Which NCAA wrestling champions are headed for MMA?
Years ago I was reffing a NAGA event and at the end struck up a conversation with a competitor. He said this was his first grappling event, that he had in fact only grappled a couple of times with Danny Ives, but he wanted to try a submission tournament. 25% or more of the entrants at any NAGA train in garages or whatever and just want to give it a shot so it was pretty normal.
He said he had a great time, and then mentioned that his friends had left and he had nowhere to stay. My roommate had driven home immediately after the event and I was flying out in the morning so I said I had an extra bed in the hotel room for a friend of Danny Ives.
I woke up early and as I was leaving glanced down and saw that he had a championship belt in his luggage. These are only for the Expert division, he would have only won a medal. People regularly try to steal belts so I woke him up and asked where he got the f------ belt from.
"I won it."
"Yah, you won it. In what division?"
"You have grappled twice in your f------ life and you won expert?"
That made no sense so I asked him some more questions. Finally found out he was in college and wrestled for Div I powerhouse Lehigh, and did in fact beat every Expert grappler in his divsion.
He went back to sleep and I got on the plane but it didn't leave my memory. No grappler who wrestled twice could enter a Div I wrestling tournament and beat everyone.
Brock Lesnar showed that a highly skilled Div I wrestler can do the same thing in MMA.
The NCAA Div I wrestling tournament just ended, and Luke Thomas scouts the prospects. Expect a future champion from a list below if they step into MMA.
10. Kellen Russell
Along with Kyle Dake and David Taylor, Russell is the third wrestler this year who will likely be heavily sought after by USA Wrestling. There's no word on whether he has any interest in MMA
9. Devin Carter
Virginia Tech head coach Kevin Dresser - who told MMA Fighting he believes MMA is a good option for graduating wrestlers - said Carter has yet to express interest in post-collegiate plans.
8. Chris Perry
Perry comes from Oklahoma State, which as produced MMA crossovers: Randy Couture, Johny Hendricks, Jake Rosholt, Shane Roller, Daniel Cormier and Muhammed Lawal among others. Perry has considered MMA as a possible career option when his collegiate career is over.
7. Frank Molinaro
This PSU senior at the moment does not have interest in MMA.
6. Borislav Novachkov
Three-time All-American for Cal Poly, that produced Chuck Liddell and Chad Mendes. Novachkov has ties to Mendes, so the relationship is there to facilitate any entry into MMA through Team Alpha Male.
5. Bekzod Abdurakhmonov
His brother, Muzaffir Abdurakhmonov, is 1-1 in MMA competition and was the wrestling coach to UFC lightweight Kenny Florian.
4. Cam Simaz
Simaz also has no interest in MMA at this time. He's on this list becomes MMA fans have expressed interest in him.
3. Kyle Dake
Dake become the first college wrestler in history to win three national titles in three different weight classes (141, 149 and most recently, 157 pounds). He's locked into wrestling for the foreseeable future.
2. David Taylor
The Penn State sophomore is the best wrestler in all of college wrestling irrespective of weight class. Penn State officials declined to comment to MMA Fighting on the plans of Taylor, stating only the standout wrestler is merely a sophomore and "let's let [him] enjoy college for a while."
1. Chris Honeycutt
He's openly declared his intention to enter mixed martial arts now that his wrestling career is over. Wrestling at 197 pounds, Honeycutt is a bulldozer. He's a talented wrestler, but relies on his physical strength and athleticism for some of his success.
Austin Trotman (Appalachian State University), Montell Marion (University of Iowa), Cayle Byers, Jamal Parks (Oklahoma State)