Carver houses storied Hawkeye wrestling tradition

Over the years, Carver-Hawkeye Arena has hosted countless events that have gone down in wrestling lore. The famed arena has always provided the ultimate home advantage for Iowa wrestling.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Pat Lugo is introduced during a wrestling dual meet between Iowa and Nebraska at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers, 26-6.

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa City, Iowa, is sacred ground to those in the wrestling community. It’s iconic arenas — the Field House and Carver-Hawkeye Arena —  have housed some of wrestling’s most prestigious events.

“There is no place like wrestling in Iowa City, Iowa,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Russia, Iran, they’re not better. Iowa City, Iowa, is the mecca [of wrestling].”

Carver-Hawkeye Arena has hosted two United States Olympic Wrestling Team Trials and one United World Wrestling Championship.

“Historically, people from all over the country and all over the world [have been fans of Iowa wrestling,” senior Michael Kemerer said. “One of the first things you think about the state of Iowa, you associate it with wrestling, Gable, and all that stuff.”

In addition to hosting national events, Iowa City is home to one of the most successful programs in the history of collegiate wrestling.

“We have a great tradition of being very good in the Dan Gable era,” reigning national champion Spencer Lee said. “It’s pretty easy for fans to fall in love with a successful program, right?”

The coaching prowess of Gary Kurdelmeier, Dan Gable, and Brands have produced a combined 23 national championships. Seven of those teams wrestled their home meets at the University of Iowa Field House, and the other 16 teams wrestled their home meets at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa boasts a 259-25 overall record at home since moving to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 1983. Iowa has recorded 21 undefeated seasons at Carver.

The Hawkeyes’ success also incentivized the Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to select Iowa City as the destination for several of their wrestling championships.

The 1983, 1994, 2005, and 2016 Big Ten Championships were at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Carver also hosted the 1986, 1991, 1995, and 2001 NCAA Championships.

Related: UI asking Iowa regents to expand Hawkeye wrestling space

Part of what made Carver such a compelling home for those events are Iowa wrestling’s fans.

“It’s something in Iowans’ blood,” Kemerer said. “They’re naturally drawn to good wrestling. It’s our job to go out there and put a good product on the mat. When you do that, you take those fans that would’ve been watching at home, and they’re going through the Iowa snow in the winter, and they want to come to the match, because they’re excited and they’re just drawn to good wrestling. As a competitor, that’s something that’s really exciting.”

The excitement Iowa wrestling fans bring doesn’t just motivate the home team. It impacts adversaries on the mat opposite the Hawkeyes.

“I heard last week from some Ohio State fans that [Carver] is very brutal,” All-American Alex Marinelli said. “The guys that have never been here before felt [overwhelmed]. It’s something rare that you can’t explain until you watch something like that. The fans make it great. The fire, the smoke, whatever you want to call it [makes it a fun environment].”

Iowa’s matchup with Penn State has the makings of what might be the next great wrestling event at Carver. No. 1 Iowa will face No. 2 Penn State in front of a capacity crowd at 8 p.m. Friday.

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