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Your go-to guide to 2019 NCAA host city, Pittsburgh

Photo/VisitPittsburgh.com

Pittsburgh: Home to the Steelers ... the Pirates ... the Penguins ... and, for three days this March, home to the biggest college wrestling event of the year, the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

The 2019 NCAAs will start Thursday morning, March 21 and conclude Saturday evening, March 23 at PPG Paints Arena in downtown Pittsburgh.

The greater Pittsburgh area has a rich tradition of wrestling success at all levels, going back decades. However, it's been more than six decades since the Nationals had been last hosted in what was then known as Steel City ... the 1957 NCAAs at the University of Pittsburgh. (More about that later.)

Whether you've never been to Pittsburgh -- or the last time was driving your brand-new '57 Chevy to the Nationals at Pitt -- InterMat thought you might appreciate a little help to make your trip even more of a winner.

Getting there

Pittsburgh is in far western Pennsylvania, within a day's drive of millions of amateur wrestling fans. The city is just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- one of the nation's main east-west routes -- as well as major highways such as I-70, I-76 and I-79.

Pittsburgh International Airport is about 20 miles west of downtown. To get from the airport to the city, just take I-376 East through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and over the Monongahela River into the heart of downtown.

Once you arrive downtown, two places where you'll find fellow college wrestling fans in Pittsburgh are the PPG Paints Arena ... and the NCAA Fan Fest at the David H. Lawrence Convention Center. Both are located in downtown Pittsburgh, just a few blocks apart.

PPG Paints Arena: Home to mat action

The venue for the 2019 NCAAs is PPG Paints Arena at 1001 Fifth Ave. on the east side of downtown. First opened in 2010 as Consol Energy Center, this facility which is normally the home of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins -- along with everything from rock concerts to WWE events -- has a seating capacity of approximately 19,700 fans. Check out the arena before you arrive by visiting the venue's official website which includes info on food and beverage choices, parking and more.

NCAA Fan Fest at the convention center

When you're not taking in the wrestling action at the 2019 NCAAs at PPG Paints Arena, you'll want to be sure to drop by NCAA Fan Fest. Located at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center at 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. -- an easy walk from the arena -- NCAA Fan Fest has plenty of attractions of interest to real wrestling fans. Plus it's an unbeatable place to relax, meet friends, grab a drink, a bite to eat and be entertained by wrestling presentations, exhibits, clinics, match replays and other live sports in between championship sessions. Best of all, it's all free.

One of the main attractions at NCAA Fan Fest is the WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show. An NCAA championships tradition for nearly 30 years, the WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show features a superstore of wrestling gear and other items, along with memorabilia and historical items. Plus you might just run into some all-time great wrestling legends.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame will also set up shop at NCAA Fan Fest. This year, the Hall will have an exhibit featuring three-time NCAA champions from Pennsylvania colleges ... along with Keystone State natives Nate Carr and Greg Jones who won their national titles at Iowa State and West Virginia, respectively.

While in Pennsylvania's second-largest city, might as well meet some of the Keystone State's all-time mat greats. Catch the presentation on the Main Stage at Fan Fest which pays tribute to some of the greatest wrestlers from Pennsylvania. Panelists include NCAA champs Nate Carr and David Taylor, along with Erin Tomeo Vandiver, head women's wrestling coach at Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary. That presentation, moderated by Pennsylvania wrestling historian Tom Elling, will be followed by an autograph session featuring these panelists as well as other mat greats from the Keystone State.

And, while at Fan Fest, check out the must-see, in-person demonstration of the Resilite ShotSled ... a unique new tool for your wrestling room to help wrestlers focus on enhancing their initial power and penetration habits -- and break right through an opponent on the way to scoring a takedown.

Thursday, March 21
  • 3:00-7:00 p.m.: NCAA Fan Fest
  • 3:00-7:00 p.m.: WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show
  • 3:45-4:30 p.m.: National Wrestling Hall of Fame Pennsylvania Wrestling Greats -- Panel Discussion
  • 4:30-5:00 p.m.: National Wrestling Hall of Fame Pennsylvania Wrestling Greats -- Autograph Session
  • 4:30-5:45 p.m.: USA Wrestling Practice

