In Ben Franklin's proposal for the University of Pennsylvania, the founding father stressed the importance of wrestling to keep the students healthy and active.

Yesterday, the newly formed Local Organizing Committee, headed by former Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina, announced that the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at the Wachovia Center, adding another chapter to Philadelphia's storied wrestling history.

Since Franklin's proposal, wrestling has been a staple in the Philadelphia area. Penn hosted the first collegiate wrestling tournament in 1905 and both Pennsylvania and New Jersey venues have played host to 13 NCAA Division I wrestling championships since 1928. The 2011 event will be hosted by Rider University from March 17-19. All-session passes will go on sale March 18, 2010.

"The history here is huge," Penn coach Rob Eiter said.

Penn has been at the forefront of Philadelphia-area wrestling. The Quakers have heralded three national champions, including Richard DiBatista, who won two NCAA titles in the 175-pound weight class in 1941 and 1942 and recorded a perfect 85-0 record.

Brett Matter recorded a national title in 2000 at 157 pounds for the Quakers and current assistant coach Matt Valenti captured a crown in both 2006 and 2007 at 133 pounds.

"Having the NCAA tournament here is going to be huge for the area because wrestling in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is huge," Valenti said.

"For us in Pennsylvania, any chance we have to wrestle in our back yard is a good one.

"I am looking forward to it. As a coaching staff, we're looking forward to it. . . . We're hoping that with the home crowd behind them we can get a little more out of it."

Penn is also the alma mater of Brandon Slay, who won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney in 2000 at 167 pounds.

Matter, Valenti and Slay were all coached by Reina.

"Like any great team, the formation of the LOC represents talented and motivated individuals who have come together with a common purpose - to host a record setting NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia," Reina said in a statement.

The 2011 tournament will also be hosted by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.