IOWA CITY — Alex Marinelli didn’t compete the last time Iowa took the mat at Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Redshirting as a freshman two years ago, he did make the trip to Stillwater and simply soaked it all in.
"It’s a different atmosphere, something totally different. The fans, they are right on top of you, and they let you know they are there," Marinelli said. "It’s a crazy atmosphere."
It’s an atmosphere the Hawkeyes will step into again Sunday when the second-ranked Cowboys host third-ranked Iowa in a 2 p.m. dual.
The dual is the last of the regular season for two tradition-rich programs which have built 14-0 dual records this season.
"The two most storied programs in the history of college wrestling," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "It’s important to both coaches, and it’s important to both coaching staffs. You have some high octane when you’re looking at the coaching staffs, and it filters down into those athletes who are competing."
While it’s "the biggest match because it’s the next match on the schedule," as Hawkeye 125-pounder Spencer Lee puts it, there is a little something extra when the Hawkeyes and Cowboys renew acquaintances.
The Iowa and Oklahoma State programs have combined to win 57 NCAA championships in the sport, and while the Hawkeyes have won four of the last five duals between the teams, the Cowboys hold a 28-22-2 edge in the all-time series.
"It’s exciting. This is one of those things that should be on live, primetime ESPN," Brands said. "Not the deuce. Not the trey. Not the four. Not the five. Not the ocho, from that movie. Put us on ESPN."
Brands said the dual is one both programs can take pride in.
"Two programs with the history and tradition that we have, to be sitting where we are now, to continue to be relevant as contenders, that’s something special," Brands said. "This is an opportunity. We’ve got two programs going after the same real estate. You could say we’re chasing Penn State, but I don’t think anybody is conceding anything."
There will be no shortage of marquee match-ups in the dual.
Iowa has six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight class, and Oklahoma State has seven. Overall, nine Hawkeyes are rated in the top 20 in the nation, the same number of rated competitors the Cowboys have.
"Put everything together, the records, the rankings, the time of the year and hoping to make some momentum, it’s big," Brands said. "We’re both looking for a breakthrough to take that next step. But, whether you steamroll or get steamrolled you’ve got to get ready to roll into March."
Marinelli, 19-0 on the season and ranked second in the country at 165 pounds, believes the experience should benefit the Hawkeyes.
"We have a lot of young guys in our lineup this year, guys who have never been there before," Marinelli said. "I’m sure we’ll talk about it before Sunday. It’s a tough environment, but it’s a great environment to compete in. It’s going to be a dogfight, and that’s fine with us."