Area sta­ple has big role in NCAA tour­na­ment

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Mark Podol­ski mpodol­ski@news-her­ @mpodo on Twit­ter

Tom Man­ning won Wil­loughby South’s one and only state cham­pi­onship in wrestling.

In 1988, he took home the 112-pound Di­vi­sion I state medal.

In col­lege, he won a Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship at Kent State and qual­i­fied for the NCAA Di­vi­sion I Tour­na­ment. He was the school’s ath­lete of the year as a se­nior.

Man­ning even­tu­ally be­came coach at Ken­ston, where for about a decade the Bombers had great suc­cess. The school won two dis­trict ti­tles and pro­duced two state cham­pi­ons in Ricky Deubel and Matt Mo­ran.

He stepped down in 2006, and spent a few sea­sons as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant at Kent State. Man­ning said coach­ing will al­ways be in his blood. He’s still cer­ti­fied, and that al­lows him to help out at Ken­ston, where he used to teach, but these days is now on the school’s board.

On oc­ca­sion, he lends help to Deubel, who’s now the school’s wrestling coach.

“Oh yeah, I’ll pop my head in to see if he needs any­thing,” Man­ning said. “Some­times, he’ll reach out to me.”

There’s also an­other role in wrestling he’s hap­pily em­braced.

It’s one that’s al­lowed him a premiere op­por­tu­nity be­hind the scenes this week­end at Quicken Loans Arena for the March 15-17 NCAA Di­vi­sion I Wrestling Tour­na­ment.

Man­ning will be the crew chief for the mul­ti­tude of scor­ers ta­bles at the tour­na­ment. In Las Ve­gas terms, he’s ba­si­cally the pit boss of the tour­na­ment.

“I’m ba­si­cally the eye in the sky,” he said. “We’re go­ing to be on (ESPN) in prime time for the semi­fi­nals and fi­nals. We can’t have screw ups. I’m con­fi­dent be­cause we have good

peo­ple in place. I’ve got an all-star team.”

The role en­tails su­per­vis­ing each crew so that every­thing goes smoothly. Scores of matches must be pre­cise. There can’t be a mixup with mat as­sign­ments.

Each day the number of ta­bles de­creases, so it’s Man­ning’s job to de­cide which crew stays. On March 15, there will be eight ta­bles. The next day six, then three for the morn­ing/af­ter­noon ses­sion March 17 and one for the na­tional cham­pi­onship matches.

Man­ning’s staff of ta­ble chiefs are picked by him, and are in­di­vid­u­als he’s known for a while.

“I’m con­fi­dent ev­ery­one will do well, but I want to see the cream of the crop,

and that might be a tough one to de­cide,” he said.

Help­ing run tour­na­ments is noth­ing new for Man­ning. He did that for years as Bombers coach for the long-stand­ing Ken­ston In­vi­ta­tional Tour­na­ment. When he left Ken­ston in 2006, and joined Kent State’s staff vol­un­tar­ily, he was ap­proached by as­sis­tant Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence com­mis­sioner Jeff Ba­con to run the tour­na­ment when it was held at Kent State.

Man­ning’s guid­ance pro­duced a smooth tour­na­ment, and Ba­con took no­tice. The MAC wrestling tour­na­ment two weeks ago at Cen­tral Michi­gan was the 10th Man­ning helped run.

When the NCAA an­nounced

Cleve­land had been awarded the 2018 D-I tour­na­ment, the MAC stepped in as the host con­fer­ence. Ba­con didn’t wait long ask­ing for Man­ning’s as­sis­tance.

“I was in, no ques­tions,” Man­ning said.

It will be a busy week for all in­volved. The three-day event is sold out, and a Fan Fes­ti­val is set for each day at the Hunt­ing­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­ter of Cleve­land. Man­ning knows he and his staff must be ready. He’s con­fi­dent the tour­na­ment will run smoothly on his end, but there’s al­ways ner­vous an­tic­i­pa­tion.

“The fi­nals are al­ways the most nerve-wrack­ing,” he said. “Ev­ery­one will be watch­ing.”


Tom Man­ning talks with of­fi­cials be­fore the March 3-4 MidAmer­i­can Con­fer­ence Wrestling Tour­na­ment at Cen­tral Michi­gan.

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