Presented with a unique opportunity, Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands jumped at the chance.
The Hawkeyes will take the mat on the infield of a major-league baseball stadium in February, wrestling Oklahoma State on mats placed on the infield at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
The Bout at the Ballpark will be contested on Feb. 12 at the enclosed home stadium of the Texas Rangers, part of a 6:30 p.m. wrestling doubleheader that will include an exhibition meet between the United States and Iran.
A total of 27,000 seats are being made available for the event, which will see two mats placed on a raised stage angled across the baseball diamond behind the pitcher’s mound and in front of second base.
The dual between Iowa and Oklahoma State pairs two programs which have combined to win 58 NCAA team championships in the sport, including the Hawkeyes’ win at the 2021 NCAA finals.
It won’t be the first time the two storied programs have competed in unique surroundings.
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The Hawkeyes defeated the Cowboys 18-16 on Nov. 14, 2015 in what was billed as Grapple on the Gridiron, competing in front of a crowd of 42,287 at Kinnick Stadium.
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“When we called (Oklahoma State coach) John Smith back then to ask if he would help us with something a little outside the box, there was no hesitation and when John Smith called me to ask about this, there was no hesitation,’’ Brands said Tuesday during a video conference announcing the event.
Smith said Brands was the first and only coach he called to throw out the idea of taking the dual between the teams to Texas, a state with a solid high school wrestling programs but no NCAA Division I programs.
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“When this came about, there was only one guy I was going to ask, somebody who would understand what we were trying to do, Tom Brands,’’ Smith said. “He understands what we are trying to do with this. He understands how it can help wrestling and that is something we both have always been about.’’
USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender understands that as well.
He said the Bout at the Ballpark has a chance to do for the sport what Grapple on the Gridiron did seven seasons ago.
“I can’t think of a better atmosphere than the one that existed when Iowa and Oklahoma State wrestled outside at Kinnick Stadium,’’ Bender said. “The enthusiasm created there helped grow our sport and I believe this can do the same.’’
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Smith said the idea originated with REV Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Rangers baseball operation that exists to bring events to the facility that opened in 2020 as the home of the American League club.
Oklahoma State administrators liked the idea of giving their institution and program exposure in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, an area where high school wrestling is growing, and welcomed the chance to have the Cowboys compete there against the defending national champions.
“We were in it from the get go. We’re always working to grow the sport,’’ Brands said. “… I always think big and when the chance to do this came up, it was like ‘Let’s do it.’ I think it’s great.’’
Tickets, which went on sale Tuesday through the Rangers website, are priced as low as $15 depending on seat location.