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D1 Wrestling’s Dual Attendance Figures 2016/17 and 2017/18 Thoughts

It’s kind of odd that over the last couple of years a lot of what I hear from coaches and steering committee members is that the college dual isn’t valued and is dead. However attendance is up. There are likely many reasons for the growth in attendance: a more exciting style of wrestling is being embraced by wrestlers, coaches and schools are trying to build their brands and traditional high school powerhouse states are now becoming college powerhouse states. All of this is tapping into fans that want to follow a relevant team. I’ve seen more wrestling than the average fan. I’ve seen programs actively trying to build their brand and their program. One example is that Drexel wrestling used to be free admission but as coach Azevedo has built the program, look for them to have their highest EIWA finish in my memory this season, they are starting to monetize their duals this season.
Iowa retains the attendance title last year but with Penn State right behind them and maybe only being held back by the capacity of Rec Hall.
Rutgers attendance has jumped up since admission into the B1G and program improvements. The Jersey Battle at the Birthplace with Princeton had, 16,000 plus fans, the largest event of last season. You can find my coverage here.

So many good D1 teams are growing their attendance but some are still not drawing, Lehigh with a very good team is below a resurrected VT, SD State, UNI and Rutgers? I’ve heard plenty that their fans base was older but the Lehigh Valley is one of the top wrestling communities in the country and is ripe for the attendance picking. They just sold out the Snake Pit and knocked off 3rd ranked Michigan. They also have #1 PSU coming into the PP&L Center on December 3rd. They sit in a wrestling hot-bed and have a higher ranked team than Iowa State but it hasn’t translated into fans in the seats. Hopefully they can use this year’s team and schedule to springboard back into local relevance.
Lastly the impact of teams like Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa visiting a small school shouldn’t be under appreciated. Penn State traveling to Binghamton or Rider can sell out the gym and gain school administrators attention.
I’m not saying wrestling attendance is peaches and cream. There are still many gyms only filled with family and girlfriends but less All Americans and National Champs are wrestling in empty gyms than they were a generation ago.

Rank School Avg. Attendance
1 Iowa 9860
2 Penn State 7833
3 Ohio State 5880
4 Oklahoma State 5041
5 Rutgers 4706
6 Iowa State 3280
7 Minnesota 2715
8 Nebraska 1948
9 South Dakota State 1614
10 Northern Iowa 1603
11 Virginia Tech 1507
12 Lehigh 1485
13 Cornell 1472
14 Missouri 1377
15 Edinboro 1309
16 Michigan 1217
17 Arizona State 1045
18 NC State 1027
19 Army 1012
20 Wisconsin 955

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