Penn State Wrestling

Matside stories: Wrestling club volunteers help organize, entertain sold-out Penn State crowd

Penn State’s Zain Retherford, top, grapples with Central Michigan’s Justin Oliver in a 149-pound match during the NCAA Division 1 wrestling championship in New York on Friday. Penn State wrestling fans lucky enough to secure the hottest tickets in town — to the NCAA Wrestling Championship — have the Penn State Wrestling Club to thank.
Penn State’s Zain Retherford, top, grapples with Central Michigan’s Justin Oliver in a 149-pound match during the NCAA Division 1 wrestling championship in New York on Friday. Penn State wrestling fans lucky enough to secure the hottest tickets in town — to the NCAA Wrestling Championship — have the Penn State Wrestling Club to thank. The Associated Press

Penn State wrestling fans lucky enough to secure the hottest tickets in town — to the NCAA Wrestling Championship — have people like Joe and Sandy Niebel and the Penn State Wrestling Club to thank.

It was the job of the Niebels and the wrestling club, a volunteer-based organization, to obtain extra tickets and organize the sold-out trip to New York City.

“It seems like each year it keeps growing,” Joe Niebel, trip committee chairman, said, “especially this season, with nationals in New York.”

Penn State easily sold out of its 750 allotted tickets, but the wrestling club was able to work with Madison Square Garden to secure 350 suite tickets. But there were still fans who were unable to get tickets.

“It’s a good problem to have because there’s so much interest, and that’s what makes it fun,” Joe Niebel said.

The club organizes about 6 to 8 bus trips a year, including to the Big Ten and national tournaments and big dual meets.

“This one was stressful in the beginning, just because it’s so big,” Sandy Niebel said. “But so far, so good.”

Five buses full of Penn State fans left State College on Wednesday and made their way to selected hotels in the Meadowlands. Three additional buses — eight total — were then contracted to shuttle fans between their hotels and Madison Square Garden.

The trip committee was responsible for contracting the buses, selecting hotels and researching local restaurant suggestions and attractions.

“It’s been a good experience so far and the connection between all the Penn State fans has been really good,” Joe Niebel said.

It’s the connection between the fans and the wrestlers and their families that has kept the Niebels active members of the club for 11 years.

“It’s the group of people we work with,” Joe Niebel said. “They’re very appreciative,” Sandy said.

“It’s nice to have the parents, families and friends of the wrestlers involved,” Joe said. “It just makes everyone enjoy it that much more.”

The Niebels’ enthusiasm for the sport and their involvement has even rubbed off on their son, Ben Niebel, who runs the club’s website. He kept busy during the tournament, updating information and live brackets.

In addition to what they hope will be another national championship win for the Nittany Lions, fans are also looking forward to the Penn State Wrestling Club’s post-tournament celebration social.

Typically, about 200 to 300 people attend the social, Joe Niebel said. But this year, they’ve sold 500 tickets and are nearly at capacity.

“It’s what the fans most look forward to,” he said, “getting to hear the wrestlers.”

Funds raised by the the club through membership fees, bus trips and functions, such as the social, support the Penn State wrestling program. The club raises about $80,000 to $100,000 a year for the program, Joe Niebel said.

Lauren Muthler is the assistant news editor at the CDT.

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