This is it, friends.
Five months ago we started this journey with our Penn State Wrestlers. At 11am ET today, Thursday, March 16th, 2017, the doors of the Scott Trade Center in St. Louis, MO open for the fans to fill the house. And at Noon ET, the NCAA turns loose 330 of the country’s best grapplers - 9 of whom are our Lions - to begin a 3-day battle royale to find out who’s the best.
It’s incredibly difficult just to get a spot in the tournament. There are more than 1,200 division 1A wrestlers who would love to be in this thing, but aren’t. They’ve already been cut out over the past 5 months. And over the next 60 hours of fighting, the fortunate 330 will have been reduced to just 10 champs.
There’s no better spectacle in sports. Welcome to Session 1 (of 6).
WHAT HAPPENS IN SESSION ONE
Three hundred thirty wrestlers - 33 in each of 10 weight classes - begin fighting at Noon. First, 10 "pigtails" get wrestled, followed immediately by the opening round matches. By 4pmET, when this first session (of 6 sessions) ends, we'll have blown through the 170 fights. Because this is a double-elimination tournament, and each wrestler gets but 1 match in this opening blast of fury, no one gets eliminated in Session One. (But wooooboy, does the hammer drop this afternoon).
Here are your 9 Nittany Lions entered in the tournament, and their first round matchups.
|PSU Nittany Lions||WT||OPPONENT|
|#3 Suriano||125||Kyle Akins (BUF)|
|UN Jimmy||141||#13 Javier Gasca (MSU)|
|#1 Zpain||149||NR Josh Maruca (ASU)|
|#1 Nolf||157||NR Thomas Bullard (NCST)|
|#3 Cenzo||165||NR Keaton Subjeck (STAN)|
|#5 Wreck Hall||174||NR David Kocer (UNI)|
|#2 Bo||184||NR Mitch Sliga (JNW)|
|#5 Mouse||197||NR Christian Brunner (PUR)|
|#5 Nevills||285||NR Vollaro (LEH) -OR- NR Parker (OHIO)|
You know to cheer the blue and white. But whom should you cheer against? The teams you should actively root against are Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Iowa (i.e., the top 3 challengers). No excuses, no refunds, no exceptions. So get excited when they lose matches. Each loss moves PSU one step closer to the big trophy.
What should you do when none of PSU, Okie State, Ohio State, or Iowa are on your screen? Great question. Excellent question. The answer is “Tier 2 Cheering”. Here are your handy rules for “Tier 2 Cheering”.
- Cheer against Pitt. This rule ought to go without saying, but just in case, and to avoid legal loopholes during prosecutions or appeals - you always cheer against Pitt. Pitt, plus the top 3 challengers, form the basis of what is popularly known as “the basket of deplorables”.
- Cheer for the PSAC schools. That’s the PA State Athletic Conference - Bloomsburg, Clarion, Edinboro, Lock Haven. They’re tiny, under-funded, teacher colleges, who are Division 2 in all sports, except wrestling. Cheer for them.
- Cheer for Army. Do you like America? Good, then cheer for Army. Go Army. Beat Navy.
- Cheer for PA high schoolers, unless they wrestle for Pitt, or one of the other deplorables. Personally, I lump Lehigh and Penn into the basket of deplorables, too. But that’s your call. Lehigh, I can see an argument for keeping them out. But Penn? Come on, man.
There you go - just 4 simple rules to live by in the wrestling game, friends.
HOW TO WATCH
Great news, friends. ESPN is broadcasting everything. You can watch all 640 individual fights. Morning sessions are on ESPNU. Evening sessions are on ESPN - the big boy pants channel. Plus, all of it - all 8 mats, at the same time - are available via ESPN3, the WatchESPN online channel.
And of course, you’re getting free audio featuring Jeff “Ironhead” Byers via GoPSUSports (scroll down the schedule, and click on the headphones icon of the appropriate session).
Now, let’s get out of the tunnel, and go pick a fight.