Hershey’s Giant Center set to host NCAA Championships

Brian Lukacsy February 25, 2015 0

In earlier December, 2013, the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. found out it was chosen as one of four sites that were being considered as finalists to host the Division III Wrestling Championships between the years 2015 and 2018. On December 11 of that year, the Giant Center and Elizabethtown College were notified that they were awarded the Division III Wrestling Championships for the 2015 season.

Three Blue Jays were crucial in helping bring the Wrestling National Championships to this area.

“I am very proud of the fact that Hob Kroesen (President of the Blue Jay Athletic Association), Eric Walker (Head Wrestling Coach), and I were able to successfully bring this national championship to Hershey, with Elizabethtown College as host institution,” Athletic Director Nancy Latimore said. “Once again, Blue Jay Athletics has brought positive national recognition to the College.”

The time has come and in two weeks, Etown will play host for the Wrestling Championships for the first-time ever. The Giant Center will fill up with wrestlers from all over the nation on March 13 and 14, all who have the goal of winning a national championship.

The 12,500-seat Giant Center has hosted the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association [PIAA] championships in wrestling and basketball since opening its doors October 2002, but the venue has never hosted an NCAA Championship tournament. The Giant Center is currently home to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and the Harrisburg Stampede of the Professional Indoor Football League.

The state of Pennsylvania has hosted the wrestling national championships just once since 1974 when King’s (Pa.) College and the University of Scranton co-hosted the championships at the former Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

It seemed like Hershey, Pa. was destined for a shot at host the Wrestling National Championships when it came time to bid in late 2013.

“There were many, many factors in our favor when in September 2013, we submitted the bid to host this championship,” Latimore said. “The Division III wrestling championships had not been east of the Mississippi since 2006, so the national committee was very interested in bids from the east.”

Latimore went on to say, “Pennsylvania is one of the country’s hotbeds for wrestling, so the committee knew that attendance would be high in Hershey. The National Wrestling Coaches Association’s headquarters are only 20 miles from Hershey. And, it didn’t hurt that Hershey is one of the NCAA’s corporate partners. It was a slam dunk.”

The announcement in December 2013 may not have come as a surprise to the three pioneers who helped bring the Wrestling National Championships to Hershey, Pa., but that doesn’t mean their excitement level was affected.

“Even though I knew we had a very good shot at being selected to host, it still was exciting to receive official word from the NCAA that we had been selected,” Latimore said. “It is a great opportunity for the College and especially for our Blue Jay wrestling program.”

The tournament will begin Friday morning when doors open at 9:30 a.m., with opening ceremonies kicking off the event at 10:15 a.m. The wrestling action will begin 11 a.m. on Friday with two preliminary rounds in the championship bracket and a round of consolations, which will carry into the evening when the quarterfinals of the championship bracket will take center stage at 6 p.m. Two consolation rounds will also take place at this time.

On Saturday, doors will open at 9 a.m. with the action beginning at 10 a.m. where the semifinals of the championship bracket and the consolation quarterfinals will take place. Consolation semifinals and third, fifth and seventh place matches will follow. The championships will end when the finals, which begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, finish up and the national champions of each weight class are crowned.

Wrestlers must qualify for nationals through regional tournaments, which will be held the weekend of Feb. 28-March 1. Etown will compete at the Mideast Regional, hosted by Messiah College, which features Lycoming College, Gettysburg College, and York College, as well as Messiah.

The success of the Division III Wrestling National Championships at the Giant Center will rest on having a sufficient number of volunteers. That being said, the athletic department is asking for volunteers to help out with the weekend’s event. Several volunteers are still needed to make the National Championships a success.

Students who are interested in working at the championships should contact Athletic Director Nancy Latimore as soon as possible at latimonj@etown.edu. Each volunteer will receive an NCAA championships shirt, access to the hospitality room, free parking, and the opportunity to see top-level wrestling.


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