No. 21 Broncos host No. 24 Lehigh on Sunday

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Boise State is moving back into Bronco Gym for the last two weeks of the regular season — and perhaps longer.

The Broncos got a taste of the old gym in a November dual against Wyoming and the wrestlers asked coach Greg Randall to compete there more often.

“I like that the fans are right on top of us,” said senior heavyweight J.T. Felix, who wrestled there for the first time in November. “They get to smell the blood. It’s exciting because it’s jam-packed. It’s just a lot better environment than Taco Bell Arena.”

No. 21 Boise State will face No. 24 Lehigh at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Bronco Gym. The Broncos will wrestle Northern Colorado on Jan. 31, likely in Bronco Gym, and rival Oregon State on Feb. 7, definitely in Bronco Gym.

“When there’s a good, exciting match, you can really get the fans into it,” Randall said. “I asked J.T. if he liked the atmosphere in there. He said, ‘Yeah, we should have them all in there.’ ”

The Wyoming dual was the first Boise State wrestling competition in the old gym since 2009. The gym holds 1,256 fans. The last home match, part of Beauty and the Beast, attracted 3,393 fans in Taco Bell Arena.

“If we brought 3,500 people, 4,000 people, every dual meet, then I’d probably rather be in Taco Bell,” Felix said.

That was one reason the Broncos moved to the arena in the first place. A lineup stocked with potential All-Americans increased fan interest in the program. The team hasn’t been nearly that strong the past three seasons.

“It’s kind of high school-ish in (Bronco Gym),” Randall said. “I wanted to get away and let our guys get the feel of a big arena.”

Conditions have improved in Bronco Gym since the wrestlers left. One side has chairback seating and the sound system has improved, Randall said.

“They’ve upgraded it quite a bit,” he said. “…We’ll still have some matches in the arena, but for right now we’re going to stick to Bronco Gym.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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