ESPN's unprecedented coverage of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships returns this month, with the annual event's three prime-time sessions airing on ESPN, its early sessions on ESPNU and every one of the 640 matches available on ESPN3 via the ESPN App. The nearly 20 hours of competition from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh begins Thursday, March 21, continues Friday, March 22, and concludes with the sport's final day on Saturday, March 23. This year, ESPN3 will add a postgame show to its previously existing pregame show and complementary Championship night coverage, serving fans with even more content on the sport's pinnacle night.
Penn State's Dynasty Headlines NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships Storylines
Penn State seeks its fourth consecutive national championship and its eighth since 2011, as the squad competes in its home state this year. During their championship run, the Nittany Lions have helped elevate the Big Ten, the conference which has won every national championship since 2006. Additional Championships storylines:
Three-Peat: In addition to their team accomplishments, a trio of Nittany Lions are vying for their third individual national championships: Jason Nolf (157 pounds), Vincenzo Joseph (165 pounds), and Bo Nickal (197 pounds).
Head of the Class: Five wrestlers are going for their second national championship: Iowa's Spencer Lee (125 pounds), Cornell's Yianni Diakomihalis (141 pounds) Penn State's Mark Hall (174 pounds), Arizona State's Zahid Valencia (174 pound), and Ohio State's Myles Martin (184 pounds)
Return to the Steel City: The NCAA Championships return to Pittsburgh for the first time in more than 60 years, as the city last held the event in 1957.
Championship Saturday Night to Offer Prime-time Coverage on ESPN; Pregame, Postgame and Complementary Live Coverage on ESPN3
ESPN's Championship Saturday night coverage will conclude the three-day event, with the network airing each national championship match beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Simultaneously, ESPN3 will offer Off the Mat, a special program providing a combination of live matches, highlights and interviews with newly crowned champions. Off the Mat programming will also surround Championship Saturday night, as ESPN3 debuts the program as a postgame show (approximately 10 p.m.), and the it returns as a pregame show (6:30 p.m.).
Earlier in the day, ESPNU and ESPN3 will begin the final day of competition with coverage of the Medal Round at 11 a.m.
ESPN Airs Second Round and Semifinals in Prime Time; ESPNU Presents First Round and Quarterfinals
ESPN prime-time coverage begins with the Second Round on March 21, at 7 p.m., and continues with the Semifinals on March 22, at 8 p.m. On the same two days, ESPNU will air the First Round at noon and the Quarterfinals at 11 a.m.. As with all sessions, ESPN3 will offer individual feeds of each mat, including all eight mats for the first three sessions and all six mats for the semifinals.
Coverage Highlights Include:
One Screen, Multiple Mats: TV coverage will often show multiple mats at one time, with a scroll of both individual results and team standings continuously updating in real time:
Eye-Popping Graphics: High-energy graphics for multiple wrestlers:
Stay Up-to-Date: Standing updates will be provided throughout the telecasts and ESPN3 will have a standings streaming option for the most up-to-date scoring. Also, scoreboard updates will show which wrestlers are competing on which mats:
Spotlighting Pittsburgh: ESPN will spotlight the Championships' return to Pittsburgh through both video teases and still photography throughout the telecasts, capturing the most iconic elements of the city.
Reporters at Every Mat: ESPN3 will have a reporter stationed at each mat providing commentary for each specific feed to enhance the streaming experience
Join the Conversation: Fans can follow the action on Twitter through @NCAAWrestling and join the conversation by tagging their tweets #NCAAWrestling
ESPN Analysts among Most Recognized Names in the Sport
Tim Johnson: The "voice of college wrestling" returns once again to ESPN's coverage, having been a part of it for more than a decade. Johnson was named the 2007 broadcaster of the year by the National Wrestling Media Association. His broadcasting and leadership roles in the sport of wrestling span more than 30 years, including being the director of wrestling for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as the recipient of the prestigious Order of Merit award honoring a lifetime of contributions to the sport of wrestling.
Anthony Robles: Now in his eighth year as an ESPN analyst, the Arizona State graduate is a three-time All-American and a 2011 NCAA National Champion. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012 and was a Medal of Courage honoree in 2012.
Jim Gibbons: A former NCAA Wrestling Coach of the Year, he won an NCAA National Championship as the Cyclones head coach following a collegiate wrestling career where he was a three-time All-American and two-time Big Eight winner at Iowa State. He was inducted in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.
Lee Kemp: Won three NCAA National Championships as a wrestler at Wisconsin and three gold medals in the World Championships. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1990.
Billy Baldwin: The actor, a former standout wrestler at Binghamton University, will be a guest analyst throughout the three days for the third straight year. He was a leader in keeping the sport in the Olympic Games having joined USA Wrestling's Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling.
For the third consecutive year, Mike Couzens will call the action at the wrestling championships, handling all the prime-time sessions, as well as Thursday's opening round. Shawn Kenney returns to the coverage and will handle the play-by-play for the Quarterfinals and Medal Round. Quint Kessenich will be the reporter on all telecasts.
For more information on the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships: http://www.ncaa.com/wrestling.