“I’m goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come” — the refrain from the classic 1950s rhythm and blues song “Kansas City” — may be on the lips of wrestlers and college wrestling fans as the Big 12 conference wrestling championships will be headed to that Midwestern metropolis next year. The 2016 Big 12 tournament will be held at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. on March 5-6 — the first time the event will be held off-campus in a decade — the amateur wrestling website InterMat reported Thursday.
Multiple media reports indicate that the Big 12 will be expanding, although there has not been an announcement posted at the official Big 12 website. The middle-America conference which currently has just four wrestling programs – Iowa State, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia University – will be expanding to ten mat programs, according to multiple media reports in March and April, including a March interview with Iowa State head coach Kevin Jackson in the “Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier”, and a question-and-answer session with Oklahoma State head wrestling coach John Smith in the “O’Colly” student newspaper on April 2. The six new wrestling programs expected to join the Big 12 as auxiliary members — Air Force, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Utah Valley, and Wyoming — are currently part of the Western Wrestling Conference, which was formed in 2006.
When asked what an expanded conference championship would mean for Oklahoma State, coach Smith told the “O’Colly” in April, “It does two things. It creates a two-day (conference) tournament for you, it gets our qualifier back. Just image-wise, it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable to have a tournament at the end of the year with two weigh-ins over two days that will mimic the national championship a little bit more.”
In explaining the reason why the Big 12 might expand to welcome additional wrestling programs, Matt Zimmer of the Sioux Falls, S.D. “Argus Leader” wrote back in April. “The Big 12 was on shaky ground with only four member schools that participated in wrestling — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia. That meant the conference did not have an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. They’ll get that by adding the six schools that make up the WWC, and the six imports — all primarily mid-major programs — will get the benefit of affiliation with one of the nation’s most well-known and recognizable conferences, even if it’s just as an affiliate member for wrestling.”
The venue for the 2016 Big 12s, Sprint Center, is located in downtown Kansas City. It opened in 2007, and has a seating capacity of approximately 18,000 fans, depending on the sporting event being held, and its seating arrangements, according to the Sprint Center official website. The era will also host the 2016 Big 12 basketball championships for the 11th straight year. In recent years, the Big 12 wrestling championships have had approximately 2,000 fans in attendance for what had been a single-day event. The 2015 Big 12s were held at Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The last time the Big 12s were held at a neutral, non-school venue was in 2005, when they were hosted by what was then called Qwest Center (now CenturyLink Center) in downtown Omaha.