Madison Square Garden is hosting it’s first NCAA championships.
There also will be another first.
On Saturday, all 20 finalists will take part in a live weigh in that fans can purchase tickets to attend.
The contestants are set to weigh in unofficially on the scales once used by Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for their “Fight of the Century” heavyweight boxing title bout in 1971. There also will be preview videos played for each of the 10 finals matchups.
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It’s part of a two-hour preview show for the finals inside Madison Square Garden’s theatre. The competitors will be interviewed by Takedown Wrestling’s Scott Casber, Big Ten Network’s Shane Sparks and Oklahoma State’s play-by-play announcer A.L. Haizlip, and finalists will take part in a 30-minute autograph session.
Several wrestling legends also are set to attend.
▪ Dan Gable, Iowa wrestling coach from 1976-1997, 15 NCAA team titles, career record of 355-21-5
▪ Pat Smith, first four-time NCAA Champion in collegiate history, wrestled for Oklahoma State from 1990-1994
▪ Stephen Neal, two-time NCAA Champion and four-time All-American, wrestled for Cal State Bakersfield from 1996-1999, world freestyle champion, three-time Super Bowl champion with New England Patriots
▪ Ed Banach, three-time NCAA Champion and four-time All-American, wrestled for Iowa from 1980-1983, 1984 Olympic gold medalist
▪ Frankie Edgar, former UFC light heavyweight champion, four-time NCAA qualifier for Clarion University
▪ Kyle Dake, third four-time NCAA Champion along with Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, Cornell wrestler from 2010-2013
Catching up with Schultz
The NCAA Tournament is the finale for most collegiate wrestlers. For others, it’s just the stepping stone towards Olympic and international competition.
One of those who found more success is Mark Schultz, a three-time NCAA champion who went on to win a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.
Schultz’s older brother, Dave, also won a gold medal that year and is also a NCAA champion. They both were having stellar wrestling careers until Dave’s life was cut short.
Dave was murdered by John du Pont, who is known to be the richest murder in American history. Du Pont was known for starting the Foxcatchers — a privately-funded wrestling team that Dave Schultz helped coach.
The younger Schultz was in New York City for the NCAA championships and said it couldn’t be a better host.
“This is about the biggest venue you can have,” he said. “You can’t beat New York City when it comes to having the NCAAs, especially Madison Square Garden.”
ESPN has even increased its coverage as well, showing sessions live on ESPNU while also streaming video of each of the mats online.
According to Schultz, it’s past due for the fourth-highest revenue generating event for the NCAA.
“I’ve always thought ESPN should ramp up the coverage but of course I’m biased,” Schultz said. “It’s just to bad that at the individual college level it’s not supported. At the NCAA level, it is supported incredibly because it is such a huge event.”
The state of wrestling
Agriculture may be Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry, but it’s followed closely by wrestling.
Pennsylvania had 63 athletes competing in this year’s NCAA Championship, far more than any other state. The next closest is Ohio with 31.
Those 63 wrestlers included Penn State’s Jordan Conaway, of Abbotstown; Zain Retherford, of Benton; Geno Morelli, of DuBois; Nico Megaludis, of Murraysville; and Jimmy Gulibon, of Latrobe.