Wilkes University’s wrestling team will head to New York City to participate in Grapple in the Garden on November 29 at Madison Square Garden.
“It really excites me to know that we will be wrestling at such a well-known venue. There is going to be a lot of great competition and it’ll be an amazing experience for everyone,” said sophomore Dustin Zuzulock.
The Colonels will join 17 other colleges, including institutions from all three divisions of the NCAA, in the one-day event.
This year’s Grapple at the Garden will feature a total of 11 NCAA Division I programs, including five schools which placed among the top 20.
“This is our first time going to an event like this. Usually it is all the well-known, division I teams, so we are lucky to be invited. It is going to a very cool experience to wrestle somewhere as iconic as Madison Square Garden,” junior Kelly Pullen states.
Wilkes is one of the only four Division III programs to be invited to the event, and will be part of a field that includes Division I teams such as Cornell, Princeton, Rutgers, Nebraska, Maryland, George Mason and Drexel.
“It’s just a great honor for our team to be invited to such a prestigious event,” said head coach Jonathan Laudenslager.
“I expect it to be a great experience for our entire team. I believe that it’s the first time in Wilkes Athletic history that we have had a team compete in Madison Square Garden,.
Competing in an arena as big as Madison Square Garden that can hold over eighteen thousand people can be intimidating. Although that is true, the Wilkes wrestling team has competed in National Duals the last few years, so they have a wide variety of experience with wrestling big duals in front of some giant crowds.
The team has four National Qualifiers and a National Champion returning, so there is a lot of talent from last year coming back.
“Our teams greatest strength has to be that were returning the majority of our lineup. One of the benefits of returning the majority of our lineup is guys will be a year more mature,” senior Kyle Diesel explained.
Some may find it hard to stay motivated throughout the whole season. Although that is true, the Wilkes wrestling team has motivation all around them.
Zuzulock expresses, “I think our team is motivated by our previous success as well as each other. We always want to be working harder to bring championships to Wilkes, but we also have a lot of excellent competition within the room that keeps us improving as a team.”
“We all know how close we are to being a top five team in the nation and then some. I think on our best day we can actually be the best team in the nation,” Diesel adds.
For a number of college wrestling programs, the Grapple at the Garden will be the opening event for their season. However, Wilkes will have several matches beforehand that the coaches say will prepare them for the event and get their starting line-up in order.
In order to attend the event, family, friends and fans are asked to purchase one of Wilkes’s 100 allotted tickets. Each ticket comes at a cost of $20. For more information on how to purchase a ticket, please contact Colonels head coach Jon Laudenslager by email ([email protected]) or by phone (570-408-4035).