An Iowa college wrestling event that’s been on the calendar for decades will cease to exist — at least in present form — thanks to changes made well outside the state.
The Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) wrestling championships, which had long served as a qualifier for the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, will take on a new purpose and format, after the NCAA revealed the six sites of its new Regional Championships for 2013 on Monday.
The IIAC consists of Buena Vista College, Central College, Coe College, University of Dubuque, Loras College, Luther College, Simpson College, and Wartburg College.
Under the new NCAA qualifying system, these eight schools — along with Cornell College (which just left the IIAC for the Midwest Conference on Monday), and Knox College and Augustana, both in Illinois — will be now competing in the Central Regional Championships, hosted by Loras at Five Flags Center in Dubuque on March 2. The top three finishers in each weight class — 30 in all — will advance to the 2013 NCAA Division III championships at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on March 15-16.
With this new format, some wrestlers who would have qualified in the past may not make it to future NCAAs. According to Andy Hamilton of the Des Moines Register, 33 IIAC wrestlers advanced to the 2012 Division III tournament, 35 in 2011.
Wrestling coaches in the IIAC had been clued in on the NCAA changes earlier this spring. After some discussion, they decided to drop the traditional conference championship format in favor of a dual-meet event. Starting in 2013, the top two teams in the final conference standings will face each other in a dual for the conference title, while the third-place team will go up against fourth, No. 5 taking on No. 6, and No. 7 versus No. 8. The host for this event will be the top-ranked team at the end of the regular season.
IIAC coaches have mixed feelings about the new NCAA qualifier format, and the end of the conference championships that have become a major wrestling event in the state of Iowa, getting plenty of newspaper and TV coverage, including broadcasts on Iowa Public Television.
“The Iowa Conference has done a great job building that tournament up,” Wartburg co-head coach Jim Miller told Andy Hamilton Monday. “There’s pageantry there. There’s introductions, there’s TV, there’s Dan Gable and Tim Johnson announcing the meet… You can probably tell I voted to keep it, and it didn’t happen.”
“I’m totally disappointed we’re not doing it,” Miller told K.J. Pilcher of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “It’s one of the best events we have all year.”
“If it were feasible, people would want to continue to have the Iowa Conference tournament,” Coe head coach John Oostendorp revealed to the Des Moines Register. “But to have it right at the end of the year, (right before) the national qualifier that you were trying to peak for, the schematics and timetable don’t really work.”
The IIAC will evaluate how the end-of-season dual-meet championships work and make needed adjustments, according to IIAC Commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen.
Want to know more? For more information on the new IIAC format — including additional quotes from coaches — check out the articles by Andy Hamilton of the Des Moines Register, and K.J. Pilcher of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. For an overview of the new NCAA D3 qualifier events, read this article from College Wrestling Examiner.
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