WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — In March of 2020, Hartman Arena hosted the NAIA wrestling national championships.

“It was technically our last large event before COVID shut us down,” said the arena’s executive director, Ben Bolander.

Now after nearly a year of not having a major event outside of Wichita Wings games, the tournament, and its fans are back in Hartman once again in 2021.

Teaken Leon, a spectator from Wisconsin said, “We have the blessing to go in there when people can’t do things. I mean we have to wear a mask, that’s fine, honestly, if that’s all we have to do is wear a mask to go watch I’m down to do that. I mean we haven’t been in big crowds like this in a while so it’s pretty nice.”

Leon says his family and friends came to watch his brother and another wrestler from his hometown compete for a national title. “My family and the other family were like let’s meet up in the RV and let’s drive 13 hours down to Kansas and let’s have a good time and watch some wrestling,” Leon added.

The NAIA says these fans are needed at a tournament of this level.

NAIA’s Senior Manager of Championship Events, Marc Burchard stated, “Having fans at this event, it makes the event, obviously they’re here for wrestling, but a wrestling tournament without fans is a little bit different.”

Visit Wichita was responsible for helping set up this year’s tournament, and they believe this weekend really helps the Wichita community.

“We have the student athletes, the coaches and their families traveling to town and staying in hotels eating In restaurants bringing in an economic impact,” explained Josh Howell, Visit Wichita’s Sports Sale Manager. “But also on Saturday night this event will be broadcast live on ESPN3 so the chance to showcase Wichita off to the nation is very exciting as well.”

This isn’t the last time the NAIA is using Hartman Arena for their events.

“We found a great place to host NAIA championships working with Visit Wichita and Hartman Arena has been fantastic,” said Burchard.

For more information on events coming to Hartman Arena, click here.