D2 wrestling has new home

BY EVAN KORN
Times-Shamrock Writer

For the first time in more than 20 years, the District 2 Wrestling Championships will be contested under one roof.

At the District 2 committee meeting on March 20, wrestling chairman Jay Starnes announced that the 109th Field Artillery Armory would host the 2014 Class AAA and AA championships.

For the past several years, Hazleton Area (AAA) and Lake-Lehman (AA) were the respective hosts. Starnes said the change to one venue was years in the making and will be a more cost-efficient, fan-friendly alternative.

“It’s something we’ve talked about for, I suppose, seven or eight years,” Starnes said. “To go to a venue where both AA and AAA can be together… we have great wrestlers in both classifications and unfortunately the distance between Hazleton and Lake-Lehman prohibited our fans from being able to see both tournaments.

“We’ve had gracious hosts in the past. Hazleton and Lehman both did outstanding jobs. There were no reasons to leave those two venues other than they weren’t big enough to have everyone together.”
Lake-Lehman wrestling coach Tom Williams said he understood the committee’s decision.

“We’ll miss having it at Lehman,” Williams said. “I think we put on a pretty good show there, but if this moves the sport forward in the Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2, that’s a good thing. Hopefully, this will promote the sport and bring out good crowds. If that’s the case, it will be a positive thing.”

The Kingston Armory also will host the District 2 Duals, which traditionally take place three weekends before the individual championships. Starnes said he wasn’t sure whether the duals would remain a two-day tournament or become a one-day affair.

As for the individual championships, Starnes said the format will be unchanged. It will be contested over two days, beginning Friday with the opening rounds. The championship matches in AAA and AA are scheduled to go off at the same time Saturday evening.

The Kingston Armory floor will be split in half with four mats apiece for AAA and AA, although Starnes said they would have space for two additional mats if needed.

To compensate for poor sight lines on the balcony level, temporary bleachers will be added on the floor. Starnes said the committee explored having the tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena, but that would have been cost-prohibitive. King’s, Wilkes and The University of Scranton have large enough venues but were unable to guarantee availability.

Starnes said the prerequisites for hosting the tournament were space for at least eight mats and the capacity to hold 1,000-1,200 fans.

“I don’t know why we didn’t consider the armory before this,” Starnes said. “It turned out to be a large enough venue and management of the armory was very interested in co-hosting it with us. It just worked out to be a great fit.”

The Kingston Armory has a tradition of hosting significant high school wrestling events, including the PIAA Championships in 1947 and 1948.

In 2014, a new tradition will begin.