When it was announced the the Team State Finals would be relocating to Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, the decision was met with skepticism from many in the wrestling community. We even published an article breaking down the move and debating whether or not it was a good idea.
After two days in Kzoo, it's clear that not only was the move acceptable, but it may quite possibly be the perfect spot to host the Team State tournament. All weekend coaches and fans expressed their overwhelming approval and the MHSAA deserves to be applauded for their foresight.
If you weren't able to attend, here are ten things that made Wings Event Center a special place to host the Team Final. Also be sure to listen to Dan Hutcheson, Assistant Director for the MHSAA, to hear his thoughts on this year's final and what to expect next weekend and moving forward.
One of the biggest and most important changes to the Team State was having ten warm up mats for teams to use before their matches. It was an upgrade from Mt. Pleasant, which had a few, and especially Battle Creek, where teams basically had ten minutes to split one mat and try to get loose.
The biggest surprise of the weekend was the fact that the wrestlers competed on an elevated platform. Virtually no one knew this was coming, but what a great addition. It made it easy to see from anywhere and from the wrestler's standpoint, there's nothing cooler than competing on a stage. The other cool thing bout the platform is that the teams marched on either side and faced off across the mat, rather than stacked on top of each other in a line.
Wings Event Center featured a large section designated for teams to use for food tables. This made it easy for wrestlers to refuel after weigh-ins in a more stress-free way than in the past. It was right next to the weigh-in area and there was ample room for everyone to be housed.
The parking was free and easy for everyone over the weekend. While it's something that almost goes unnoticed, it was a fantastic element that the layout of the arena afforded to the fans.
Trackwrestling on the Jumbotron
Mt. Pleasant was the first venue of seeing Trackwrestling on a screen with the names of wrestlers. The only issue was that it was at one end of the arena and difficult to see from a distance. Wings Event Center had a massive screen in the center of the arena so that everyone could see it, adding another positive facet to the fan experience.
Huge Venue with Room to Grow
The official capacity of the arena is 5,113 and while the crowd did not reach that, it's definitely a possibility in the near future. Fans were comfortably fit inside with enough room for the athletes to be separated from the crowd. From a size standpoint, it's hard to imagine a more perfect venue for Team State.
Flow of Traffic and Tournament Liaisons
The MHSAA tournament staff did a phenomenal job of directing everyone, both fans and teams alike, as to where to go and where they were supposed to be. It made it easy for everyone to figure out the new venue and get acquainted with the change.
Jeff McGinness Tribute
Longtime finals National Anthem singer, Jeff McGinness, who passed away last spring was honored with a tribute before the quarterfinals rounds. A recorded version of his rendition was played for every round in a total class move by the MHSAA. It's not the Team State without his presence.
Music Between Rounds
DJ Jeff Schildroth did a great job of keeping the energy level high in between rounds with music. As soon as the rounds were completed he was on the ones and twos getting ready for the next group to get going. It was a great element that we'll see next weekend as well.
Info During Matches
While not a new addition, special mention must be given to Cory Kuzinski and Jeff Chaney for keeping the crowd informed of matches to watch in real time. Their knowledge of the athletes allowed everyone to know ranked matchups, rematches, and much more which makes it easy and fun to follow as a fan.