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Jeff Byers: Anticipation Brewing for Penn State-Iowa Wrestling Dual

by on January 20, 2012 6:00 AM

Anticipation is an under-appreciated emotion. Merriam-Webster defines anticipation as "a: prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action b: the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation."

Carly Simon, in her song "Anticipation" sings, "We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway, yay."

There is something special about having an upcoming event that you are excited about and to which you are looking forward. A Disney vacation that has been planned, Christmas Day with the kids, a favorite television series’ finale episode, a big concert for which you have tickets, a first date with that person you’ve been longing after.

The Penn State wrestling team is preparing for a Big Ten showdown with rival Iowa on Sunday. Anticipation for the meet has steadily grown since last year’s dual.

Last year’s meeting with the Hawkeyes was the most anticipated dual of the season. Penn State had vaulted to the top of the coaches’ poll, had a capacity crowd at Rec Hall and was primed for a big win over the three-time defending national champions. Fans were anticipating a big, signature home victory. Then the Hawkeyes took the mat and Tony Ramos upset Andrew Long at 133 pounds. Montell Marion fought off of his back and rallied to beat Andrew Alton and Grant Gambrall knocked off Quentin Wright. When the dust had settled, Penn State was again looking up at its Big Ten rivals.

Anticipation turned to frustration and disappointment, and Iowa thumped its collective chest as it returned to Iowa City with a rousing 22-13 victory in its hip pocket. 

Think ice storm for your Disney vacation, broken toys for the kiddos on Christmas morning, the “Lost” finale, or being a crazed hip-hop fan with a ticket for the T.I. concert at the Jordan Center in Sept. 2010 only to have your favorite artist arrested a week ahead of the scheduled show on drug charges. Or perhaps that first date leads you to discover the person you were longing after is, in fact, a self-absorbed dolt. This gives you an idea, if not an exact replication, of the emotions Penn State fans felt after the highly anticipated match last season.       

While the sting of the loss was certainly lessened as Penn State grew from the experience and eventually edged Iowa for the Big Ten championship and pulled away from the Hawkeyes and Cornell to win its first national title since 1953, the dual loss was a reminder of how disappointing reality can be when compared to those “pleasurable expectations.” 

Not that that will stop fans, and a certain radio broadcaster, from getting emotionally invested in great expectations again this time around.  If anything, the anticipation is even higher this year. Now, we’re really anticipating a big win - this time the Nittany Lions are third in the coaches’ poll and the Hawkeyes are one spot higher. Iowa has reeled off a remarkable 39 consecutive dual meet victories and 50 straight road wins. The anticipation of watching the beloved Nittany Lions flex their muscle in snapping those streaks is almost too much to bear. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the Rec Hall roars, the fists thrust in the air of the victorious Lions and the smiles and hugs all around when - if - Penn State gets the win it seeks this time.          

With all of the grand postseason celebrations last year, it would be overstating things to say that Penn State has been brooding over last year’s loss. But make no mistake, this is a big dual meet filled with plenty of great opportunities for a team and program that is making a habit of seizing its opportunities. 

The hype leading up to this match assures that there will be moments that will become indelibly etched in the minds of the fans and athletes for the rest of their lives — good or bad. This series has produced many special memories for everyone involved. No one could have anticipated Dana Weber’s apparent pin of Mark Ironside or Adam Lynch’s upset victory over Montell Marion. Who could have imagined Tim Flynn taking Olympic Silver medalist Barry Davis to the wire? 

Will we see a big upset? An epic match? A missed or controversial call? A devastating loss? A dominating signature victory? We don’t know, but we know the possibilities exist. We anticipate something special, something great happening. We anticipate witnessing another piece of history — a dual that will go down in the program’s lore. 

When you look at the pictures of Penn State’s history, you can hear the thunderous applause as Mike Reid was carried out of the gym after the big win over Lehigh. You can see the effortless shots of Andy Matter. You can feel the electricity as Penn State upset the Gable-led, veteran Hawkeyes. And for all of the great moments you see and hear and read about, you realize that you are anticipating moments that rival the very best in the history of the program. 

This is a team that could very well be filled with athletes who will take on legendary status some day. Of course, legends leave their imprints on history when the opportunities present themselves.       

An entire gym full of fans will come together in anticipation Sunday. The fans will join as a collective force in Rec Hall to witness what will become history, one way or another. As they anticipate heroic efforts, storied reactions and fabled moves, the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes will do battle. We anticipate being able to enjoy the moment in time that will be ours. And you’ll almost be able to hear the fans singing along with Carly Simon: 

And tomorrow we might not be together

I'm no prophet and I don't know nature's ways

So I'll try and see into your eyes right now

And stay right here 'cause these are the good old days

These are the good old days.

Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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