The SF Network

Local Mats to National Arenas: Virginia Beach Sports Center Hosts NHSCA High School Wrestling Championships

The thud of boots against the mat. The crowd buzzing. The electricity in the air—it’s not every day you step into an arena where dreams and dedication collide. In the heart of Virginia Beach, there’s an event like a magnet for high school wrestlers and fans alike. The Virginia Beach Sports Center plays host to a tournament that is the highlight of the wrestling season.

The National Stage Set by the Atlantic

The NHSCA High School Wrestling National Championships, the world’s largest wrestling event, has an energy like no other. For 35 years, this has been where top wrestlers from all corners of America come for greatness. This year’s event, held April 5-7, saw a record-breaking 5,400 participants representing all 50 states.

And what better place to watch all the action unfold than the Virginia Beach Sports Center? With 275,000 square feet of open space, this venue is built to inspire everyone, matching the spirit of the sport it welcomes.

“There are very few venues on the East Coast that have 275,000 square feet of column-free space, which allows us to build out a seamless layout without worrying about egress,” says NHSCA Executive Director and Event Producer Eric Hess. “The venue is almost brand new. We’ve been here for four years now. The ability to get people on the track side of the venue into the stands is pretty unique. The viewing experience is amazing. We’ll pack the stands in there and have the ability to really showcase high school wrestling like no one else can in the country.”

How Tradition and Innovation Builds a First-Class Experience

Wrestling is more than just takedowns and pins. It’s a tapestry of legacy and tradition.

Meet NHSCA CEO Bob Ferraro, a figure deeply entrenched in the wrestling world. Raised in the heart of a wrestling family, Bob’s journey was shaped by the mat. His father, a college coach, instilled in him a passion for the sport from a young age. It was this upbringing that laid the foundation for Bob’s eventual stewardship of the NHSCA. Thirty-five years ago, Bob’s father founded the organization. Now at the helm, Bob Ferraro stands at the intersection of legacy and innovation, steering the NHSCA with pride and dedication, carrying forward his family’s legacy while propelling the sport to new heights.

“I love delivering it. For 35 years, I’ve watched it grow into what it is, so I’m super proud to be a part of it,” said Ferraro. “I really take a lot of pride in the effort that our staff puts in to deliver a first-class event. It takes passion to create this kind of environment, and we’re elevating that experience year after year. And the impact that this organization has on the lives of all these student-athletes… I’m just proud to be a part of delivering a piece of what wrestling needs.”

During the day, the Virginia Beach Sports Center supports this event with high levels of organization and customer service, laying out 59 regulation-sized mats for the ultimate showdown of skill and determination. In the evening, when the matches have wrapped for the day, the venue is a gateway to a city that celebrates life. With 20,000 visitors for this event alone, the city buzzes with excitement and hospitality.

“This event has five different divisions wrestling at one time. If we had fewer people, we wouldn’t have any fewer mats,” said Ferraro.  “The number of mats lets us leave here at a reasonable time, which is important to the customers who come back. People like to go to dinner after they compete instead of being here until 10:30 at night, like we used to do.”

A Day That Shapes Lives

Day two illuminates a transformative opportunity: the college fair, where futures are signed, sealed, and delivered. It’s a catalyst for ambitious dreams, providing a springboard to new heights. With over last year, it’s clear that the sport is thriving, and this event at the Virginia Beach Sports Center is a game-changer.

“Our college coach fair invites hundreds of college coaches to meet the athletes who are interested in furthering their wrestling careers,” said Hess. “During that hour-and-a-half time slot, lives are literally changing with those conversations. There have been hundreds of scholarships and hundreds of roster spaces that get filled every single year, and we are very proud of it. From the passion for the experience here, this is about the wrestling community,” said Ferraro.

The NHSCA National Championships is more than a tournament. This is where the champions of high school wrestling are made. This is where Virginia Beach Sports Center’s legacy as “home of championships” intertwines with the very spirit of wrestling and seals its commitment to excellence. But beyond the statistics and numbers, the event’s 35th edition symbolizes wrestling’s growth, inclusivity, and rising popularity, promising an even more exciting future for the sport.

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