I think 2012 and 2013 could be a very exciting time for those of us that fans that are always looking for the next great prospect. There are some events that are all coming together at the same time and could lead to a big crop of HW prospects coming into the shallowest division in the sport.
NCAA I – I'm a casual College Wrestling fan, I wrestled in High School and enjoy the sport so I check the rankings and news a few times a month. I noticed recently that this year the top 4 place finishers at HW were all Juniors, meaning that they will be graduating and moving on to the next phase of their career next spring. Zack Rey (Lehigh), Ryan Flores (American), Dom Bradley (Missouri), and Jarod Trice (Central Michigan) were 1-4 at NCAAs this year. In addition to these guys on 23 Feb, Intermat ranked 6 other Juniors in their top 20, Cameron Wade (Penn State), Alan Gelogaev (OK ST), Blake Rasing (Iowa), Tucker Lane (Nebraska), Christian Brantley (Northern Iowa), and Clayton Jack (Oregon State). This tells me that a lot of talented big guys will be leaving college next spring, and even if only a few of them move to MMA it could make for some interesting prospects.
Olympics – The 2012 Olympics will be held next summer in London, and that means that next Spring the teams will be decided. This could also be an influence on the top College guys coming out if they don’t make the team, they could decide they don’t want to spend 4 years waiting for the next Olympics, and move right into MMA. The top guys competing for the US HW team right now are Les Sigman, Tommy Rowlands, Aaron Anspach, and Tervel Dlagnav. Sigman is 35 years old so I don’t see him making an MMA run, but Tommy Rowlands is the oldest of the others listed here and will be 31 next summer, but this guy is a beast. I watched a handful of his matches going back to when he was a 2 x NCAA, and US Senior level champion, and he has the athleticism to make the jump and an impact if he chooses. Daniel Cormier was 30 when he started training, so don’t rule this guy out. Aaron Anspach actually already has an MMA bout from a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see where he goes after the Olympics and qualifiers. He was a National Runner up in College, losing to Cole Konrad, but has had some success recently, making him a legit candidate to score the US spot in the Olympics. Tervel Dlagnev was a 2 x DII champion in college, and has a Bronze Medal in the world games to his credit. He will only be 26 next year, so he is still pretty young and with his elite wrestling he could make an impact in the sport. These are just some guys from the US Team, and I don’t expect all of them to move over to MMA, but just some names to recognize if they decide to. I would also expect some elite International Wrestlers, and Judokas to at least look at making the jump to MMA as well. I know there are a lot of promotions in the US that would love to have an Olympics medalist headlining their MMA shows.
- I don't know too much about US, or International Judo, so if someone knows some of the elite guys in that discipline I'd be interested to hear about them.
NLF Lockout – It is no secret that a lot of football players are big MMA fans, and many of them have been cross training recently in MMA gyms. I don’t expect any current NFL player to come over to MMA, but as I’ve been following the story of the Owners locking the players out I heard some interesting analysis the other day. One of the guys on ESPN was talking about how it would be the guys drafted in the late rounds, and undrafted free agents who were most affected because they would have a much harder time making the team without the rookie camps, and summer workouts. This could lead to some really big, athletics guys looking for a job, and source of competition. Brendan Schaub, Matt Mitrione, Marcus Jones, Michael Westbrook, Kyle Kingsbury and Rex Richards are guys who have come from a football background and become pretty good Mixed Martial Artist. These guys will probably take a little longer to develop than the Wrestlers, and Judokas, but by 2012-2013 they could also have an extra 6 -12 months of a head start.