UFC 162 Factgrinder: The Wrestling of Mark Munoz and Tim Boetsch

USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night at UFC 162, two highly experienced amateur wrestlers, Mark Munoz and Tim Boetsch, will face off against one another in the Octagon. Coach Mike's Factgrinder is here to put their amateur wrestling accomplishments into proper perspective.

If you are new to this feature, I strongly advise reading earlier entries in the Factgrinder story stream, in order to see my explanation on the significance of accomplishments at wrestling's various levels.

To understand Mark Munoz's wrestling career, you must first understand Oklahoma State Wrestling. Of the 86 NCAA wrestling championships held, Oklahoma State (OSU) has won 34 of them. When the Dan Gable led Iowa Hawkeyes began their run of dominance in the mid 70's, OSU claimed more than half of the team titles ever awarded. If you then consider that Iowa won 20 national championships from 1975 to 2000, you can understand the vicious rivalry between Iowa and OSU. Wrestling belonged to OSU, and Iowa took it.

Mark Munoz wrestled for OSU a few years before the Cowboys and Coach John Smith, the greatest American wrestler to ever live, would reclaim their place atop of the wrestling world with a string of titles in the mid 2000's. OSU, at this time, still had yet to show that they could dominate college wrestling with their slick, quick and technical style after Iowa had controlled the sport so long with their hyper physical and brutal approach.

Of course, when OSU did once again ascend to college wrestling's throne, they did so propelled by hard nosed and gritty wrestlers like Johnny Thompson, Johny Hendricks, and Jake Rosholt; wrestlers who won by doing whatever it took, rather than by embodying any particular stylistic approach. The "Oklahoma State Style" may not have been solely responsible for winning team titles for John Smith, though exponents of the style have certainly enjoyed plenty of success on the individual level.

Mark Munoz is one such exponent-a paradigmatically Oklahoma State wrestler. Never particularly physically powerful, and not prone to banging and brawling, Mark succeeded through flowing shots and clean, clinical finishes.

Below is Mark Munoz wrestling in the national finals his senior year

A by-product of this style was, perhaps, a little bit of inconsistency. While nobody should have been surprised by Munoz's championship run in 2000, Mark did lose five matches that season, a pretty high number for a wrestler earning the top seed at the NCAA tournament (Munoz wouldn't have been the top seed had Jon Trenge not detached a retina). Mark also earned the 1 seed at 197 pounds in 1999 where he suffered an upset and finished in third. In fact, Munoz found himself seeded at the NCAA tournament all four of his years in the OSU starting lineup, and never wrestled up to his seed until his final year.

When it was all said and done, however, Mark took advantage of his last opportunity and brought home the prize. Munoz can claim college wrestling's highest possible accolade: a Division 1 National Championship.

When a wrestler achieves at Munoz's level, it is reasonable to wonder how they would have performed on an international level in freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling. Personally, I feel that had Mark committed to the Senior freestyle circuit until his late 20's, he would have had a great shot at making the 2008 Olympic team at 84kg. His style was perfectly suited for freestyle, and he showed great potential in this wrestling rule-set with a Junior World silver medal in 1998, losing only to future multiple time Senior World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Sazhid Sazhidov (a fairly accomplished guy who owns freestyle wins over Cael Sanderson, Yoel Romero, Adam Saitiev and Khadjimurad Gatsalov). Unfortunately, Munoz's forays into the Senior freestyle circuit after college yielded fairly unimpressive results as he competed up at 96kg, a weight where I just don't think he had the requisite horsepower to succeed.

Mark Munoz-Factgrinder Final Analysis

Mark Munoz placed third in the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championship as a junior, and first as a senior. When he did win his championship, he did it not as part of some Cinderella run, rather, he was pretty clearly the best wrestler in the field. His runner-up finish at the Junior World Championships suggests great potential as a freestyle wrestler, where he would have been a serious Olympic hopeful had he stayed in the sport through 2008, while competing at an ideal weight.

Tim Boetsch

Tim Boetsch is, to my knowledge, the greatest wrestler from Maine...ever. He won four high school state titles, and has been named to the Maine Wrestling Hall of Fame.

I'm sure Maine has some very dedicated and knowledgeable wrestling coaches. God bless them, they fight the good fight. Maine, and New England wrestling in general continues to improve. Vermont now has a Division 1 All American, and wrestlers from New Hamphire and Massachusetts have featured prominently in the lineup of wrestling powerhouse Edinboro University.

Unfortunately, Maine wrestling still isn't very good, so we have to look to see if Boetsch earned any national-level credentials to gain better perspective on how his wrestling ability matched up against other high school state champs. Apparently it matched up pretty well.

High school wrestling has two tournaments which can claim some measure of legitimacy as national championships: The USAW Junior Freestyle National Championships in Fargo every July, and the NHSCA Senior National Championships. Boetsch competed in the latter in 1999, and placed 4th at 171 pounds. This was seriously impressive. Do you know who else placed 4th at NHSCA? UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. Placing top four at this tournament proves that a wrestler has the ability to do very well collegiately on the Division 1 level.

Boetsch had the talent to make it in big time college wrestling, however, due to any one of the thousands of combinations of factors which could derail a young athlete, Boetsch never quite put it together in his time wrestling for Lock Haven University.

Most of you, I'm sure, have never heard of Lock Haven, but it, along with a bunch of random schools in Pennsylvania, has been churning out excellent college wrestlers for years. In Tim's time there, he bumped around from 197 pounds to heavyweight, and most of his success came against lower tier Division 1 competition. He never competed at the NCAA tournament. To his credit, he sat behind a couple of pretty good wrestlers, but the impression I get from looking at some of Boetsch's results is that he never successfully made the adjustment to Division 1 wrestling in a way which could fully harness his potential.

Tim Boetsch ended up as another one of Division 1's thousands and thousands of talented casualties. This happens, it's tough for a kid to go into that kind of environment with the rare combination of physical tools and presence of mind necessary to succeed. I, for one, am glad that MMA came into the picture to give Tim another chance at athletic success.

Factgrinder Final Analysis: Tim Boetsch

Boetsch, while in high school, showed that he had the talent to hit it big as a Division 1 wrestler, but things have a tendency to fall apart, and college wrestling didn't quite work out for him as well as it could have.

Factgrinder Final Verdict: Munoz vs. Boetsch

Munoz clearly has a vastly superior wrestling pedigree, however, this fight may just advance the position of those who claim pedigree doesn't matter.

From a personal standpoint, I'll confess that I'm sad that one of these guys has to lose, I like both of them quite a bit, but just like life, fighting is brutal.

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