Taking a brief look back in modern history, 2003 was a wild and weird time. Myspace took the world by storm, opening a whole new frontier to exploration from humanity's libidinous and lazy. Stand-up comic Dave Chappelle starred in his own TV show, igniting a comedic supernova which blazed at an unsustainable rate. Nerdy college kids still could snootily listen to The Shins; the guy from Scrubs hadn't yet ruined the band for everyone. Wildest of all, Cleveland State University (CSU) actually had a pretty darned good wrestling team.
Ah the good ol' days.
I think even people like myself, those who religiously follow college wrestling, would find it surprising that, late in the 2002-2003 wrestling season, half of CSU's starting lineup appeared in the top 20 of at least one national ranking. In this day and age, CSU isn't even the best wrestling team in Cleveland, that honor belongs to Notre Dame College, a small, Catholic liberal arts school which competes on the Division II level. In 2003, however, CSU won most of their dual meets, placed second in their conference and did it while featuring a trio of excellent upper-weights at the top end of their lineup. Their heavyweight, Russ Davie, would go on to become a star on the United States Senior Greco-Roman circuit. Gerald Harris, at 184 pounds, achieved a ranking as high as fourth in the nation during the season, and one day would fight in the UFC. Last but not least out of the three big men, CSU's 2003 team featured junior 197 pounder Stipe Miocic.
Arriving at CSU as a fairly high profile recruit, Miocic's NCAA wrestling success came as no surprise. While a senior in high school, he placed second in Ohio's ultra-tough big-school state championship. His runner-up finish in Ohio qualified him for NHSCA Senior Nationals, one of high school wrestling's various quasi-national championships. There he placed seventh in the 215 pound weight class, confirming his potential as a force on the next level.
[Interesting note: Placing sixth in Miocic's weight was future Washington Redskins All-Pro tight end Chris Cooley. Future UFC fighters who placed at 2000 NHSCA Senior Nationals: Frankie Edgar, second at 135; Matt Grice, second at 145; Tyron Woodley, seventh at 160.]
During the 2003 season at Cleveland State, Miocic really started asserting himself as a college wrestler. With high profile victories over the likes of Michigan's eventual All-American Kyle Smith, Miocic achieved a national ranking as high as 17. He showed he had what it took to compete with the nation's best wrestlers, and he managed to secure a place for himself at 2003 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Unfortunately, Miocic's trip to nationals went pretty poorly; he lost his first two matches, thus ending his season.
Including an available redshirt, Miocic had two years of eligibility remaining as a wrestler of Cleveland State after 2003. The next season, or the season after that, he would have started the year with a high national ranking, positioned to make a serious run at All-American status. As the story goes, however, Miocic did not wrestle again after the 2003 season. I suppose he wanted to see if a career in Major League Baseball was in the offing. It's hard to hold that against him.
More than ten years later, 2003 seems a distant memory. Myspace is now irrelevant, Dave Chappelle no longer appears in the public eye, The Shins are a glorified solo act with a catalogue of mostly insufferable songs, and Cleveland State's wrestling team can't beat a single Division I team. Meanwhile, Miocic might just establish himself as a UFC title contender with another big victory.
Factgrinder Final Analysis
Stipe Miocic is a dang good wrestler, way better than I thought. Had he committed himself to wrestling, and not baseball, we could be talking about Miocic the All-American. Hell, we could be talking about Miocic the national finalist (Ryan Fulsaas of Iowa made the national finals at 197 in 2004, and 2003 Miocic was probably better than 2003 Fulsaas). As it stands right now, among the UFC's top-ten heavyweights, he clearly possesses wrestling pedigree second only to champion Cain Velasquez .