Covelli Center: Creating a Competitive Home-mat Advantage for Ohio State Wrestling

By Andy Vance on February 13, 2020 at 9:05 am
Covelli Center
Ohio State University Athletics

Ohio State's senior day in Covelli Center drew a capacity crowd to the Buckeyes' newest competition venue, as 4,657 fans were on hand to see Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore wrestle their final home matches in a 28-10 win over Northwestern.

It was the most-attended meet of the season, and highlighted one of the goals the Buckeyes achieved in building a new home for the wrestling program: creating an incredible home-mat environment.

"This is the biggest crowd we've had," head coach Tom Ryan said after the meet. "There were no tickets left, and that's a tribute to how much this region loves wrestling and loves the Buckeyes."

Covelli Center: Year 1
Date Matchup Crowd
Nov. 10 No. 3 Ohio State vs. Stanford 3,598
Nov. 17 No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech 3,617
Dec. 1 No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 17 Cornell 4,078
Jan. 6 No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Arizona State 4,132
Jan. 10 No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 24 Rutgers 4,263
Jan. 19 No. 4 Ohio State vs. Illinois 4,236
Jan. 31 No. 3 Ohio State vs. Maryland 4,359
Feb. 9 No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 23 Northwestern 4,657
  Average Attendance 4,118

Ryan said ticket demand was so strong that student-athletes not competing or participating in senior day activities were moved up the "upper deck" outside the program offices, and their seats sold to fans who wanted to see the last home meet of the season.

According to Ohio State's ticketing office, Covelli's official seating capacity is 4,177, so anything beyond that is considered a sell-out. The meet versus Northwestern was the fourth sold-out meet in a row, and the program sold every last "standing room only" ticket as well for the home finale.

"Shout-out to the crowd, definitely a difference throughout the season," Ryan said of the swell of team support.

Prior to this season Ohio State wrestled in historic St. John Arena, with an occasional marquee dual in recent years contested inside Value City Arena. The program has already confirmed eight home duals next season, with the possibility of wrestling Iowa or Penn State at the Schottenstein Center to capitalize on the additional demand those powerhouse opponents generate.

According to data compiled by the Mat Talk Almanac, in Tom Ryan's debut season at Ohio State (2006-2007), the Buckeyes averaged 1,064 attendees at six duals held in St. John. In other words, there were roughly 12,000 empty seats in the stands at the average dual that year.

Last season Ohio State was third in the country in average attendance, behind perennial top-draw Iowa and multi-year national champ Penn State. The Buckeyes drew 5,817 fans to 6 duals, but if you pull out the 13,276 who filled The Schott for the Penn State dual, the average drops to 4,325... in other words, pretty close to a capacity crowd at Covelli.

From 2002 to 2017, the largest crowd to watch Ohio State wrestle a dual meet in St. John was around 6,500 – roughly 50% capacity. In 2017 the program hosted Penn State in the Schottenstein Center and drew 15,338, a feat it would repeat the following season versus Iowa (15,117); Penn State drew 13,276 last season.

With The Schott just down Fred Taylor Drive, the program has the option of drawing those larger crowds for the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions, and will likely do so at least once next season when one or both of those programs come to Columbus.

But for the rest of the schedule, having capacity crowds in Covelli provides an enhanced attendee experience in addition to creating a competitive environment for the home team than does a half- or three-quarters-empty St. John Arena.

Ohio State Wrestling Attendance, 2001-2020
Year National
Meets Total
Largest Crowd
01-02 12 5 6,500 1,300 2,472 (Iowa)
02-03 11 5 4,729 946 1,515 (Minnesota)
03-04 9 4 5,611 1,522 1,864 (Michigan)
05-06 8 5 6,717 1,343 3,022 (Minnesota)
06-07 15 6 6,385 1,064 2,354 (Missouri)
07-08 5 5 13,406 2,681 5,341 (Michigan)
08-09 9 6 9,309 1,552 3,146 (Purdue)
09-10 7 6 10,934 1,822 3,000 (Penn State)
10-11 10 5 7,606 1,521 2,765 (Michigan)
11-12 3 5 15,631 3,126 5,684 (Iowa)
12-13 4 5 14,169 2,834 6,518 (Penn State)
13-14 6 4 9,544 2,386 4,412 (Michigan)
14-15 4 6 26,321 4,387 6,558 (Penn State)
15-16 4 5 19,254 3,685 5,650 (Wisconsin)
16-17 3 4 23,520 5,880 15,338 (Penn State)
17-18 3 4 26,723 6,681 15,117 (Iowa)
18-19 3 6 34,900 5,817 13,276 (Penn State)
19-20 TBD 8 32,940 4,118 4,657 (Northwestern)

*Table data source: Mat Talk Almanac and Ohio State University Athletics

Consider the example of a late-season meet versus Northwestern. While the Wildcats were ranked in the Top 25 of the Coaches Poll heading into the meet, they are not generally considered one of the sport's blue blood programs. The last time Northwestern came to wrestle at Ohio State (2011), average attendance was just over 1,500, and the biggest meet of the year drew fewer than 2,800 fans.

Nine years later and nearly 4,700 spectators show up, more than double the number that turned up for the same meet in 2011. Penn State and Iowa will always draw a crowd; for meets against teams like Northwestern or Maryland, on the other hand, creating a more intimate, fan-friendly atmosphere is expected to lead to a better experience for fan and athlete alike, which is, in turn, better for the growth of the sport and the program.

Even without a marquee opponent like the Hawkeyes or Nittany Lions, the Buckeye wrestling program still had it's second-largest total attendance of the past two decades, with nearly 33,000 total tickets sold across an eight-meet home schedule. Add a dual or two in The Schott each season, and Ohio State's home-mat advantage should consistently be one of the best in the country.

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