CEDAR RAPIDS — The night was billed as not a glimpse of what is to come, but what it intends to be.
The American Wrestling League held its inaugural event, dubbed AWL I: The Beginning, Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center. Formed by former Temple NCAA champion Wayne Boyd and fellow Titan Mercury Wrestling Club founder Andy Barth, the AWL hopes to provide wrestlers with a commercial platform, inspire innovation and grow the sport.
“I like it,” 2017 Iowa NCAA champion Cory Clark said. “I get a chance to compete and watch some good wrestling at the same time. … I think the fans like it. I hear them get loud from time to time. … We’re trying something and we’re trying hard at it. Wrestling is a tough sport. It is a prideful sport. I don’t think you grow up saying, ‘I’m going to make millions from wrestling.’ You grow up to wrestle for your own pride and feel good about yourself.”
Clark was a part of a highly-anticipated match at 134.5 pounds with former college teammate and 2014 Iowa NCAA champion Tony Ramos. The crowd in the half-full arena greeted Ramos — who had negative remarks upon his departure from Hawkeye Wrestling Club — with overwhelming boos, while Clark received much applause.
After an early stalemate, Clark routed his former roommate, 8-0.
“I’ve been wrestling my whole life,” Clark said when asked about blocking out the pre-match hype. “It is something that you might not ever master, but you get better at it year by year, day by day. I hear it, but I don’t. I hear what I want to hear.”
The wrestlers were divided into two teams via a draft conducted by team captains Kyle Dake (four-time Cornell University NCAA champion) and two-time Penn State NCAA champion David Taylor.
The competition started at 154 pounds, where former Nebraska four-time All-American James Green scored a 10-0 technical fall victory against four-time Iowa All-American Brandon Sorensen.
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At 189 pounds, two-time Iowa All-American Sam Brooks rallied from a 4-0 deficit and smothered former Ohio State NCAA runner-up Nick Heflin, 11-4.
“We knew coming in that guy had a lot of firepower and he liked to score,” Brooks said. “But we also knew that I could wrestle a hell of a pace and I live for those deep-water situations. That was how we drew it up.”
Iowa State alum Kyven Gadson, an NCAA champion in 2015, earned a 5-3 decision against former Duke All-American Jacob Kasper in the 213.9-pound bout despite some significant mental distractions.
His wife, Haley, was due to give birth to a baby girl at any minute.
“I loved it,” Gadson said. “I just wish I would have been able to put on a better show. Mentally I didn’t feel like I was all there.”
Team Taylor — a 21-10 winner — was awarded the AWL Mike Duroe Trophy, named for the former Cornell College coach who succumbed to brain cancer in July at age 63.
AMERICAN WRESTLING LEAGUE
AML I: The Beginning
At U.S. Cellular Center
Team Taylor 21, Team Dake 10
154 pounds — Four-time Nebraska All-American James Green (Team Dake) tech. fall four-time Iowa All-American Brandon Sorensen (Team Taylor), 10-0.
163 — North Carolina State All-American Tommy Gantt (Team Taylor) dec. U23 World Champion Richie Lewis (Team Dake), 7-2.
174.2 — Three-time Oklahoma State NCAA champion Alex Dieringer (Team Taylor) dec. two-time Univ. of Illinois NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez (Team Dake), 4-2.
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189 — Two-time Iowa All-American Sam Brooks (Team Taylor) dec. three-time Ohio State All-American Nick Heflin (Team Dake), 11-4.
202.8 — North Carolina State NCAA champion Mike Macchiavello (Team Taylor) dec. current MMA fighter and former Lindenwood three-time All-American Deron Winn (Team Dake), 8-0.
213.9 — Iowa State NCAA champion and three-time All-American Kyven Gadson dec. Duke All-American Jacob Kasper (Team Dake), 5-3.
275 — Two-time Missouri All-American Dom Bradley (Team Dake) dec. former Lehigh NCAA champion Zach Rey (Team Taylor), 3-2.
125.5 — Four-time Penn State All-American Nico Megaludis (Team Taylor) dec. Cornell University All-American Frank Perrelli (Team Dake), 7-2.
134.5 — Iowa NCAA champion and four-time All-American Cory Clark (Team Taylor) dec. Iowa NCAA champion Tony Ramos (Team Dake), 8-0.
143 — Two-time Oklahoma State NCAA champion Jordan Oliver (Team Dake) dec. three-time Penn State NCAA champion Zain Retherford, 13-11.
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