Penn State Wrestling At Beaver Stadium? Maybe One Day…
As Penn State wrestling prepares to face Ohio State in its annual dual at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend, the annual question of how the Nittany Lions’ top-shelf status could be leveraged to #GrowTheSport came up once again at the team’s weekly media availability on Tuesday.
There doesn’t seem to be any immediate plans for the Nittany Lions to move out of Rec Hall and permanently compete at the much larger BJC, according to head coach Cael Sanderson, who noted the venue’s history as a main reason to want to stay put. There also didn’t seem to be any rush for Rec Hall to expand its seating beyond the current capacity of 6,502.
But one common desire among plenty of wrestling fans in particular seems to still be on the table: a Beaver Stadium dual. Sanderson said the idea has been discussed internally, but nothing has materialized. He also pointed out plenty of logistical concerns with planning an outdoor dual, namely the awful weather of a State College winter. But he didn’t exactly shoot it down, either.
“I think there are some positives, obviously,” he said. “Some of the outdoor wrestling matches have been amazing, and the results have been outstanding and great for the sport, so I would guess before long, that’s something you’ll see us do.
“It’s not up there as priority No. 1 or No. 2 for me or our program, but it’s definitely something we’re thinking about.”
A couple of wrestling teams have pulled off outdoor, football stadium duals in recent years. Most notably, a record 42,287 fans shuffled into Kinnick Stadium in 2015 to watch Iowa face Oklahoma State. A year later, 16,178 fans watched Rutgers and Princeton wrestle at what’s now known as SHI Stadium.
Each crowds was more than five times as large each respective team’s average attendance was the year. The success of these duals demonstrates what dramatically increasing the capacity for a special event and generating hype around it can do for a sport that’s stuck in an ongoing struggle to attract and retain participants and fans.
And as the legendary Iowa/Oklahoma State match at Kinnick showed, if you build it, they will come. Fans would travel from far and wide to see Penn State face a top team like Oklahoma State or even Ohio State or Iowa if the Big Ten signed off on wrestling a conference dual a few weeks early in November. Hell, the sheer amount of wrestling fanatics in Pennsylvania would fill Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State face Lehigh for the 100 and somethingnth straight year.
While discussing additional special-event duals like a match at Beaver Stadium, however, Sanderson appeared to be much less open toward leaving Happy Valley to compete.
“We’ve had people approach us about special dual meets in different places, but if we’re hosting a match, I would rather be at Penn State,” Sanderson said. “That just makes sense. I see the benefit of getting around the country, but if it’s a home match, we want to be here.”
Aside: After seeing Arizona State host a dual at the Diamondbacks’ stadium earlier this season, all I’ve been thinking about is Penn State vs. Pitt at PNC Park, so I’m still holding out hope.
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As THON weekend approaches, a fundraising year like no other in THON history wraps up.
“Whether this team is a No. 3 seed or or a No. 4 seed, they’re going to have a real opportunity to be in the Sweet Sixteen. If you’re a Penn State basketball fan, that’s like the Final Four. That week of hype and attention gives a team a brand.”
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