Luke Fickell is excited for his first Heartland Trophy game as Wisconsin’s head coach, but he hasn’t always viewed Iowa with hostility.

During a recent media opportunity, Fickell revealed that he admired Iowa’s decorated wrestling program as a young athlete.

“I know a lot about Iowa. I’m not gonna say I grew up an Iowa fan, but in some ways, it was one of my spots because of wrestling,” Fickell said. “I knew a lot more about the University of Iowa and their wrestling program than their football program. I always kind of admired (the wrestling program), and it was probably one of my first visits – not as a player – to go to the university and watch an NCAA Wrestling Tournament when I was in like in 7th or 8th grade.


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“I’ve known a lot about the university. I’ve studied their football program, in particular their defense, when I was a young coach for the first 4, 5, 6 years. So I know more about the University of Iowa than to say, do I know the history of the rivalry? I’ve studied that, but only for 8 months now, and the other things I’ve studied for quite a while.”

Fickell calls himself a traditionalist who takes rivalries like the Heartland Trophy seriously.

“It was really important because I truly believe to respect the rival you’ve got to do a lot of work. You’ve got to understand when you’re walking into something the history behind it and the meaning behind it and what’s going to be a little different in those games,” Fickell said Monday. “I’m excited, obviously I’ve played Iowa a lot and coached against Iowa a lot. I think every game I’ve ever coached in (against Iowa) they ended up being a complete battle.”

Fickell’s squad is a double-digit favorite at home against the Hawkeyes. Kickoff from Camp Randall is set for 4 p.m. ET, airing on FOX.