The 1970s gave us a lot, including a legitimate rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State in wrestling

Chris Taylor

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The 1970s was the first decade that I lived through from start to finish, and there are lasting memories from those 10 years.

The theme song for the “Rockford Files” blaring in the background as my family watched the classic detective show on Friday nights is one that oddly enough stands out.

Little did I know at the time, as just a young kid, but that show would become one of my all-time favorite shows as an adult, the catchy theme song a big reason why.

The 1970s also gave us incredible music, with legendary bands such Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Queen and Bob Marley and the Wailers all having reached their pinnacle during that decade.

Other notable things/inventions to come from the 1970s include the MRI scanner, e-mail, floppy disk, and don't forget about hacky sack and the disposable lighter.

There is one other thing that the 1970s gave us and that is a legitimate rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State in wrestling.

The Cyclones were actually the stronger program when the decade began, but the balance of power had started to shift by the end of the decade after former Cyclone legend Dan Gable was hired to coach at Iowa.

Both programs were elite by the mid-to-late 1970s and it made for an incredible rivalry with the series even at 3-3-3 after the first nine matches in the decade.

Iowa State was the place of legends, which in addition to Gable, included mammoth heavyweight Chris Taylor in the early 1970s.

Taylor’s enormous size almost brought an all-star wrestling feel to the event because in some ways, he was bigger than life, figuratively and literally.

I still can remember watching the Iowa-Iowa State wrestling matches on Iowa Public Television in the 1970s and being drawn to how competitive and how tough both teams were.

In fact, I remember the Iowa-Iowa State wrestling matches more than anything else between the two schools in the 1970s because both teams were so successful, and because of the personalities. 

Now unfortunately, the match isn’t even on television anymore, unless you have Cyclone TV, even though we live in an age when television never goes off the air and there are too many channels to count.

Go figure.

Maybe that would change if the rivalry became a rivalry again, but the 1970s was a long time ago.

It takes more than animosity and bold statements to stoke a rivalry, and right now, the Cyclones are failing miserably to hold up their end of the deal against Iowa, which has won 30 of the last 31, and 54 of the last 58 meetings, heading into Sunday’s annual showdown in Ames.

The hope is that Kevin Dresser will lead a long overdue resurgence at Iowa State, and there are certainly signs of that happening under the former Hawkeye national champion.

The progarm took a significant step backwards after Cael Sanderson left Iowa State, where he had been an undefeated four-time NCAA champion, to be the head coach at Penn State in 2009.

Sanderson has since built a dynasty at Penn State, while his alma mater has struggled for most of the past decade until recently showing signs of life under Dresser. 

Iowa State continues to climb in the rankings, and nearly pulled off the upset last season, losing 19-18 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It’s not about last year’s dual compared to this year’s dual,” said Iowa coach Tom Brands. “We didn’t wrestle well there and maybe our fans feel we gave some away. But you’ve got to wrestle to the very end, and that’s a lesson that we’ve all talked about since all of us wrestled.

“You don’t let up in wrestling matches the day you start wrestling. It’s you against another guy, and you don’t let up. If you let up, you’re vulnerable.”

Iowa enters Sunday’s dual ranked second behind Penn State, while Iowa State is No. 11 nationally.

Tom Brands is 14-0 all-time against Iowa State, and during that stretch, the Hawkeyes have won by an average of 13.9 points per dual, outscoring Iowa State, 366-158.

Something that one-sided is hard to call a rivalry.

Tom Brands was asked at a press conference on Thursday why he’s been so successful against Iowa State. He quickly shifted the attention to his wrestlers.

“When our guys get ready to wrestle seven minutes, good things happen,” Brands said.

Good things also happen when your wrestlers are better than the opposing team’s wrestlers, and that has pretty much been the case for Iowa compared to Iowa State since the 1980s.

Iowa’s lineup is led by 125-pound junior Spencer Lee, who is the two-time defending NCAA champion at that weight.

Lee is from Pennsylvania, and he, obviously, wasn’t alive in the 1970s, but Iowa State still is a huge match because it’s next on the schedule.

“The next match is the biggest match in the world and that’s how we approach everything,” Lee said. “Whether it’s whoever or whoever. Right? It doesn’t matter. You’ve just got to go out there and wrestles as hard as you can like coach said for seven minutes, and more if needed is what he always says. And that’s what we’ve got to go out and do.

Iowa vs. Iowa State

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Ames, Hilton Coliseum

Watch: Flo, Cyclones TV

Admission: $25 for adults, $15 for youth