The campus was all decorated with red and gold and glowing with Simpson pride. Everywhere students gathered, the conversation was buzzing about the upcoming match between Simpson and Central. The shirts made for the game were worn with pride.
But that was in the fall, leading up to the Simpson-Central football game. Roughly 5,000 spectators came to see that rivalry played out.
However, the week leading up to the Simpson-Central basketball games and wrestling dual lacked the fervor shown by Simpson students in the fall. By comparison, the buzz on campus was nearly silent.
But students and other fans did show their support when it mattered, coming in big numbers to see the Storm win two of its three matches with Central.
The Simpson women’s basketball team won its game 94-43, and the No. 14 Simpson wrestling team won its dual, 42-9. The men’s basketball team lost 78-61.
Junior Mark Voelliger was one fan who attended all three of the Storm’s rivalry matchups with Central and noticed a change in the normal atmosphere for winter sports.
“It seemed like a lot of people showed up,” Voelliger said. “It was a lot more exciting than usual.”
That excitement traveled to those on the floor.
Women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth said he expected the big crowd and knows the Simpson-Central game is an easy sell to the students as well as his players.
“It’s pretty easy to get them focused on who we play when it’s Central,” Niemuth said.
Wrestling coach Ron Peterson liked what he saw for crowd support.
“It was great,” Peterson said. “We had a super crowd.”
Peterson also said he notices the rivalry more between coaching staffs rather than wrestlers. That rivalry goes far beyond the mat.
“I like to think my wrestlers try their hardest every time,” Peterson said. “It’s a rivalry from a coaching perspective more than wrestling because we constantly bang heads on the recruiting trail chasing the same people.”
Niemuth also sees the rivalry as a way to help build for the future of his program.
“It’s nice when you can beat them and be able to share that with the recruits,” Niemuth said.
Both coaches expressed the attitude that they want to beat every one of their opponents, whether it’s a rivalry match-up that fills the stands or not.
“I want to beat everybody we play, whether it’s Central or Dubuque or anyone else,” Niemuth said.