Like the National Football League and Jim Harbaugh, NCAA wrestling is officially going world-wide. Oklahoma State announced that it will host NC State in the first NCAA dual to be held outside of North America, January 5 in Naples, Italy.
— OSU Cowboy Wrestling (@CowboyWrestling) September 12, 2017
"We're excited for the opportunity to wrestle in Italy this season," said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. The Cowboys are perennial NCAA title contenders, riding a streak of eight consecutive Top 10 finishes. They return six of their school-record eight All-Americans from last season, including the two-time defending national champion at 141 pounds Dean Heil.
Smith's team finished seven points behind the Buckeyes at the 2017 NCAA tournament in St. Louis, and are expected to be one of Ohio State's key competitors in the race to dethrone reining team champion Penn State.
The Buckeyes will face NC State in a late-season dual two weeks ahead of the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State travels to Raleigh Feb. 16 or 18, where they meet a team that finished 17th at last year's NCAA tournament, marking NC State's fourth consecutive top-20 finish at the NCAAs, tying a school record. The Wolfpack finished in the Top 10 in the final coaches polls each of the past two seasons, and will be returning a pair of All-Americans for the 2017-18 season, led by two-time All-American Kevin Jack at 141 pounds.
In addition to a pair of closely-contested duals in recent seasons, the ties of the budding Pokes-Pack rivalry extend to the head coaches involved. John Smith was NC State head coach Pat Popolizio's collegiate head coach at Oklahoma State. The duo has split their first two meetings since Popolizio arrived in Raleigh.
No word yet if the schools plan to take another page out of the Harbaugh playbook and drop in on The Pope while they're across The Pond.