With the summer winding down and the newest Blue Devils set to arrive on campus, GoDuke.com takes a look back at a few of the highlights from the 2017-18 season. One of the first ones to come to mind is Duke wrestling’s return to historic Cameron Indoor Stadium for its home venue. The Blue Devils had spent the previous few seasons competing in Card Gymnasium, a small venue with no bells and whistles.
DURHAM, N.C. – When one hears the words Cameron Indoor Stadium, it generally accompanies a reference to the greatness Duke basketball or the insanity of the Cameron Crazies. The original design for the stadium was scribbled on the back of a box of matches that Eddie Cameron and Wallace Wade penned up together, according to legend. Completed in the year 1940, Cameron is the home of the volleyball team in addition to the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
While Cameron is certainly closely tied to Duke’s successful basketball program, other Duke sports teams compete in the stadium throughout the year as well. This year, the Blue Devil wrestlers had the opportunity to compete in our campus’ own famous Cameron Indoor Stadium for their matches against ACC teams Virginia, NC State, and Pitt as well as a few additional teams. Though it was difficult from a scheduling standpoint to organize the wrestling matches in Cameron around three other teams’ practice and home game schedules, the Duke wrestlers loved being able to compete in Cameron and some of the luxuries that come with it.
Though the basketball games might garner a bit of a larger crowd in the stadium, the ample seating in Cameron allowed for plenty of fans to come and support the Blue Devils. According to Duke wrestling’s head coach Glen Lanham, there were “good crowds in Card [Gymnasium], but [in Cameron] it’s just a different feel... as the season progressed, the crowds were bigger.”
Wrestling at home in Cameron definitely had it advantages for the team, even with rival teams being nearby. “The atmosphere [in Cameron] was more intense,” said freshman Harrison Campbell. “Everyone is the best from their high school in college, [and everyone] is struggling for every point.” Redshirt junior Alec Schenk thought the environment was much nicer and more dynamic
The team also seemed to enjoy the overhead scoreboard Cameron boasts, allowing them to play highlight videos to energize both the team and the crowd. “The coolest thing was definitely bringing the overhead screens... said Schenk. “We could play hype videos right before our match.” The wrestlers also took full advantage of the LED boards installed in the press row, displaying each wrestler’s name and photo before he competed.
Only a few wrestlers on the team had previously wrestled in Cameron during their freshman years, but for Schenk, competing in Cameron was a new experience. “I know my team liked it a lot more [than Card gym]. Ultimately, it was just respect to our team to finally compete in such a nice place” Schenk said.
Lanham echoed Schenk’s feelings, stating that “it was a better vibe” to have the team wrestle in Cameron. Because Cameron is so well established as a great sporting arena, it showed better on camera, looking “more like a dual match environment like at the other schools in the ACC,” according to Lanham.
While wrestling in Cameron was a completely new experience for some Blue Devil wrestlers, this season marked both the first and last opportunity to wrestle in Cameron Indoor for graduating seniors, bringing their careers to a bittersweet end at Duke. “I know some guys in my class didn't redshirt, so they’re done” Schenk claims. “That was really awesome to be able compete with them for the last time.”
One such senior, Thayer Atkins, ended his career at Duke on a high note. In the match against Navy, Thayer Atkins “came up big with a pin” according to Lanham. “For [Thayer] to be a senior to have a match like that… that kind of sparked the rest of his season, and that was really good for him.”
Another senior with a notable season was Jacob Kasper, who pinned his opponent in the final bout against Navy. For Coach Lanham, watching the match against Navy “was exciting” because Navy defeated Duke “on criteria the same way last year, so we experienced the same thing on the other end… If you’re gonna get it back, that’s the way to do it.”
Though Cameron Indoor Stadium will always be a treasured gem on Duke’s campus because of Blue Devil Basketball, its ambiance seems to have a magical power to transform any sporting event into an unforgettable one.