2022 NCAA semifinalists Daton Fix (left) and Michael McGee (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
I've been on this train for a few years now. Almost all conferences have various matchups between each other in basketball, baseball, and other sports. Wrestling had tried that with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but it's been awhile since those went away. I have believed they could, and I think fans would have some interest in the event.
It's now officially happening between the Big Ten and EIWA.
With the Big Ten announcing this event, I thought I would expand a little on how the Big 12 could possibly do something similar.
My initial thought, a few years ago, was why not just have schools schedule programs from other conferences and call it the Big 12. vs. the ACC or MAC vs. PAC 12, etc… No real additional effort as far as scheduling it all as a group, just put the "conference vs. conference" tag on it to add some interest and possibly get fans a little more into it. Ex. Oklahoma State fans would be engaged in watching Iowa State wrestle and vice versa as it is for the conference as a whole. I think that concept works and could certainly be applied here as long as you have a few schools from each conference willing to schedule each other for it.
The other angle is what the Big 10 and EIWA are doing here. Get a few teams from each conference involved, then schedule them all to come to a site and wrestle each other. I think, and obviously others do as well, that this concept works too. What I would try is something like this.
Big 12. Vs. ACC or PAC 12.
Get groups of schools from a specific region and have them host.
Ex. Iowa, Colorado, and Oklahoma have two Big 12 schools. North Carolina has three ACC schools and Virginia has two. PAC 12 has three schools in California and the Big 12 has a California school.
Year one. The state of Oklahoma hosts. They could do it in Norman or Stillwater or even at a neutral site like the BOK center of the PAYCOM Center (PAYCOM CEO Chad Richison is a former wrestler).
Year 1. Both Oklahoma schools compete along with a few other Big 12 schools vs. the ACC or PAC 12.
Year 2. Do the same thing but in another region with more than one program and bring in a few other schools that are available. Ex. The state of Virginia hosts with various other ACC schools competing against some from the Big 12, and on and on if it's something that draws interest.
I tweeted this and it's a pretty good example of a few specific teams, but you could certainly interchange some of that and it would still conceptually work.
Conference realignment has become such a huge part of the dialogue in college sports these days that fans of schools are legitimately engaged and interested in the success of their schools' conference vs. other conferences. Why not capture that interest in wrestling? Use it to build the wrestling brands of the programs in each of these conferences and build interest in the sport. We've all seen decent ideas in wrestling fail, but I truly believe this is something that "could" work if implemented correctly.