The idea of a neutral-site college dual meet is nothing new. In the past, schools have held duals in the hometown gyms of wrestling stars; this season's Rutgers vs. Maryland dual meet will be held at storied Yankee Stadium in New York in November.
Now Oklahoma State and North Carolina State are taking the idea to new lengths -- and make some history in the process -- by holding their upcoming dual in Naples, Italy on January 5, 2018, the two schools announced Tuesday.
It's the first time an NCAA wrestling event will take place outside of North America.
The head coaches of the two wrestling programs are eager to go the distance for this unique event titled Tussle for the Troops.
"We're excited for the opportunity to wrestle in Italy this season," said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. "As a program, Oklahoma State has had the opportunity to be a part of many firsts in our sport, and it will be a great experience for our student-athletes to showcase college wrestling overseas for the first time."
"You always know it's going to be a first-class event when Frank Popolizio (of Journeymen Wrestling) is involved," Smith continued. "We're very appreciative of Frank's hard work in organizing the logistics for this unique event."
"This was a very exciting dual to get on our schedule," said NC State head coach Pat Popolizio. "It is very special for us to have our team make this international trip, and expose them to a different culture. Anywhere you wrestle Oklahoma State you are facing one of the top teams, year in and year out, in the NCAA, but we are also going to have the opportunity to showcase collegiate wrestling to a whole new audience."
There's history between the two programs beyond this history-making dual in Italy.
The Cowboys and the Wolfpack have faced off in a pair of highly contested duals in recent years. In 2015, the two teams were tied heading into the final two matches, which Oklahoma State scored two major decisions and won in Raleigh, 20-12. The Wolfpack returned the favor in Stillwater in 2016, as NC State won the final three matches of the dual for a 19-15 victory.
In addition to the recent close matches, there are personal ties connecting the head coaches. John Smith was Pat Popolizio's collegiate head coach at Oklahoma State. The duo has split their first two meetings since Popolizio took the helm at NC State.
Details about the Tussle for the Troops dual meet in Naples, Italy to come. In the meantime, wishing both the Cowboys and the Wolfpack "in bocca al lupo" ("good luck" in Italian.)