It’s not easy to get into the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
That’s long been true for wrestlers who dream of taking to the mat at the Nationals. And, for fans who want to take in the action in person at the 2019 NCAAs in Pittsburgh this March, it may be easier to score a takedown on (insert name of your favorite college heavyweight) than to score a seat at PPG Paints Arena for college wrestling’s biggest event which takes place in just two months.
The Division I mat championships has long been a hard-to-get ticket. But this year, a combination of factors has made that ticket even more challenging for fans to get their hands on.
Why? PA Power Wrestling has taken up the challenge to get answers.
In an in-depth feature story posted Friday at the website devoted to wrestling in the state of Pennsylvania, wrestling writer Eric Knopsnyder addresses the question in the article’s headline, “Here’s What Is Causing Shortage Of NCAA Tickets in Pittsburgh.”
“Supply and demand – that’s the easiest way to sum up the issues surrounding tickets for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh this March,” according to Knopsnyder.
“Although the supply has been relatively stable over the past two decades, the demand has spiked significantly this season.”
What moved the Johnstown, Pennsylvania-based sportswriter to write?
Knopsnyder saw a tweet from University of Minnesota head coach Brandon Eggum, asking why their allotment of tickets for the 2019 NCAAs had been cut in half. The writer — who was once a Division I wrestler — took up the challenge, and contacted the NCAA for answers.
Matthew Holmes, the NCAA’s assistant director of championships and alliances for the past five tournaments, told Knopsnyder that each year, schools with Division I wrestling programs put in a request a number of tickets for the championships.
As Holmes told Knopsnyder, in past years, schools have requested a total of approximately 15,000 tickets for a venue that typically has 19,000 seats. This year, that number shot up to over 25,000 tickets … a 67 percent increase.
“That necessitated that everybody received less tickets than they normally received in their allocation,” according to Holmes.
Traditionally, most schools request 100 or fewer tickets … and the NCAA has been able to fulfill those orders. However, this year, a number of schools increased their ticket requests. So the NCAA had to come up with a new way to allocate tickets … a way that had been used in the past, based on where each team placed at the previous NCAA championships. In other words, team titlewinner Penn State would receive more tickets than any other program.
While some fans won’t be in the stands at PPG Paints Arena for the 2019 NCAAs, they may have better luck next year, as the 2020 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home to the Minnesota Vikings, with an advertised seating capacity of 66,860 … more than three times the seating capacity of most modern arenas.
A brief history on NCAA championship venues
The NCAA Wrestling Championships have grown in the number of participants and fans in their nearly 90-year history. For instance, at the very first NCAAs back in 1928, Iowa State held the event at the Armory, which had a seating capacity of approximately 2,000. Forty wrestlers from a dozen schools took to the mats.
Fast forward nearly three decades, to the 1957 NCAAs, the last time the Nationals were held in Pittsburgh. Back then, the two-day event was held at University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House, a 4,122-seat facility. That year, 63 schools sent 213 wrestlers.
Over the years, the NCAAs grew in the number of participating wrestlers … and number of seats in the host venue. For example, the 1970 NCAAs at Northwestern University welcomed nearly 400 wrestlers to an arena with 8,800 seats. For the next three decades, most NCAA championships were held in arenas with approximately 10,000-15,000 seats on college campuses. At some point, the NCAA capped the number of participating wrestlers at 330.
In the 21st century, the NCAA made the move to larger arenas with approximately 19,000 seats. At the 2018 NCAA finals, a record-setting 19,776 fans took in the action at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
PPG Paints Arena offers a seating capacity well within the standards of facilities in use for NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships for the past two decades. The arena’s official website lists a seating capacity of 19,758 for center-stage concerts, which would be a layout most similar to a typical NCAA Saturday night finals featuring floor seating.