to provide chances to compete.
“Let’s get these guys as many opportunities as we can to compete,” Schwab said.
The probable lineups for top-ranked Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska for Friday night listed multiple guys at nearly every weight. The actual lineups won’t be shuffled that much, but many of those wrestlers will get on the mat to wrestle matches before the main event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa State wrestled a “B” dual against Loras and Nebraska-Kearney, resulting in 20 extra bouts. UNI wrestled a double dual Sunday against North Dakota State and host South Dakota State. The Panthers also managed 19 matches in addition to the duals.
As far as Schwab is concerned, take the appropriate steps and anyone is welcome to capitalize on the chance to wrestle.
“We’re going to continue to try to get as many possible matches for these guys as we can,” Schwab said. “I can tell you when we have home duals, we’re going to have two mats going and whoever wants to bring guys, bring them. Bring as many as you want. My administration may not appreciate that but we’ll take other schools, too.
“I don’t care. Get your testing done and let’s wrestle.”