American World Cup star Kyle Beckerman chose soccer over promising combat sports career

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As soccer fever takes the USA by storm, Bloody Elbow looks into the wrestling past of U.S. Men's National Team World Cup starter Kyle Beckerman.

Kyle Beckerman played a big role in the United States' stirring 2-1 2014 FIFA World Cup victory over Ghana, but long before he wore the red, white and blue on the world's biggest soccer stage, a fifteen year old Beckerman chose to forsake every other sport and focus solely on soccer. In doing so, he abandoned a promising  wrestling career, where he proved himself as one of his country's top prospects.

Beckerman started wrestling at an early age, and after a decorated time the youth leagues, he won a 1997 Maryland state championship and placed third at the 1996 Mid Atlantic Classic (MAC) as a freshman at Hyattsville, Maryland's Dematha High School (famous for producing the "unlock click" sound on Iphones). For wrestling fans not familiar with the MAC, we now know the event as "The Beast of the East"- one of the toughest high school wrestling tournaments in the United States. Back in 1996, the era of the national-level in-season high school wrestling tournament was just beginning, but the MAC still boasted an impressive array of tough teams. Finishing third against the competition of that tournament established Beckerman as one of the nation's top freshman wrestlers.

Beckerman was not the first in his family to excel on the mats for Dematha. His brother, Todd,  was a Maryland wrestling legend, claiming a spectacular 208-1 record in high school while winning four National Prep Championships. Wrestling collegiately for the University of Nebraska, Todd finished as an All American twice, placing 4th and 5th in the nation and narrowly missing out on the national finals in 2001. Additionally, in 1998, he placed ninth at the Junior World Championships in freestyle, and is now the head coach at Brown University.

As good as Todd was, word around the coaching campfire back in 1997 was that Kyle had even more potential as a wrestler. As it happens, he also had quite a bit of potential as a soccer player, and after his freshman year he transferred to another high school to concentrate on his career as a footballer.

Had Beckerman chosen wrestling over soccer, he could have contended for NCAA Championships, or even spots on Olympic teams. It's even possible that at this point we might be talking about a UFC title fight pitting Kyle Beckerman against Jose Aldo.

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