    Friday, March 22
  • 2:00-7:30 p.m.: NCAA Fan Fest
  • 2:00-7:30 p.m.: WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show
  • 3:15-3:25 p.m.: Resilite ShotShed Demonstration
  • 3:30-4:15 p.m.: All-Star Autograph Session -- Dan Gable, Bruce Baumgartner, Carlton Haselrig
  • 3:30-4:45 p.m.: USA Wrestling Practice
  • 4:45-5:25 p.m.: NWCA Coaches Clinic featuring Kyle Dake
  • 5:30-6:30 p,m.: Semifinals Preview Show featuring Jordan Burroughs

    Saturday, March 23
  • 1:00-6:30 p.m.: NCAA Fan Fest
  • 1:00-6:30 p.m.: WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show
  • 2:30-3:45 p.m.: USA Wrestling Practice
  • 3:45-4:15 p.m.: USA Wrestling Autograph Session
  • 4:15-5:15 p.m.: USA Wrestling vs. Wyoming Seminary -- Women's Dual

    Note: All times Eastern (local). Times, participants and other aspects subject to change without notice.

    Beyond the NCAAs and Fan Fest ...

    Arriving in Pittsburgh early ... or staying in the city after the 2019 NCAAs are history? Here are some uniquely Pittsburgh area attractions you may want to check out:

  • The Inclines: Pittsburgh is a city of hills. One old-school way to see the city and its three rivers from up high is by riding one of the city's two historic inclines which offer spectacular views.

  • Duquesne Incline: 1197 Carson Street. (412) 381-1665.

  • Monongahela Incline: 8 Grandview Avenue, near the Station Square hotel/shopping/entertainment complex.

  • Roberto Clemente Museum: A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming both the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined. He was killed in a plane crash on his way to deliver humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in December 1972. 3339 Penn Ave. To schedule a tour, call (412) 621-1268 or email info@clementemuseum.com.

  • Andy Warhol Museum: Bet you didn't know that one of the leading artists of the mid-20th century -- that guy that gave us paintings of Campbell Soup cans, Marilyn Monroe and other pop art -- was a Pittsburgh native. The largest collection of Warhol's work in the world. 117 Sandusky St. (412) 237-8300.

    Go-to resources to get more from your Pittsburgh trip

    Here are some unbeatable sources for more information about the host city of the 2019 NCAAs:

  • VisitPittsburgh.com: Has just about everything you could want, including a digital version of their traditional printed Visitors' Guide with info on eateries and entertainment, attractions, more.

  • Port Authority: Get info on the public transit system for Greater Pittsburgh including buses and the T, the light-rail transit system. The website features a handy trip planner to show you the smartest way to get from Point A to Point B.

  • Pittsburgh International Airport: Website has a wealth of info to help speed you through the airport and into the city, including TSA security wait times, parking information, and airport maps.

  • Visitor Centers: There are two in downtown Pittsburgh where you can visit to pick up brochures and maps, and talk to someone who has the answers to your questions. Fifth Avenue Place: 120 Fifth Avenue | David L. Lawrence Convention Center/East Lobby: 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.

    Then and now: 1957 vs. 2019

    The last time the NCAA Wrestling Championships were in Pittsburgh was more than six decades ago. The 1957 NCAAs were held at Fitzgerald Field House on the campus of University of Pittsburgh. Let's compare then -- and now -- by the numbers. The Field House could seat 4,100; the PPG Paints Arena has a seating capacity nearly five times greater. Back in '57, 213 wrestlers took to the mats at the Nationals ... compared to 330 this year. Today's fans will enjoy three big days of action, compared to just two days 62 years ago.

    What were the big stories to come out of the 1957 NCAAs?

    For local color, you couldn't beat the Peery family: Pitt head coach Rex Peery, and sons Hugh and Ed who wrestled for dear old dad. Ed won the 123-pound title in his home gym -- his third NCAA crown, joining brother Hugh (115-pound champ for Pitt, 1952-54) and dad Rex (118-pound titlewinner for Oklahoma State, 1933-35) as the first and only family to have won a total of nine national mat titles.

    More history was made at the 147-pound finals, as Simon Roberts of the University of Iowa became the first African-American to win an NCAA title.

    And a truly historic collegiate career concluded in Pittsburgh when "Dangerous" Dan Hodge won his third 177-pound title for the Oklahoma Sooners, wrapping up a perfect 46-0 overall record, with an incredible 36 falls. Hodge was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament for the second straight year ... then, a couple weeks later, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the only time an amateur wrestler has been featured on the cover of the iconic sports weekly as a wrestler in its more than 65-year history. (And, yes, this is the same Dan Hodge whose name graces the Hodge Trophy given each year to the nation's most dominant college wrestler.)
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