ShareThis Page
College wrestling’s ‘passionate’ fan base prepares to descend upon PPG Paints Arena |

College wrestling’s ‘passionate’ fan base prepares to descend upon PPG Paints Arena

Jerry DiPaola
Wrestling fans pack Scottrade Center to watch the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St Louis. Pitt will be the host school for the 2019 wrestling championships March 21-23 at PPG Paints Arena.

Jennifer Tuscano has attended enough basketball tournaments to know how fans of that sport act.

When a game ends and another is scheduled back-to-back, the gym empties. Fans from two schools head straight to the parking lot and two other groups take their place in the bleachers.

Wrestling isn’t like that. At least that’s what Tuscano, an associate athletic director at Pitt, observed last year at the NCAA championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

And that is what she expects March 21-23 when the top collegiate wrestlers gather at PPG Paints Arena for the 2019 championships. Pitt is host for the event for the first time since 1957.

Tuscano, the tournament co-director with Pitt associate AD Paul Klaczak, was one of a five-person Pitt contingent that attended the event in Cleveland to get an up-close look at what’s in store this year in Pittsburgh.

“When I walked out at 11 a.m. on a Thursday,” Tuscano said, “the arena was packed. Wrestling fans are very passionate about the sport.

“They just connect, and they want to see good wrestling. It’s pretty impressive.”

The tournament sells out every year, and Tuscano said when tickets went on sale last fall, they were gone within hours. It starts with practice March 20 (closed to the public), followed by six sessions (two each day) the next three days.

A total of 330 wrestlers, each of whom is guaranteed at least two matches, will compete, starting with the first session that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 21, followed by the night session from 6 to 11 p.m. The next day, the schedule follows the same format, with quarterfinal and semifinal competition.

The last day consists of the wrestle-back semifinals and third-, fifth- and seventh-place medal round matches.

The finals are Saturday night in 10 weight classes, preceded by the Parade of All-Americans (wrestlers who win in the first, second and third rounds).

“Everywhere you turn, there will be a mat,” Tuscano said.

In conjunction with the tournament, SportsPITTSBURGH will hold a Fanfest at David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Wrestling is one of 22 NCAA championships that have been scheduled for the Pittsburgh area from 2018-22. In the past, Pitt has hosted NCAA women’s basketball and volleyball tournament first- and second-round competition.

Duquesne also has been heavily involved, serving as host for previous NCAA basketball first- and second-round games, this year’s Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament March 8-10 at Palumbo Center and the NCAA women’s volleyball championships Dec. 19-21 at PPG Paints Arena.

The ACC wrestling tournament, which will be held March 9 at Virginia Tech, will be at Petersen Events Center next year.

“I don’t think we would turn anything down,” Tuscano said.

Based on past experiences, Tuscano and her team of about 300 volunteers are anticipating 20-hour work days.

“But you feel good about it because of the people you surround yourself with,” she said. “You have help whichever direction you look.”

By the time the first match begins, Tuscano expects all her questions will have been answered well in advance, thanks to monthly NCAA conference calls and her observations at last year’s tournament in Cleveland.

“They gave me an opportunity to be right by their side for everything,” she said. “As questions have come up, it’s easy for me to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, how did you manage this piece?’ ”

What’s in it for Pitt? Plenty, Tuscano said.

“We want to be able to showcase Pitt, our student-athletes, our staff, our facilities,” she said. “Those are all important things for us.”

Under athletic director Heather Lyke, Pitt is pushing for these type of high-profile events more than under previous administrations.

“There is a big-picture look,” Tuscano said. “People recognizing Pitt all the time is important to her. She talks to us all the time about hosting ACC championships, hosting NCAAs, whether it’s first and second round, whatever it might be.”

Lyke said having the wrestling championships in Pittsburgh is “an absolute natural.”

“Our region is a wrestling hotbed from both a recruiting and fan perspective,” she said.

Plus, Pitt is expecting its team, ranked No. 15 in the nation, to be well-represented on the mats. Coach Keith Gavin is a former NCAA champion.

“I am confident he and our staff will have our wrestlers prepared to compete for highest honors that weekend,” Lyke said.

Get the latest news about Pitt wrestling and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.