It’s a New NCAA Wrestling Attendance Record
For some people, getting ready for a wrestling match in the Bryce Jordan Center probably meant some changes in routine. The ticket office, for instance, had more than double the number of tickets to sell compared to regular old matches in Rec Hall. And the fire marshal apparently had to determine if enough people to break the NCAA record for dual match attendance could fit safely into the BJC.
For the wrestlers and coaches? No big deal, unless you count weighing in at Rec Hall and then taking vans to the match across campus. “A wrestling mat’s a wrestling mat, wherever it is,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “Whether people are watching you or not, you should be the same person.”
That said, Sunday’s 28-9 victory over Pitt at the BJC was hardly routine.
It did have an NCAA atmosphere, with a the mat on a raised platform (“It makes a pretty sweet sound when you pick the guy up and slam him down on it,” said 184-pounder Wes Phipps, who knows because he did it), the wrestlers being followed by a spotlight as they ran onto the mat, where the Nittany Lions’ names were beamed onto the mat (last names except for Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford, who were apparently too long), and athletic trainer Dan Monthley wearing a tie, the kind of wardrobe adornment he saves for the biggies.
The weather likely kept some fans home—not every seat was filled—but the announced attendance, 15,996, not only broke the NCAA record for a dual-meet crowd (15,955, at a 2008 match between Iowa and Iowa State), but it was also the largest crowd to see an athletic event at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“That’s very exciting,” Sanderson said—although he wasn’t exactly gushing as he said it. After thanking those who worked “behind the scenes” to make sure a record number could fit into the BJC, he added, “I just hope we wrestled an exciting enough style to make it worth everybody’s time.”
The Nittany Lions didn’t rack up their customary number of bonus points, but many of the big names in the lineup who come through with those points weren’t in the lineup. The Alton brothers are out after both had off-season shoulder surgery, and two-time national champion Ed Ruth is serving a one-month suspension after being charged with DUI.
Penn State’s big names did come through. David Taylor, a three-time national finalist who’s won one NCAA title, pinned Geno Morelli in 3:09 at 165 pounds, and two-time NCAA 125-pound runner-up Megaludis won by decision, 4-1, but his victory was over No. 9 Anthony Zanetta, who’s beaten him in the past.
Penn State’s only other bonus points came when Phipps, who’s subbing for Ruth at 184, won by major decision over Aaron Rothwell, who was wrestling in place of No. 6 Max Thomusseit.
“I think we can wrestle a little better, be more focus on what we’re trying to do—not trying to just win matches, but to dominate,” Sanderson said. “That’s my concern right now at this point. But you’ve got to build up to something. I think our guys will get better as the season goes on.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor