Fleetwood Mac, The Lion King, Blue Man Group and Billy Crystal are just some of the hundreds of performers who have graced the stage at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). This Thursday, February 8, Johnson & Wales University wrestling will be added to the list.
The 4th-ranked Wildcats will take on their rival, 20th-ranked Roger Williams University at 6:30pm in the Downtown Showdown. Also that night, Brown University will wrestle Harvard University.
“Wrestling at the PPAC has always been a dream that is finally becoming a reality,” said Lonnie Morris, JWU wrestling head coach. “We really appreciate all the efforts from the university and the wrestling community.”
Coach Morris, who started the Wildcat program with four wrestlers in 1997, and his staff are the consummate wrestling promoters. Through grassroots campaigns and social media, their annual “Friday Night Fights” has been a sellout event in the last few years, and the program is always recognized with the top Division I programs in the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s “Best of Brand” competition.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our JWU community to gather together for an exciting, fun-filled evening and celebrate the Wildcat Way—our pride, courage, character, and most of all, our community,” said Jamie Marcoux, director of athletics. “The evening will also showcase our JWU Chorale Ensemble as they sing our National Anthem, and intermission will feature entertainment from our JWU Dancers and our own JWU dance troupe, Ataxia.”
The idea for the Downtown Showdown was born out of Coach Morris’ vision of expanding Friday Night Fights to a larger audience. Modeled after the NHL Winter Classic and the Battle at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Downtown Showdown—on the iconic PPAC stage—will take collegiate wrestling where it has never gone before.
Last season the Wildcats made history when they finished fourth at the NCAA Championships on the strength of five All-American student-athletes. This year’s team has 7 wrestlers who have been ranked in the top 10 nationally in their weight class.
General admission tickets are $5 each. Students from the four participating universities will be admitted for free. A $40 VIP ticket can be purchased from JWU Alumni Relations that includes loge seating, parking and a pre-event reception.