College wrestlers, get ready for your annual close-up.
ESPN announced Thursday it will feature three sessions of the NCAA Championships in primetime, broadcast each session on its family of networks, and stream every match online.
Beginning with Session One on Thursday, March 21, cameras at each mat will stream every bout on ESPN3. ESPN’s flagship channel will broadcast Session Two on Thursday night, the semifinals on Friday night, and the finals on Saturday night in primetime. ESPNU will broadcast the other three sessions during the day, switching from mat to mat.
In years past, the primetime bouts were shown on ESPN2, so graduating up to the network’s flagship channel represents even more exposure and yet another major win for wrestling as a sport.
The “Voice of College Wrestling” Tim Johnson will return to the booth and lead the a star-studded team of analysts made up of former national champions Anthony Robles and Lee Kemp, former coach of the year Jim Gibbons, and everyone’s favorite wrestler-turned-actor-turned-guest-analyst Billy Baldwin. Mike Couzens and Steve Kenney will once again be on play-by-play.
This is the fifth year in a row that ESPN will have start-to-finish coverage of the NCAA Championships and show all six sessions, as the Worldwide Leader in Sports continues to take notice of the demand for March Matness. Last year, nearly 8 million fans tuned in throughout the weekend. An average of 628,000 watched the finals on ESPN2 when Penn State held off Ohio State and hoisted its seventh national title in eight years.
The Nittany Lions will have nine wrestlers at the championships, with six of Penn State's qualifiers seeded in the top two at their weight classes.