Atlantic City and Boardwalk Hall have become synonymous with the state individual wrestling tournament.
Wrestlers talented enough to reach the pinnacle of high school wrestling in the state don't use the tournament's official name.
They tell friends, family and anyone else who will listen that they "made it to A.C." and how they can't wait to wrestle in "the Hall."
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday that would continue to be the case for at least three more years.
"I can't say I would have been mad or anything (if the tournament moved), but it would have been different for me," Buena Regional High School standout Billy Ward said. "It's A.C. everyone talks about. Everybody talks about getting to Atlantic City every year."
The NJSIAA's contract with Boardwalk Hall ended this year. The NJSIAA offered the tournament up for bid to facilities around the state this past spring but decided in the end to keep the tournament in Atlantic City.
Ward is a three-time state qualifier. The three-time District 32 and Region 8 champ is a two-time state placewinner.
The senior said the atmosphere at Boardwalk Hall can't be matched.
"I don't think there is anything else that you can do in high school that beats that feeling," Ward said. "It's just awesome. You feel like a superstar wrestling in front of that many people."
Holy Spirit sophomore Pat D'Arcy narrowly missed out on reaching states last season.
D'Arcy lives about 15-20 minutes from Boardwalk Hall in Galloway Township and attended the tournament a handful of times growing up.
"I'm glad it stayed," D'Arcy said. "It's been there for as long as I can remember. I've always said I wanted to go to Atlantic City to wrestle in states."
Tim Mancuso has a unique perspective on the event, which draws around 40,000 people annually during the course of the three days.
Mancuso lives less than a mile from Boardwalk Hall. He coaches Atlantic City High School's team and is also a councilman in the city.
"It's tradition and the history is just loaded," Mancuso said. "It's like going to Madison Square Garden for Big East basketball or going to the Rose Bowl - you get to states and you go to Boardwalk Hall."
Mancuso said that losing one of the premier high school tournaments in the state would have been a tough one to take.
"These kids have been coming to states since they were wrestling in minis," Mancuso said. "They see this. They see the beautiful building and the history of the Boardwalk and they have the dream of making it here. Then they finally make it and it's huge."
There are still some details to be ironed out. A Lady Gaga concert scheduled for the Hall on March 2 forced the tournament to move to the second week of March, leaving a 13-day gap from the scheduled final day of regions to opening night of the state tournament.
Howie O'Neil has been the tournament director for three years and has helped since 1998. The West Deptford resident has also coached at just about every level of wrestling through the years and has officiated for 38 years.
"I think it's great for wrestling," O'Neil said of the tournament staying put. "I think it is all-around a premier spot in New Jersey to hold the tournament. I think it's the best arena that we can have it in right now. The site fits everybody."
O'Neil pointed out that the NJSIAA's relationship with Boardwalk Hall is a good one and that learning to work with an entirely new group on short notice could have been tough.
O'Neil is part of the 12-member wrestling committee that NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said would be working on some of the issues with the tournament. O'Neil did not want to speculate how they would be resolved.
D'Arcy doesn't care as much about the days off in between as long as everyone is competing on the same playing field.
"Whenever they decide to put districts, regions and states and however much time they separate with, I'm fine with either way," D'Arcy said. "I'm just glad it stayed."
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