AMES, IOWA — Since 1979, the Iowa State Cyclones and Arizona State Sun Devils have remained one of the most consistent non-conference wrestling matchups in the country; the programs have met in Ames or Tempe, AZ forty times during that span.
The Sun Devils, 29-11 all-time against the Cyclones, are set to join the Big 12 Conference for the 2024-25 season, solidifying the wrestling rivalry as a marquee matchup moving forward.
“It’s been difficult finding people outside the PAC-12 who want to wrestle us,” ASU head wrestling coach Zeke Jones said during a media call Monday morning.
During their most recent dual at Ames on Jan. 8, Jones remarked how important it was for his team to experience the atmosphere inside Hilton Coliseum.
“We’ve got kids who want to be the best in the world so for them to see this atmosphere, it’s part of their growth and development on their path to become NCAA champs, Olympic champions, so you get a crowd of ten-thousand, who doesn’t love to do that?” Jones said.
Iowa State won the dual 19-15.
As the conference expands, so will the travel budgets for schools once divisions are set geographically within the Big12 as well as overall impact to student athletes, Jones said.
“Will it effect the bank accounts and kids’ sleep? Absolutely,” Jones said.
Schools located in the western region of the country face a three hour difference on top of travel time to compete at schools on the eastern time zone. “We leave at 8:00 a.m. from Phoenix and get to J.F.K (New York) at 4:30 p.m. with time to workout and go to bed,” Jones said.
Jones also acknowledge the financial incentives and stability that come with leaving the PAC-12 for the Big 12.
“The best programs in the country have to raise a half-million to a million dollars a year on top of what they’re already doing. It’s getting very expensive to compete at this level and I am concerned about the small-budgeted schools being able to compete because (the gap) definitely got separated further away,” Jones said. “But I feel confident based on the history and traditions of the programs in the Big 12.”
Jones will have to wait to see how the financial breakdown joining the Big 12 impacts the wrestling program at ASU compared to current allocation as a member of the PAC-12.