Slowly but surely, the next generation of American wrestlers are breaking into MMA. You may remember my breakdown on former Purdue wrestler Danny Sabatello - he just took out UFC veteran Brett Johns at Bellator 259. There are other high-profile studs on the horizon, like Oklahoma State great Nick Piccininni, who is set to make his MMA debut in June, training out of AKA. Today we’ll focus on the MMA debut of two-time NCAA finalist Bryce Meredith, and the continued success of two-time NCAA qualifier Archie Colgan.
Both former Wyoming Cowboys scored first-round finishes at LFA 108.
Bryce Meredith, 141 - Three-time All-American, two-time NCAA finalist
A Wyoming native, Bryce Meredith originally committed to wrestle for NC State, competing for a spot in the lineup at 133 pounds. He was likely never a true 133, but the talented Kevin Jack was slotted in at 141. He transferred back home to the University of Wyoming and got to work. He was rock-solid as a freshman, but it was his sophomore season when he really broke out. After notching wins against All-Americans in the regular season, Meredith busted open the NCAA Championship bracket at 141 pounds. He took out his former teammate Kevin Jack, then ranked #3, then knocked off #6 ranked Micah Jordan, followed by a semifinal win over #4 Joey McKenna. Meredith dropped a tight 3-2 match to two-time NCAA champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State, but he had successfully announced himself as a pound-for-pound threat in Division 1 wrestling. It was Meredith’s second match against Heil that season, their first meeting ending 5-4 in favor of the Oklahoma State Cowboy.
Meredith had a strong junior season, trading wins and losses with the top ten guys at his weight. At the NCAA Championship, Meredith once again took out his rival Kevin Jack, who had climbed to a #2 ranking at the time. He would drop out of the championship bracket after a crazy 10-7 loss to the eventual finalist George DiCamillo, and then suffer a loss to Kevin Jack to take fourth.
It’s tough to say a fourth place finish was a disappointing result, but Meredith and his team knew he had more to offer. He proved that his finals appearance was no fluke with a dominant, career-defining senior season. Meredith racked up nine wins over All-Americans, including two wins over his rival, two-time NCAA champion Dean Heil. He fell in a highly competitive finals match with superstar Yianni Diakomihalis, who handed Meredith his only other loss in the season.
Bryce Meredith was a solid wrestler in all areas, but his gas tank and his ability to win extended exchanges on the mat really set him apart when it came to taking out elite competition.
Archie Colgan, 157 - Two-time NCAA qualifier, one-time Round of 12
While Archie Colgan produce in the same way that his teammate did, he showed a ton of potential. A Colorado state champion, Colgan faced stiff competition early on in college. In his first year as a starter, he picked up a great win over Oklahoma State All-American Anthony Collica, but did not make the trip to the NCAA tournament.
As a sophomore he notched another “name” victory against Oklahoma State, this time against the heralded four-time Pennsylvania state champion, Chance Marsteller. His best win of the season was against then #13 ranked Dylan Cottrell, who avenged the loss at the Big 12 Championship to keep Colgan out of the NCAAs once again.
Colgan’s junior season saw him take out a few more top 25 ranked foes, including his own teammate Branson Ashworth at the Wyoming Open. He didn’t have a terrific Big 12 tournament, but was still able to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time. After losing early, Colgan battled back through the consolation bracket, taking out the funky Taleb Rahmani to reach the “bloodround” or round of 12, the match that determines who will become an All-American. Unfortunately, Colgan dropped a 5-4 match in overtime to Stanford’s Paul Fox, who took 7th.
Archie Colgan was clearly at his best as a senior. He was competitive with high-placing All-Americans and even picked up wins over highly ranked opponents like Kennedy Monday, and All-Americans in Luke Zilverberg (twice) and Mitch Finesilver. Unfortunately his draw at NCAAs had him run into three-time All-American Tyler Berger early on, and he was later eliminated from the tournament after going 1-2.
Colgan was regarded as one of the strongest men in the Wyoming room, pound-for-pound. He’s back home training in Colorado, and was seen helping Justin Gaethje prepare for Khabib Nurmagomedov. He was 3-0 as an amateur, and is now 2-0 as a pro, with all of his wins coming via finish, four of them in the first round. Colgan is rising very quickly, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him competing in a major promotion within a year or two.
Unfortunately I cannot find video of his LFA 108 fight, but you can enjoy the highlights from his short amateur career.
Colgan looks extremely comfortable in the cage already, and is clearly a ridiculous athlete who knows how to leverage his strengths. The sky is the limit for him. With that being said - they probably should not have let him fight amateurs, he was clearly pro-level from the jump.
Meredith overcomes adversity and shows off mat skills
Training out of the MMA Lab in Arizona, Bryce Meredith did debut at the professional level right away. Given his credentials, it was probably a no-brainer.
For a wrestler making his MMA debut, he looked fairly comfortable on his feet. Meredith showed off some important fundamental knowledge such as round kicking to cut the cage, throwing level-changing combinations, pressuring behind his jab, and he understood his range defensively fairly well.
The troubling detail was his habit of wading into the pocket with little defensive responsibility, and switching stances as a default mode of movement. Eventually he ran into a hard counter and ended up grappling on his opponent’s terms.
Thankfully, Meredith showed off excellent mat wrestling and positional jiu jitsu, which led to effective ground and pound opportunities. This is no surprise, putting on a pace by scrambling and mat wrestling was Meredith’s strength in college.
Meredith did a great job at stacking and punching into his passes, which led to transitions he could exploit for further offense. From front headlock and from his opponent’s underhook sitting up in half guard, Meredith looked to whizzer and put in a half nelson, which kept his opponent on their hip and gave him a great opportunity to rain down strikes. Meredith’s positional awareness looked fantastic, and he showed zero hesitation in continuing to posture up and attack with aggression.
He’ll have to develop better habits as a striker, but if he continues to work out a pressure style on his feet, he could be a huge threat at 135 pounds moving forward.
As of now, both Bryce Meredith and Archie Colgan are massive prospects, and I expect both of them to be ranked contenders in a few years.