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Kings College and Scranton University to co-host 2002 Division III Wrestling Championships

Don Tencher, chair of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Committee, has announced that King's College and The University of Scranton have been selected as co-hosts for the 2002 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. The competition will take place at the First Union Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, 2002. "We take great pride in the fact that King's and The University of Scranton will be co-hosting the Division III National Wrestling Championships next year," says Tom Baker, director of athletics at King's College. "Along with the First Union Arena and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania, we feel that we will provide not only a great setting for the tournament, but a tremendous support system for this most prestigious event." "I really look forward to working with King's on this championship," says University of Scranton director of athletics Toby Lovecchio. "This is a tremendous opportunity for collegiate wrestling fans to see some of the finest talent in the nation. To be able to use a venue like the First Union Arena will not only enhance the experience for all the wrestlers, but for those in attendance as well." The 2001 NCAA Division III championships drew over 7,000 fans to the two-day event at Young Arena in Waterloo, Iowa, where Augsburg College of Minneapolis, Minnesota, won its seventh title in the last 11 years. The Auggies will once again be a favorite at the 2002 championships, as Darin Bertram returns for his senior year after winning a national title at 125 pounds at this year's event and placing second in 1999 and 2000. Other returning champions include Lenny Baker of SUNY-Brockport at 141, Garrett Kurth of Luther College at 149 and Dan Weber of Wheaton College at 165. Locally, King's returns four wrestlers who qualified for this year's national tournament, including all-American Jason Schlingman, a graduate of Meyers High School who was eighth at 184 pounds. Freshman Mitch Marcks (Allentown, Pa./Dieruff) at 125, Mike Griffith (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Hanover Area) at 133 and Jim Morgan (Scranton, Pa./West Scranton) at 141 will also look to qualify once again for an opportunity to earn all-America honors and a chance at a national title. "A few years back when the construction of the First Union Arena became a possibility we envisioned an opportunity to bring the NCAA Division III wrestling tournament to Northeastern Pennsylvania and now that dream has become a reality," says veteran King's head wrestling coach Ned McGinley. "This tournament will be a showcase event for wrestling as well as for the student-athletes who participate at this level from our area." It will also benefit the Eastern teams and their families who will get to travel a relatively short distance to attend the tournament as the Arena is in an extremely convenient location," he adds. "With our four national qualifiers from last year returning, we at King's see this as a great opportunity to wrestle in front of our home crowd for all-American status or even an NCAA national championship." The NCAA will crown ten individual champions in the following weight classes: 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197 and heavyweight (183-285). One hundred and sixty wrestlers will be automatic qualifiers representing the following conferences: Centennial Conference, Empire Wrestling Conference, Great Lake Independents, Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Metropolitan Wrestling Conference, Middle Atlantic States Conference, Midwest Independents, Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, New England College Wrestling Association, Ohio Athletic Conference and Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. A number of wild card entries will also be invited to participate in the 2002 tournament. "It is with tremendous enthusiasm that we host the 2002 NCAA Division III championships," says Steve Laidacker, Ed.,D, head coach at The University of Scranton and tournament director. "The caliber of wrestling will impress the fans of Northeastern Pennsylvania. We are proud to bring this event to such a wrestling-rich environment." More than one million people have attended events at the First Union Arena since it opened its doors more than 16 months ago. Managed by SMG, the world leader in venue management, the First Union Arena is the home of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The venue has also hosted events such as Neil Diamond (twice), Lord of the Dance, the Harlem Globetrotters, ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Barney, WCW Monday Night Nitro, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, Elton John (twice), WWF and other major touring family shows, concerts, collegiate sporting events, meetings, trade shows, consumer shows, graduation ceremonies, corporate gatherings and special events. Located in the third largest market in Pennsylvania and 82nd in the nation, the First Union Arena is accessible by five major highways: I-81, I-476, I-80, I-84 and I-380. It is located at the newly constructed Exit 46 off of I-81.
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