Dual attendance remained strong among NCAA Division I programs during the 2018-19 season with a record 24 teams reporting more than 1,000 fans per home dual event.
The Iowa Hawkeyes topped the attendance charts for the 13th straight season despite a home slate that saw them host just one team that finished in the top 10 at the 2019 NCAA Division I Championships – ninth-ranked Rutgers. Penn State and Ohio State were second and third, the same spots they occupied last season. Oklahoma State returned to the top five after finishing seventh in 2017-18. Rutgers, which first averaged greater than 2,000 fans in 2014-15, remained in the top five, just behind the Cowboys.
This effort was a collaboration between Alex Steen and Jason Bryant in an effort to continue the project started by Denny Diehl of the Lehigh University Wrestling Newsletter during the 2001-02 season. To dig deeper into the numbers, please visit the Mat Talk Almanac (almanac.mattalkonline.com and search under the General College heading). The almanac site features dual-by-dual attendance numbers (in the scoreboard sections) as well as historical data.
The 24 teams averaging at least 1,000 fans per home dual date tops last year’s 23 to set a new standard. Fresno State remained in the top 10, continuing to draw excellent support as the program completed its second season since being reinstated.
Of particular note this season was the number of programs reporting attendance figures. Of the 76 Division I programs with active teams in 2018-19, 53 were able to supply this information and three more tracked attendance for at least one event. Even transitioning Cal Baptist, which is reclassifying from Division II, tracked and reported its numbers for the three duals held at the Riverside, California campus.
Considering the history of wrestling being a non-ticketed activity in many places, having more than half of the Division I programs tracking attendance is significant. The response to this year’s request for data was far greater than I have seen since I began working on this project.
Penn State boasted the highest single crowd of the season, attracting 15,703 to their dual against Michigan in the Bryce Jordan Center. This was the eighth-largest crowd ever to see a Division I wrestling dual. Two other matches boasted crowds in excess of 13,000 — Oklahoma State hosting Iowa (13,811) and Ohio State hosting Penn State (13,276).
Both are among the top 40 crowds all-time.
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Attendance Top 25 for 2018-19
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