BJC Duals Showcase Popularity Of Penn State Wrestling
It’s no secret the Big Ten is the best wrestling conference in the nation. With 10 of its 14 teams in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, the Big Ten features some of the most exciting and dominant wrestling in the nation.
Last year, Penn State was one of the top teams in the nation, but disappointingly finished fifth in the Big Ten Tournament. The team’s poor performance wasn’t a matter of wrestling, rather the strength of the field.
Earlier in the year, No. 2 Iowa held a dual against then top-ranked Oklahoma State in the Hawkeyes’ football stadium, bringing in well over 42,000 fans for the spectacle — the largest crowd to ever attend an NCAA Division I wrestling dual.
The popularity of Big Ten wrestling is seen on a large scale in Happy Valley when Penn State hosts its BJC duals. The Duals started two years ago when the Nittany Lions took on interstate rival Pittsburgh, where they dominated in a 28-9 victory. The very next year, the Lions returned to a sold out Bryce Jordan Center to take on then top-ranked Iowa. Penn State lost 18-12, but the excitement in the Jordan Center was unrivaled by any match that year.
Two BJC Duals highlight the schedule this year for Penn State. The first one comes against Wisconsin this Sunday, and the second comes later in the year against Ohio State. Both are sure to draw large crowds, and will be surrounded by plenty of excitement and hype.
The residents of Central Pennsylvania love their wrestling, and it’s been proven year after year with matches consistently selling out in Rec Hall and the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State wrestling’s growth has accelerated since head coach Cael Sanderson took over in 2009. The Iowa State legend led the Nittany Lions to four straight Big Ten and national titles from 2011 to 2014, and looks to be in prime position for another run at the conference and beyond again this year.
Not many teams could fill a nearly 16,000 seat arena for a wrestling match once, let alone twice — which is what the Nittany Lions plan on doing this year. Although Sanderson believes the Jordan Center may not be sold out for the dual against Wisconsin, he does expect a crowd of about 13,000, which is still an impressive number for a regular season collegiate wrestling dual. The Feb. 5 dual against Ohio State in the Bryce Jordan Center, however, is nearly sold out.
It’s exciting to watch Penn State wrestling’s fanbase continue to grow as the program flourishes. Although it may not be at the level that Iowa’s currently at, the program has grown leaps and bounds under Sanderson’s watch.
With all of the remaining duals nearly sold out, this may be the last time to see the Nittany Lions wrestle in Happy Valley this year. It figures to be one of the premier duals of the year, and should be a big test for the Nittany Lions as they begin their difficult Big Ten schedule.