For the first time in the event’s four year history, “Grapple at The Garden” will feature Oswego State’s wrestling team. The event will take place at the conclusion of Thanksgiving break on Nov. 29 at Madison Square Garden.
The news was released Sept. 24 by the Oswego State Sports Information Department on the Oswego Athletics Website.
Seventeen other colleges from all three divisions will be present at the one-day meet, including Div. I teams like Cornell, Princeton and Nebraska. Oswego State will be one of four Div. III teams invited to the venue.
MSG will also serve as the hosting place for the 2016 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships.
“I was aware of it, but never considered participating in it,” head coach Mike Howard said. That was until the organizer of the event reached out to Oswego State, asking if they would be interested.
“I thought it would be a good idea to explore the opportunity,” Howard said. “After thinking about it and talking to some of the administrators, we thought it would definitely benefit our wrestling program and obviously the student athletes.”
Howard mentioned how excited he was to be invited to a venue so renowned throughout the country and have his team exposed under the national spotlight.
“It’s huge, it’s the world’s most famous arena,” he said. “To be able to participate in an event inside of that on the floor where the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty play, to have the Oswego State wrestling program competing there is pretty special.”
Although Oswego State is a Div. III school, one of the schools they will be competing against is Div. I in wrestling. Franklin & Marshall College, located in northern Pennsylvania, which is elevated to Div. I for wrestling above the rest of their athletic programs, will be the Lakers’ first opponent on that Sunday morning at 10 a.m.
“Wrestling Franklin & Marshall is going to be a challenge for us,” Howard said.
Their second opponent that they will face is Div. III Muhlenberg College, which is located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at 12 p.m.
“They’re getting the exposure, being in the city and being in Madison Square Garden” Howard said. “Our wrestling alumni were very receptive to us coming down there. The parents are excited. The student-athletes are just thrilled about the opportunity.”
Oswego State has never gone up against either Muhlenberg College or Franklin & Marshall college, so this will be a test for them to go head-to-head with unfamiliar opponents in a neutral setting.
“We’re going to treat it like any other event,” Howard said.
With the event taking place over Thanksgiving break, Howard is going to have to work with a specific schedule to get all of his wrestlers in the same place at the same time.
“Because it’s over Thanksgiving break, we’re going to meet in Westchester County and work out down there on Friday,” Howard explained. “Instead of having the guys from downstate travel all the way back to Oswego and then get on a bus going back, we’re just going to take guys from upstate down to Westchester County.”
Howard hasn’t yet made reservations for any specific location for his team to practice in Westchester before the weekend, but said it will probably be at a local high school or gym.
“We’ve got some alums who are coaches down there and are working on securing the facility for us to work out in,” Howard said. “Then, Saturday morning we’re going to get up and get a workout in.” After that morning workout Howard is going to let his players go out and explore New York City. He said many of his players have never been to the metropolitan area.
The Lakers will have a chance to get seasoned before the tournament, with their opening matches occurring earlier in November.
According to oswegolakers.com, Oswego has allotted 100 tickets for family, friends and fans. Each ticket costs $20.