Rider University, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the city of Philadelphia literally rolled out the welcome “mat” last week for the best 330 collegiate wrestlers in the nation, as well as a record number of spectators, when they hosted the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
A new attendance record was set with a total of 104,260 fans from March 17 to 19. That bested the previous standard of 97,336, set in St. Louis in 2007. The attendance at Saturday’s finals was 17,687, just 93 short of the record, also set in St. Louis. Capacity at the Wells Fargo Center for wrestling is 19,537.
“Rider University has a strong tradition in wrestling, and we are extremely proud and excited to be the host institution for the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia,” said Don Harnum, director of Athletics at Rider, prior to the event. “We have been preparing for our role as host for the last two years and we are confident that the student athletes, coaches, and wrestling fans will have a positive experience in Philadelphia.”
The world-renowned Westminster Choir performed the National Anthem on Friday evening.
The three-day NCAA Championships also saw the three Rider grapplers who qualified for the nationals wrestle to a 5-6 record in the tournament.
“I thought all three of our kids were very competitive,” said Rider head coach Gary Taylor. “They beat some good kids. It was a good step forward.”
Sophomore Jim Resnick of Media, Pa., defeated Joe Booth of Drexel, 5-3, in the consolations Friday morning before losing, 5-1, to Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh. Resnick (21-9) went 2-2 in the tournament. Resnick defeated the 10th seed on Thursday before losing to the seventh seed.
Sophomore Zac Cibula of Luxemburg, Wisc., went 1-2 in the tournament. Cibula (28-12) lost 13-5 to Eric Terrazas of Illinois in the second round of consolations on Friday morning.
“The two sophomores gained very valuable experience,” Taylor said. “This will help them down the road. They had good seasons and both can get a lot better.”
Senior Rob Morrison of Mechanicsburg, Pa., lost 7-5 to Jacob Swartz of Boise State in the consolations Friday morning. Morrison went 2-2 in the tournament and finished his final season at Rider with a 31-9 record. In all, he won 84 matches for the Broncs.
“Robbie competed very hard out here,” said Taylor of the two-time NCAA qualifier. “I think it was a good way for him to end his senior year. Obviously he would have like to place, but he competed hard in every match. He beat some very good wrestlers and lost some close matches. I’m very proud of him and the career he had. He accomplished a lot and did a lot for our program.”
Morrison, who was ranked 20th in the nation in the final regular season rankings and was the top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association 174-pound weight class, comes from a long line of outstanding Rider wrestlers. His All-American father, Tim Morrison ’83, finished fifth at the 1983 NCAA Championships, his uncle, Dan Morrison ’82, ’87, entered 1982 NCAA championships 40-0 with 15 pins and his older brother, T.J. Morrison ’08, was four-time NCAA qualifier (2005-08).
Cibula was named the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Most Outstanding Wrestler, winning his 149-pound weight class. He was also a four-time Wisconsin high school state champion.
Resnick is a local wrestler, growing up just 10 minutes from the South Philadelphia sports complex. This was his second trip to nationals in as many seasons.