Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the Hawkeyes host Penn State (photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
New Brighton, Minnesota - The National Wrestling Media Association released its annual numbers for Division I wrestling dual meet attendance on Friday.
The COVID-19 global pandemic caused sports around the world to be forever impacted. For college wrestling in the United States, this created a system of uncertainty when it came time to return to campus to watch events in person. Even with each school seemingly having its own set of regulations and stipulations, the 2021-22 attendance numbers came back favorably as wrestling fans were in large, quick to return to their favorite venues. Attendance wasn't tracked in 2020-21 due to most venues having no-spectator policies during that season.
The University of Iowa's fanbase, leaders in Division I attendance since 2007, set a new record for home average of 14,905, selling out the entire season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes drew a total of 89,430, the second-highest home total since attendance figures started being tracked by members of the wrestling media in 2002. The numbers are based on home dual meet events, such as single duals, double duals, tri-meets or quad-meets.
In 2015-16, Iowa drew a record 97,325 fans, which was aided by the 42,287 at Kinnick Stadium in November of 2015 against Oklahoma State. Iowa has led the nation in home attendance in 19 of the 20 seasons it's been tracked.
For the 11th straight season, Penn State ranked second in attendance with the Nittany Lions drawing an average of 7,776 fans per home dual across seven home events, selling out all home events between Rec Hall and the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions' top crowd was 15,991 at the Bryce Jordan Center against Ohio State on February 2. That dual ranked sixth highest on the all-time list of most-attended duals and fourth among indoor crowds. Penn State has also sold out 61 straight home duals at Rec Hall and seven of nine at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Iowa and Penn State accounted for all seven duals during the 2021-22 season that had 10,000 fans or more. There have been 98 duals in Division I history that have broken the 10,000-fan mark.
Oklahoma State ranked third, averaging 4,631 in eight dates at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater. The Cowboys top draw was against Oklahoma to close the home schedule. The event brought in 7,918 fans. Oklahoma State was also the top road draw, with the Cowboys making up the top event for six schools. Iowa was the top road draw at five schools, while Penn State accounted for four opponents' top home crowds.
Iowa State, Rutgers, Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan, Utah Valley and Virginia Tech rounded out the Top 10.
Iowa, Penn State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State have been in the nation's top seven every year, while Rutgers has been a top-five squad with home attendance for six straight years. Minnesota's been among the nation's top 10 in attendance every year since 2002, while Ohio State's been represented in 19 of the 20 seasons, with the Buckeyes sitting in the top six every year since 2012. Despite averaging over 1,000 fans for 11 straight seasons, this past season is only the third time ever Michigan's been in the top 10, while another wrestling set of Wolverines, Utah Valley, is in the top 10 for the fourth straight year. Virginia Tech is a top-10 draw for the fourth time.
Overall, 22 schools averaged over 1,000 fans per home dual or dual event, down from 24 in the last two trackable seasons (2019 and 2020). Twelve schools drew over 1,000 fans for each of their home dual events and 117 duals drew at least four figures during the 2021-22 season. In 2019-20, 166 duals drew over 1,000, showing the impact of COVID-19-related issues with home attendance this season.
In 2021-22, 33 schools reported at least one home dual event drawing over 1,000 fans. In 2019-20, 44 schools reported crowds over 1,000.
Asterisks & Caveats: Some schools didn't allow fans for certain events. We didn't include those individual events into their totals. Some schools also ticketed for some events and not for others. Stanford, for example, ticketed just one home event and didn't track the others. Cornell had attendance capped for most events this past season. Some schools provided incomplete information. Some provided numbers of counting fans despite not being ticketed. Only duals with numbers they were able to provide were included.
Indoor dominance: Eight of the top 10 all-time single dual crowds have come at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center, and eight of the top 10 all-time indoor crowds have also come at the venue.
Methodology: Tracking the attendance figures varies by school and some schools opt to ticket for some events and not ticket for others, making the numbers an imperfect science. This is for dual meet events only, not tournaments hosted by schools.
Nothing to see here: Appalachian State, Army West Point, Bellarmine, Bloomsburg, Bucknell, California Baptist, Campbell, Davidson, Duke, Gardner-Webb, George Mason, Harvard, Hofstra, North Carolina, Northern Illinois, Ohio and VMI reported they didn't track wrestling attendance, didn't track it this season, or the sport was a non-ticketed event, so there were no numbers to report. Brown, Columbia, LIU, Presbyterian, SIUE and The Citadel didn't respond to numerous requests for information.
Showing your work: Of the 79 schools surveyed, 55 schools responded with figured with 52 of them showing individual home match figures. Three provided number of dates and an average. There were 17 schools that reported they don't track attendance, while six schools didn't reply to numerous requests for information at all.
Background: The National Wrestling Media Association assumed the role of collection of the attendance figures in 2017. Denny Diehl of the Lehigh University Wrestling News began tracking in 2002. TheOpenMat.com's Alex Steen handled the compilation from 2015-2016.