Around 30 years ago, there was no such thing as a wrestling match without the roars of Penn State fans echoing off the walls of the 6,000-seat Rec Hall.
And now with two duals remaining in the 2020 season, Penn State is competing in its annual Bryce Jordan Center dual on Saturday.
The 15,000 seat arena might be considered a less intimate and daunting night for the Nittany Lions to compete on, but at one point in time, it was only imaginable for those in their shoes.
In 1982, competing in a large venue that was located in State College was a dream to former Penn State wrestler John Hanrahan.
But now, the Big Ten match that takes place in the BJC once a year, is a program-changing tradition that Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions have been apart of for over 20 years.
“I think it’s exactly the perfect way to use the facility, the way Cael spaces it out, having one or two matches there on the schedule,” Hanrahan said.“It creates that demand to sell it out, set attendance records and makes it a mecca.”
Just hours after Valentines Day, according to Hanrahan, the magical feeling will continue for the Nittany Lions as it faces No. 3 Ohio State in an arena that is home away from home for Penn State.
“To us, Rec Hall was like the cathedral of wrestling,” Hanrahan said. “When I was recruited there and coach Lorenzo showed me pictures of the place being packed there was nothing better, but we wrestled in all the big venues around the country like Stabler arena, Iowa State, Oklahoma and I always kind of felt Penn State had to get one of these itself.”
It might not be Rec Hall, but with Penn State likely to have over 12,000 blue and white fans on Saturday, Hanrahan wants Cael Sanderson’s team to make sure it doesn’t underestimate the opportunity he wishes he had the chance to experience.
“I’ll pass on the advice that coach Lorenzo gave me and that is to really soak in every moment because those four years just go by so fast. Hanrahan said. “Then for these guys being able to take it to a new level at the Bryce Jordan Center, it just makes me so proud to see how the program has grown.”
Hanrahan is a two-time All-American and first Penn State wrestler to win 100 matches and considers Rec Hall his home.
It was where he had started and ended his career as a Nittany Lion.
However, Hanrahan never had the BJC dual match experience. It wasn’t until after his time as a Nittany Lion that Penn State would begin to wrestle on the raised stage under the spotlight.
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“Everyone knew back then that if we fielded the right team and had a venu like that, we would be able to fill it with all the knowledgeable, dedicated fans Pennsvylvania has,” Hanrahan said. “For us, wrestling at Rec Hall was an experience that you sometimes lose in the larger arenas and just that feeling of the fans on top of you can almost let you feel the room heat up.”
Hanrahan knew that this decision under Sanderson meant nothing less than a special addition added to the history of Penn State.
And according to Hanrahan, the opportunity to welcome the Buckeyes to the BJC this season is going to be something ‘stimulating.’
“The eyes of the world are on it,” Hanrahan said.
By saying that, Hanrahan means that this match on Saturday will affect more than just those who purchase a ticket.
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“Now that the Big Ten network is really televising so much of these Big Ten matchups, it’s just so nice for parents of kids who are new to the sport and then they turn the TV on and see their kids wrestling in the big BJC arena, it just adds more motivation to them,” Hanrahan said.
The significance of the match goes beyond the time frame that Penn State wrestlers like No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young, No. 2 Nick Lee, No. 2 Mark Hall and No. 15 Seth Nevills get to show out on the mat, on the biggest stage.
It’s perfect preparation for Penn State’s postseason.
“It adds that additional dimension for the Penn State wrestlers to prepare for the NCAA Championship because it does take place in a similar arena with 16,000 or even more people around,” Hanrahan said. “Being able to have a home arena like the BJC and put a marquee match like Penn State and Ohio state in there is just adding history to it.”