Ryan Stoddard’s main focus will remain staging MMA events.
But he believes Friday night’s event could be the start of something big, thanks to an idea he got from former UNO assistant wrestling coach Zac Dominguez.
“He came to me and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of doing something similar but only for wrestling?’ said Stoddard, who operates Victory Fighting Championships. “It was something new and different for me to sink my teeth into.”
So at 7:30 tonight at the Ralston Arena will be the Victory Wrestling Challenge. The event will feature 10 exhibition matches, most including former college wrestling All-Americans from Nebraska and Iowa.
“This is the first of this kind. No one’s ever done what we’re doing,” Stoddard said. “This is wrestling, but it’s going to be just like a Victory MMA event — bright lights, big entrances, we’re going to have a DJ in the house. It’s going to be a large-event atmosphere.”
Six of the wrestlers expected to compete are in the top 10 in the U.S. senior rankings. That group includes Trent Paulson, a Council Bluffs native who was a three-time All-American and the 2007 NCAA champion at 157 pounds for Iowa State.
Paulson said he was approached by Dominguez this summer about competing in the event.
“I thought it was a great idea. I thought it was something we should have implemented a long time ago,” Paulson said. “I jumped at the opportunity. I think it’s great for the sport.”
These days, Paulson competes overseas more than he does in the United States. He said the last time he competed in the U.S. was this summer’s world team trials.
“It’s an opportunity to wrestle in the U.S. in front of friends and family and it’s growth that our sport definitely needs,” said Paulson, whose twin brother Travis was expected to compete, but pulled out due to injury.
Paulson, who is ranked fifth in seniors at 157, will square off with seventh-ranked Nick Marable, a former All-American at Missouri.
Among the other matchups will be Les Sigman, a four-time Division II champion at UNO, against Jarod Trice, a three-time All-American at Central Michigan at 264; and Josh Ihnen, a 2012 All-American at Nebraska, against Evan Brown, a former NCAA Division III champion who is ranked sixth at 211.
All of the matches will be freestyle except for the Greco-Roman match between Justin “Harry” Lester, who is ranked fourth at 163 and was a 2012 Olympian, and Esai Dominguez, a three-time All-American at UNO.
“Zac was our matchmaker,” Stoddard said. “He’s done a phenomenal job with the talent he’s brought us for the first event.”
Stoddard said he’s anticipating a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000 for the event. He wants to promote more of these events, but probably only two or three times a year.
“We want to do this first one and see what was great, what wasn’t so great, and continue to grow,” he said.
145 pounds: Raufeon Stots vs. Montell Marion
145: Laramie Shaffer vs. Tyler Bell
163: Trent Paulson vs. Nick Marable
163: Ridge Kiley vs. Eli Dominguez
163: Robert Sanders vs. Joe Ellenberger
185: Gennady Kolesnikov vs. George Ivanov
211: Ty Copsey vs. Deron Winn
211: Evan Brown vs. Josh Ihnen
264: Les Sigman vs. Jarod Trice
163: Justin “Harry” Lester vs. Esai Dominguez