Assistant Sports Editor

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling.

He held a miracle in his pocket.

With a hope and a prayer, Frank Vulcano gave us a wrestling tournament like no other this season.

Mainly because the Powerade Wrestling Tournament was the only major one held among the top four or five in the country.

And when Saturday night was over and the last whistle blew, the most relieved person in the Monroeville Convention Center was Vulcano, the tournament director and athletic director at Canon-McMillan.

“I cringed every time my (cell) phone rang,” said Vulcano.

How difficult was it to plan this year? Well, consider the site had to be moved in order to allow for more people to attend under the state’s assembly restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic and teams pulled out right up until the days before the start of Powerade.

The convention center is a massive building, allowing enough room for 13 mats to be used with no social distancing problems. Each participating school – there were 44 of them – got their own separate area in the back of the building, which can hold approximately 13,700 people.

A seating area for meals was off to the back left of the building and was cordon off by removable walls. It is 20,000 square feet and can hold about 4,000 people.

Pictures on the convention center website show among other things, a two-story house that easily fits into the main hall.

“It’s a very spacious place,” said Vulcano.

Vulcano said he was staffed with just about the same number of workers who tended to the event when it was held in Canon-McMillan’s gymnasium, which holds nine mats and utilized two gyms.

“All my crew went nearly,” said Vulcano. “No, it didn’t surprise me. They are a loyal crew and they like wrestling.”

The crowd did not have assigned seats. In fact, there were very few seats available near the mats. A squad of media members, tournament officials and television and web crews sat in a square in the middle of the main viewing area.

Fans wore masks. Though the social distancing rules were sometimes broken for the finals, you couldn’t help but keep your distance from people in such a large space.

“The plan is to come back to Canon-McMillan next year,” said Vulcano.

Vulcano said each day was a hold-your-breath day, especially the week heading up to the event.

“The unknowns,” said Vulcano when asked what was the hardest part about organizing the tournament. “We didn’t know if we were going to get shut down or things that change or teams pulled out.”

Vulcano said 12 teams pulled out for various reasons related to the coronavirus. Included in the 12 were Pine-Richland, Notre Dame Green Pond, Burrell and General McLane.

“We had five really good teams back out two days before the tournament,” said Vulcano.

“In these days, that’s about what I expected because of the virus.”

Vulcano said the tournament will return to Canon-McMillan Dec. 29-30, if possible. If not, he knows he has a good backup plan.

Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at jtuscano@observer-reporter.com

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