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Relive Our Road Trip To Detroit For The NCAA Wrestling Championships

Ah, Detroit. What a weekend we had in Michigan. 

Editor Will Pegler, photographer Erin Sullivan, and I made the trip from State College to Detroit to watch and cover Penn State wrestling in the 2022 NCAA Championships. The weekend was a long one, but it was jam-packed with memories we’ll never forget.

Before moving on from an incredible season, let’s take a look back at our experience at the national tournament.

Wednesday

There really is nothing like driving through western Pennsylvania. Our six-hour trip started with some picturesque views of the Keystone State, which I always love.

While Pennsylvania was great, Ohio and Michigan were definitely something. It was my first time in either state, but all we saw for hundreds of miles were farms and the occasional train, which Will seemed to love.

I was also told about the wonders that are Ohio rest stops. But for two of them, in a row, all of the food except for Burger King was closed, so we settled for the fast-food chain. That was a letdown, to say the least.

After a while, we made it to the city limits, and who knew that so many huge factories were still in operation? Between the Marathon plant and the Ford facilities, we were floored by the number of structures that border the city.

Soon enough, we were downtown and checked into our hotel. Then, we were greeted with practically every single restaurant being closed. Being the weary travelers that we were, we ended up settling for a higher-scale restaurant that was definitely not a “bit above Applebees,” as the hotel employee explained to us. Nonetheless, we ate and then crawled into our full-size beds for the night.

Thursday

Finally, we got to see some wrestling. The three of us have been watching Penn State wrestle for months, even years, but something about the NCAA atmosphere was electric.

The three of us entered the arena security area where we met Reshawn. He had to have the best humor out of anyone we met during our trip. We cracked some jokes as he hounded Erin for having a coffee.

Somehow, we found out our designated seats were on the fifth floor, which just so happened to be on a floating platform. It definitely took Will and me a lot of time and courage (and a few borderline panic attacks) to be able to look over the edge and down to the floor, but we eventually got used to it.

After the first session of the day, we took the liberty of walking around and checking out the stadium district. To our pleasant surprise, Detroit is home to Little Caesar’s world headquarters. We walked in to take a picture with the mascot that was hanging on the wall, and while we got many stares from a not-so-happy security guard, the three of us were very pleased with the results.

We then ate some quick Detroit-style pizza for lunch before the second session and again watched some great wrestling before heading back to the Marriott for the night.

While the view from our hotel was great, we figured out that the hotel bathroom did not have a fan and that the air conditioning system was extremely sensitive, so we spent most of our time in a sauna with the thermostat at a cool 61 degrees.

Friday

Day two of the tournament was beautiful. The weather started out great, and we saw six Nittany Lions make it to the semifinal round of competition.

A huge transportation debacle, because the train and people mover were not an option, led us to drive to the arena starting on Friday. We found $2 parking in the McLaren “Big D” Garage (get your head out of the gutter!) and made our way to the arena for session three.

Being halfway through the tournament, the lunch spot of choice was Bobcat Bonnies. If you ever find yourself in the Detroit area, I highly recommend Bobcat Bonnies. The food was good, and the atmosphere was really cool. We fueled up before heading back to the tournament.

Unfortunately for us, some dark clouds, as well as thunder and lightning, started to roll in. Now, what started off as a beautiful day, led to the destruction of a rainbow umbrella and one Will Pegler getting soaked.

Later on, sending five Nittany Lions to the championship quickly put a smile on everyone’s faces. To add, what could be a better way to end the day than seeing Roman Bravo-Young in the hotel lobby?

Saturday

The day started out with us once again seeing Reshawn, but this time, we brought him a Panera coffee of his own. He was ecstatic, and it made everyone happy. We then entered Little Caesar’s Arena to watch Greg Kerkvliet wrestle in the consolation bracket, but he ended up forfeiting due to medical reasons and took fourth place.

While no one wrestled for a title in the morning session for Penn State, we had the great pleasure of being there when all five Nittany Lions won their respective championship bouts.

Seeing a team win a title is always a heartwarming feeling, but it was so much better to take pride in something we have worked so hard toward and been a part of the entire season.

Our group was able to be on the floor for Max Dean’s ceremony, the teams parading to get their trophy, and a number of other awards being given out on the mat. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional being so close to the NCAA trophy and seeing so much blue and white surrounding me.

After an hour or two of celebrating, we went back to our room and celebrated on our own before going to bed for the last time.

Sunday

Waking up Sunday morning after Saturday’s celebration was a fantastic feeling, minus the part where we had to drive six hours back to State College.

McDonald’s was on the menu with the intention of getting breakfast, but all-day breakfast has not been served since before the pandemic, so it was nuggets and fries for the first meal of the day.

Our last bit of time in Detroit was spent in a gas station next to the highway, where we encountered customers without shoes, a bank teller-like window to pay for two water bottles, and many odd stares as we climbed into Will’s red Jeep for the last time.

All jokes aside, this was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Thank you to Onward State, the Penn State wrestling community, and all of our followers for making this trip one to remember.


Editor’s note: We’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsors for this weekend’s coverage: Nittany OutletPine Mountain Restoration, and Keck’s Collision Repair. Without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to send a team of student reporters to Detroit. Thank you!

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music and wondering when Luke Combs will come back to the BJC. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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