Wells Fargo Arena or more commonly known by most as “The Well,” is a wonderful location for state tournament events.
After making my first trip inside the 16,000 seat capacity stadium for state wrestling, I was impressed with the environment that the professional arena allowed and just how serious everyone took the events unfolding in front of them.
With all the action unvealing on eight separate mats it made this young reporter’s head spin, hearing sections of the crowd erupt as wrestlers continued to advanced into the later rounds of the tournament.
The early rounds of state wrestling were the tip of the iceberg as hanging around until the final night of action is an experience all in its own.
Everyone is invested in the final three mats of action, aligned dead center of the showroom floor for all to see. Parents, fans, media and I’m sure the random household in Chicago watching on television, I could just tell how much the event meant to everyone involved.
I watched a referee stretch out in a few yoga poses before settling into a prayer, knowing just how much each decision he made the rest of the night would affect the outcome of history books and high school athletes alike.
Having rotated back and forth from matside to the media bullpen, one would think that re-entering the atmosphere would eventually become easier to ignore, except it wasn’t.
Sprinkle in the chance to watch Brody Teske and Alex Thomsen win their fourth consecutive state titles each was just a plus. If everyone in attendance wasn’t aware of their accomplishments it didn’t show because the entire arena stood on its feet to applaud the achievements of some of Iowa’s all-time bests.
Only a handful of days later, the floor had been transformed into a forest’s nightmare, stained, pieced together and with a net on each end.
The stands weren’t as full for the girls state basketball games I was in attendance for, but only because the entire state of Iowa wasn’t in attendance watching the same event.
I’ve been in a lot of quality basketball atmospheres. I’ve heard the roar of “Roar-acle” (Oracle Arena) when the Warriors had figured it out. I’ve sat in front of the Curtain of Distraction at Arizona State for a women’s NCAA tournament game against my Bobcats of Ohio University. I witnessed Wisconsin end Kentucky’s undefeated season in Indianapolis at the Final Four. But, I’ve never seen an entire town in attendance watch its school win its first ever game in a state tournament. Or a student in a Siracha bottle costume.
For an arena that wasn’t even 50 percent full, it amazed me how loud it was.
Seeing what that meant for Central Decatur and the community of Leon was a treat. The bench losing its collective mind, parents crying in the stands and students sticking fists in the air as Emma Atwood blocked a shot and sunk a free throw to seal the Cardinals’ win over Montezuma in the quarterfinals.
The two weekends were really something special and just to be a witness of that is something I won’t soon forget. If you’re reading this and you haven’t made it up to The Well for either event, I seriously recommend both. Just make sure you sit in the right section.
Now it’s March and I get to experience what I can only assume will be another electric atmosphere in Danville, Illinois as 16 Div. II NJCAA teams put their seasons on the line for a shot at a national title. And the Southwestern Spartans look to win a second consecutive national championship.
All of this is once again my way of saying that the fandom of Iowans is truly a spectacle of its own and I’m still trekking my way along the beginning tip of that iceberg.
The only step left is if we can stop abusing referees. Then, we will have reached the pinnacle of sporting environments, but that’s for a different column.