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December 5, 2007

SMITH: Iowa/ISU rivalry takes on whole new meaning

Start with a hefty supply of rabid fans. Add two of the top-ranked teams in the country and two Olympic gold medal athletes turned coaches. Mix in one bench-clearing brouhaha and work at a feverish pace for over a year.

The final product is one of the best rivalries in college sports.

No, I'm not talking about Saturday night’s snooze fest between Iowa State and Iowa on the hardwood. The state’s best rivalry takes place on Sunday afternoon when No. 3 Iowa travels to Ames to wrestle No. 1 Iowa State.

If last year’s 24-6 win by the Hawkeyes is any indication, this yearly event is a must-see for even the casual sports fan.

With a juiced-up crowd of 13,732 fans watching in Carver-Hawkeye Arena last December, the opening match between Iowa’s Mark Perry and Travis Paulson led to fireworks right from the start.

Perry — the eventual NCAA 165-pound Champion — trailed 4-1 at one point in the match but refused to lose to Paulson for the first time in his career. The lanky grappler staged a late comeback in regulation by scoring a takedown with only 13 seconds remaining in the third period to knot the score 4-4. Perry tweaked a gimpy knee executing the takedown and the brief time-out before overtime set the Iowa State coaches off.

As Perry was attended to on the mat, Cyclone head coach Cael Sanderson and Iowa assistant Dan Gable appeared to exchange words. Sanderson said Gable “flipped the bird” to Iowa State, but Gable denied that, saying he only gestured with his arms.

With 22 seconds remaining in the first sudden-death period, Perry used a neck-wrench to tally two points for the victory. A jubilant Iowa and an upset Iowa State bench exploded onto the mat, yelling and gesturing to each other under the deafening noise of the near-capacity crowd.

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