Iowa and Penn State should have wrestled this week for Big Ten title
Both teams were named co-Big Ten champions, but never faced each other
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Big Ten Conference announced Tuesday that Iowa and Penn State are co-champions of the 2021 conference regular season in wrestling.
The top-ranked Hawkeyes finished the dual season 5-0. Penn State finished with a 6-0 record.
Iowa will return to the mat March 6-7 at the 2021 Big Ten Championships in University Park, Pa.
Now that the news is out of the way, I have one question.
Why couldn’t Iowa and Penn State have competed for the Big Ten regular-season title today, tomorrow or sometime this weekend?
Some will say it’s too close to the Big Ten Championships, but both teams still would’ve had at least a week to prepare for the conference championships, and we’d have a legitimate regular-season champion instead of two teams that never faced each other sharing the title.
Some will also say with the coronavirus still a threat that it would’ve been too risky to have a meet so close to the postseason.
I get all of that, and it makes sense.
But I also believe there would’ve been enough time for Iowa and Penn State to have wrestled this week, and precautions from a health standpoint would’ve been taken.
The Iowa wrestlers have to be chomping at the bit to compete again after having had four matches cancelled during the regular season, including its match against Penn State. Iowa hasn’t competed in a match since Feb. 7.
The match against Penn State was cancelled after Iowa had to pause all in-person activities for two weeks earlier this month due positive COVID-19 cases, including head coach Tom Brands.
Iowa has since received medical clearance, but that still didn’t stop Wisconsin from cancelling its match against Iowa last week to end the regular season, apparently for health concerns.
So far, the only thing that has stopped top-ranked Iowa this season is the global pandemic.
And while the postponement of wrestling matches is a small price to pay in the big scheme of things related to the global pandemic, it’s still frustrating and disappointing for a season filled with so much promise and potential to be interrupted this much.
The regular season isn’t as big a deal as the Big Ten Championships, and certainly not as important as the NCAA Championships.
But it’s still an important part of the season, and sadly, Iowa’s regular-season was cut nearly in half.
Two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee is on course to becoming arguably the greatest wrestler in program history, but his course has been riddled with interruptions, pauses, postponements and cancellations, and that’s unfortunate for him, for Iowa fans, and for the sport of college wrestling.
Lee’s record is just 4-0 this season.
Hopefully, the Big Ten Championships, and the NCAA Championships, will both be held without any interruptions because the wrestlers deserve it, as do their fans.
Iowa was the heavy favorite to win the 2020 national title before the event was cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Iowa once again is favored to win the 2021 national title.
And should that happen, nobody would care about how the regular-season unfolded.
But it still would’ve been fun to see Iowa and Penn State compete for the regular-season title because there is no substitute for competition.
Especially when there has been so little competition.