New Jersey scholastic wrestling fans got their wish on Wednesday when NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko announced the association’s Individual Wrestling Championships will be held at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City for the next three years.
However, it is still to be determined whether the wrestlers themselves will actually benefit this year by that decision.
The rampant speculation during the past week the tournament was going to wind up at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford because Boardwalk Hall has booked a Lady Gaga concert, according to the singer’s website, on March 2, had caused major angst amongst the state wrestling community. Timko said the state tournament will take place March 8-10, a week later than the March 1-3 dates the NJSIAA had announced last winter because of the Lady Gaga concert.
When it comes to what is the best venue for the tournament, it is no contest. Boardwalk Hall and Atlantic City win hands down.
Wrestling fans all over the state look forward to the state tournament every year because they make a mini family vacation out of spending the first weekend in March in Atlantic City. They will make a mini vacation out of spending the second weekend in March Atlantic City this year.
Once in Atlantic City, wrestling fans are within easy walking or driving distance, depending on whether they stay in town or outside of town, of Boardwalk Hall.
Fans can park their car in the parking garage at Boardwalk Hall, walk up to the arena and watch the wrestling.
Then, once they leave the arena, they can walk right out onto the Atlantic City boardwalk and find a place to eat and go into one of the casinos.
Having the tournament at Boardwalk Hall has especially been critical after the Saturday morning session because fans can leave their cars in the garage and go out onto the boardwalk during the three hours between the Saturday morning and evening session.
None of this would have been possible had the tournament been held at the IZOD Center. After the Saturday morning session at the IZOD Center, fans would likely have had to leave the premises between sessions to find a place to eat and then they would likely would have had to pay for parking for a second time on the day.
Boardwalk Hall is also a much better atmosphere for the wrestling itself. In recent years, a combined 40,000 tickets have been sold for the four sessions of the tournament.
In Boardwalk Hall, a crowd of 10,000 fills the place and makes it electric. At the close to 20,000-seat IZOD Center, a crowd of 10,000 would have still meant the place was half empty. The atmosphere is way too antiseptic at the IZOD Center, a facility which does not host many sporting events anymore with the NBA Nets, NHL Devils and Seton Hall University’s men’s basketball team all playing their games at other venues.
But, while the vast majority of wrestling fans are happy this morning, there are major concerns for the wrestlers.
For starters, what is the schedule going to look like? Will wrestlers have to hold weight for 13 days between the end of the eight region tournaments to the state tournament? If that’s the case, that could be a recipe for disaster. It is a pretty good bet some wrestlers will not be able to maintain their weight and then not make weight for the tournament itself.
Timko said he will convene a meeting of the association’s wrestling committee later this month to determine the schedule for the association’s 32 district tournaments and the region tournaments.
Common sense would be to push everything from the state team tournament to the district tournaments to the region tournaments back a week and add an extra week to the dual-meet season.
But, that is easier said then done. Schedules are done well in advance. Facility availability for the state team tournament, district tournaments and region tournaments could become an issue.
Having the tournament at Boardwalk Hall is more desirable than the IZOD Center, but making sure the schedule is good for the wrestler has to be first and foremost.