WILKES-BARRE — In the year 1948, the cost of a gallon of gas was 16 cents, a loaf of bread was 14 cents and the 109th Field Artillery Armory — better known as the Kingston Armory — was the epicenter of wrestling in Pennsylvania as the PIAA Wrestling Championships were held in the Wyoming Valley.
Now, for the first time in 66 years, a high school wrestling event will be held at the historic venue when it hosts the District 2 Wrestling Championships. The duals tournament is slated for Feb. 1, while the individual championships are set for Feb. 20-21.
Both classifications will be held simultaneously as opposed to the previous format when Class 2A and 3A were held at separate venues.
The agreement was formally announced at the facility on Thursday with members of the District 2 committee and the armory present.
“Obviously we’re very excited about being at a venue where we can combine both Double-A and Triple-A classifications,” District 2 Wrestling Chair Jay Starnes said. “It’s been a dream of ours as a wrestling committee, and the area, to have the best wrestling at District 2 under the same roof.
“And finally, finding a venue with the history of wrestling here of hosting the state championships at one point and being in Wilkes-Barre, which has a deep history in wrestling, just made it an ideal location.”
Starnes added that he was grateful for the services offered by Hazleton Area and Lake-Lehman for hosting the events in the past, but this was an opportunity they couldn’t pass on.
There are plenty of perks to having both tournaments being held at the same time and same venue, like many other districts.
• Next weekend at the D2 Duals Tournament, fans won’t have to choose between possibly seeing plenty of upsets in the Class 2A event over watching a possible titanic clash between Delaware Valley and Wyoming Valley West in Class 3A.
• For the individual tournament, it allows fans the opportunity to possibly see Lake-Lehman’s Austin Harry make history in winning his fourth straight District 2 Class 2A gold. They will also have the chance to perhaps witness two state qualifiers from 2013 go at it for D2 Class 3A gold if Wyoming Valley West’s Travis Roper and Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer square off again.
• Cost will be $6 for adults and $4 for students for both events for all day. In the past, venues would close after the consolation rounds concluded, re-open for the finals and consolation finals, and fans would have to pay another admission.
• Pat Patte, the D2 wrestling co-chair brought up a good point about wrestlers being able to see their friends at other schools participate.
“They’ve gone to tons of tournaments where they’ve wrestled against each other and watched each other so it gives them an opportunity to see their friends wrestle,” he said.
More than willing
Captain Cliff Morales, the armory’s commander, has been extremely helpful to the district, and many D2 members praised him for his work as hammering out all the details entailed countless interactions.
The National Guard is also helping out by supplying the majority of the mats for each event and will also have banners with school logos made for all 24 participating teams.
“It’s a great honor to have a community event back here,” Morales said. “The armory has done things with the community for years. … Kids from 2 to 80 know about this place from the (Irem Shrine) circus so when the district approached me about this, I thought it was one of the greatest ideas ever. The building has been here and open to the public since 1929, so I want to make sure we continue to do things with the public here.”
View from above
Approximately 1,500 fans are expected to attend each event and the armory can hold much more than that.
There is a view from the balcony where there are 800 seats available. Another 400-500 seats will be bleachers and handicap accessible seating on the floor. When standing room only is factored in, the capacity is more than 5,000.
What does the future hold?
With that much accessibility available, there’s a possibility that the district looks into having a Northeast Regional Tournament held at the facility. District 2 Chairman Frank Majikes said that the PIAA staff has been invited to check out the tournament on one of the days in hopes that hosting a larger event becomes a reality.
Patte, and other district committee members would love to see that happen.
“That’s what we hope it’s going to lead into because we’re going to be the test area for it,” Patte said. “We want to get our tournament up and running and it’d be great to be able to offer (the opportunity) to the state and give them options of coming here. Not only for our student-athletes, but for the community, too.”
District 2 also works with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and holds the baseball championships at one venue on the same day. The committee is looking for ways to incorporate the method for baseball and wrestling with other sports as well.