It was a big weekend for the Penn State wrestling team. The Nittany Lions captured the Big Ten championship.
In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at Penn State’s latest championship. We’ll also feature Part II of ‘A Great Day for Hockey.’
When Penn State hired legend Cael Sanderson as its wrestling coach, fans believed that the coach would lead the Lions to many titles.
They just had no idea how quickly he’d get one.
On the final day of the Big Ten championships on Sunday, the Nittany Lions went 5-0 in the championship round to claim the university’s first-ever wrestling championship.
While the Lions had five champions, Clearfield Area High School graduate Brad Pataky wasn’t among them. Nonetheless, Pataky still had a great tournament.
Pataky entered the tournament as the fourth seed. He opened up the 125-pound bracket with a first round match-up against Michigan State’s Eric Olanowski. Pataky rolled to an easy 15-0 technical fall win at the seven-minute mark.
Pataky faced 5th-seed Sean Boyle of Michigan and lost a tough 9-5 decision.
Pataky met Ohio State’s Bo Touris in the second round of consolations and picked up more bonus points, posting a 17-2 technical fall over the Buckeye at the 4:57 mark. Pataky then met Wisconsin’s Tom Kelliher in the third round of consolations. Kelliher was the 8th-seed. Pataky led 2-1 with just seconds left but Kelliher worked his way out of a scramble for a last second takedown and a 3-2 win. The loss sent Pataky into the seventh place bout.
In the seventh place bout, Pataky picked up huge bonus points for Penn State, tech falling MSU’s Olanowski again, this time by a 16-1 (4:59) score. Pataky went 3-2 during the tourney and will now await an at-large bid during Wenesday night’s selection show.
‘A Great Day for Hockey’: Part II
(Editor’s note: In part one of ‘A Great Day for Hockey,’ we looked at the gift from Terry Pegula that is bringing a new hockey arena to Penn State University). In Part II, we take a closer look at how the landscape changed that day.)
On September 17, 2010, a news conference was held to officially announce Pegula’s gift. He was joined by Battista, Penn State president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley. Battista’s dream had become reality.
At the news conference, it was announced that the unnamed arena would open for the 2014-15 season or earlier. It will have two rinks and is expected to seat between 5,000 and 6,000 fans.
Spanier made it official.
“I have the honor of announcing a new turning point for Penn State, made possible by an unprecedented act of philanthropy,” Spanier says. “Terry and Kim Pegula have committed the largest private gift in the university’s history, to fund a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arena and to help establish an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program.”
It was announced that the new facility will be located on the north side of Holuba Hall along University Drive, across the street from the Bryce Jordan Center and to the south east of the Shields Building.
“We’re not going to have the biggest college hockey arena,” Battista says. “Our goal is to make it the best.”
Curley is excited to add two more Division I teams to an athletic department that continues to grow.
“This is a banner day in the history of our great university, our athletic program, college hockey and our great community,” Curley says. “Penn State students, student athletes, faculty, staff, alumni and the many wonderful communities throughout central Pennsylvania will enjoy this gift for years to come.”
Former Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Craig Patrick believes that the arena will give talented Pennsylvania players another option instead of traveling out of state to play Division I hockey.
“I think it’s a great day for hockey and Penn State,” Patrick says. “I think it’s just super. I am sure Penn State will be able to get quite a few western Pennsylvania players to come here now to play hockey since this is going to be a Division I program.”
In addition to helping Penn State move to Division I hockey, the arena will be another jewel on a campus that features Beaver Stadium, the Bryce Jordan Center and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
However, unlike those facilities, the new arena will open its doors for youth leagues, rec leagues and the general public.
“This isn’t just about varsity hockey. If you’re a local football player, a local basketball player or a local baseball player, you don’t get to play at the Bryce Jordan Center, Lubrano Park or Beaver Stadium. In this facility, the ice that the varsity team will play on, the general public can skate on,” Battista says. “I can’t emphasize this enough: This is a facility that will serve Centre County 365 days a year, seven days a week, 14 to 18 hours a day. That’s pretty exciting.”
Once the arena is built, Battista predicted that there will be a boon in youth hockey leagues in Centre County. Open ice time was somewhat limited at the Penn State Ice Pavillion. However, with two sheets of ice, there should be more time for rec teams and the like.
“One of these days, in these hills of Pennsylvania, maybe we can find a Pennsylvania (Sidney) Crosby,” Pegula says. “Hopefully, he’ll like our facility and he’ll play hockey for Penn State. I think that would be awesome.”
In addition to the impact on the sports scene, there will also be an economic impact on the community.
“People need to see the bigger picture. It’s going to bring in jobs and it’s going to bring in revenue. We’re going to host high school playoffs, USA Hockey events, figure skating shows. In addition to that you’ll have all the professional touring shows,” Battista says. “It’s going to be bigger than people realize. It’s going to touch a lot of people. Think about what this will mean to the youth of the community. There’s only so much to do in the winter. Kids will be able to play hockey, play broomball and go figure skating.”
But make no mistake about it – the biggest impact the arena will have is on the athletic department, where men’s and women’s ice hockey will now be able to compete with the big boys in Division I.
“This gift will allow us to take hockey to a completely new level at Penn State,” Curley says.
It’s something that Battista has waited a long time for.
“For hockey fans, they’ll get to see hockey played at the highest level. I’m not taking anything away from the Icer teams that I played on and coached,” Battista says. “But this is the next level. There’s a level of excitement at the Division I level that you can’t describe. You have to experience it.”
Not long from now, fans will.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He is also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!