www.TheMat.com has put together a preview article of the Grappling World Team Trials set for Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif. on September 13-14.www.TheMat.com has put together a preview article of the Grappling World Team Trials set for Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif. on September 13-14. At stake are spots on the U.S. World Team which competes in Lucerne, Switzerland on December 20-21 at the Grappling World Championships.
136.5 pounds:This weight class looks to be as action packed as last year. However, rumors have it that the defending National and World Champion Darren Uyenoyama has retired from Grappling to focus his energy on his professional MMA career and recently opened San Francisco-based gym, Fogtown Jiu-Jitsu. In the absence of Uyenoyama, 2007 Grappling World Finalist and 2x NCAA All-American, Matt Sanchez of Ultimate Fitness leaps to the head of the pack as the division favorite. Sanchez is coming off a dominating first-place performance at the Rio International Open. However, Sanchez’s road to victory could be rough. His chief rival is Brian Peterson of Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy. These two athletes met at the Grappler’s Quest Qualifier last year with Sanchez coming out the victor by a narrow margin. Peterson will be looking to avenge this loss and claim ownership to the National title. Also look for top newcomers Alejandro Zeas (Team Yamasaki), John Blalock (10th Planet), Daniel Kessler (American Pankration), Robert Lopez (Urban Jungle), and Eric Anderson (Minnesota Martial Arts Academy) to make waves in this division.
154 pounds:21-year-old Grappling phenom, Ricky Lundell of Grappler’s Edge, will look to repeat his performance from last year’s World Team Trials. Lundell will have his hands full with the slick submission artist, Cobra Kai’s Scott Bieri. Both athletes are submission-minded grapplers that are always looking to end the match. With their tremendous athleticism and willingness to take risk, this match-up could be the match of the tournament. The potential tournament spoiler will go to 3x Oklahoma State All-American Shane Roller, who has been training with Marc Laimon and will bring a tough competitive mindset to the trials. Also watch out for Greco-Roman sensations Jacob Hey from Matt Hughes’ H.I.T. Squad and No Limits MMA’s own, Shannon Slack. Both are transitioning into MMA/Grappling from Greco-Roman wrestling, and both competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for wrestling in June. The dark horse for the weight class will have to go to Colorado Fight Factory’s Keith Wilson, who is rumored to be dropping down to 154 lbs. He is a skilled grappler that is known in Grappling and wrestling circles as a strong competitor. Others to watch are Matt Holt (Team Volt), Tom Lecuyer (K3 Kombat Sports), Peter Sutton (Team Quest), Preston Marks (Ashevilla BJJ), and Kahlil Moreland (Roger Machado JJ).
176 pounds:This is hands down, the toughest weight class of the entire Trials, and is stacked from top to bottom. The favorite is defending champion Don Ortega who proved his ability in grinding through the stacked 2007 Trials. The Adams State All-American wrestler and 2007 Grappling World Champion is a hard nose grappler that makes his opponent earn every point and position. Ortega is going to have his hands full with MMA legend and UFC veteran Dennis Hallman, who has more experience then any other grappler in the tournament. Hallman suffered a big upset last year in a one-point, semifinal loss to Paragon Jiu-Jitsu’s Bill Cooper. Hallman suffered an injury during the match and had to withdraw from the tournament. He is looking to redeem himself and take Ortega’s title. Up-and-coming grapplers and mixed-martial artists Jacob Volkman and Johny Hendricks are going to give anyone that steps in front of them a tough time. Volkman, a 3x NCAA All-American from the University of Minnesota, recently dominated the field at the Midwest Qualifier, where he submitted 2007 Grappling All-American and World bronze medalist Mike Kelly in under a minute. Hendricks is a 2x NCAA Champion and 4x NCAA All-American. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy is now a Cobra Kai disciple and has been training Grappling/MMA for the past two years. Funkmaster and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt Joseph Gutierrez will look to ruffle some feathers with his unorthodox style and relentless submission attack. Hollywood BJJ instructor Shawn Williams and his #1 student Warren Stout will look to repeat their performances from the Last Chance Qualifier and make some noise in this stacked division. Others to watch for include Sean Spangler (Cobra Kai), Jeff Paulson (American Pankration), Brad Sandavol (Ultimate Fitness), and Mike Kelly (Gilbert Grappling).
202.5 pounds:The entrance of Rick MacCauley has turned this division upside down. Philadelphia’s best grappler, MacCauley of Team Balance brings countless Grappler’s Quest titles and a BJJ Black Belt to the Trials. His dominating performance at the Mason Dixon Qualifier has given him the title of favorite despite being in the same division as defending champion Malcolm Havens. However, don’t count out the former Western Conference Champion and Wyoming wrestler Havens. He was World Champion last year and is known for tireless conditioning and freakish strength. Both MacCauley and Havens could be challenged by Cal State Bakersfield 1999 All-American and IFL veteran Raphael “Noodle” Davis. Noodle brings tons of size and competition experience to table. Team Quest’s David Culbertson is a dark horse at this weight, and is coming off of a big win against 2007 World Team Trials and World Finalist Matt Horwich, at the Northwest Qualifier, who is also a major threat at this weight class. Look out for Jake Rosholt, 3x NCAA Champion from Oklahoma State, although Rosholt’s participation is questionable. If he does compete, he is an instant favorite, having proven his ability to win big tournaments on more than one occasion. Other contenders are Timmy Bond (Street Sport BJJ) and Ian Murphy (Prodigy Elite). Bond is coming off of a great performance at the So Cal Qualifier by dominating all of his opponents. Murphy is a former Cal State Fullerton standout and Freestyle University National Champion and has three straight submission victories en route to victory at the Last Chance Qualifier. Others to watch out for are Chaun Sims (Easton BJJ), Dan Clark (MMA Institute), and Jeff Funicello (American Pankration).
275 pounds:This Division can be summed up with one word, Monson! Jeff Monson is arguably the best U.S. Grappler to date and unquestionably one of the most accomplished grapplers of all time. Monson is the definition of what it means to be a competitor. He is a former World Heavyweight #1 contender and MMA legend. Where most professional fighters at his level would rest on their laurels and shy away from putting their reputation on the line, Monson defies convention. He is a unique individual. As the defending World Team Trials and World Champion, Monson will be looking to repeat. Challenging from Team Quest is Aaron Stark, an All-American wrestler from Wisconsin and former IFL fighter. Stark is coming off of a victory over Bobak Ranjbaran, in the finals of the Northwest Qualifier. Grappler’s Edge athlete Brandon Ruiz is the best wrestler of the field with a recent No. 3 ranking in Greco-Roman wrestling. Look for him to be able to give anyone trouble. Team Lutter’s Justin Wren, a Texas native and former Junior National Champion, is very familiar with stepping up at big tournaments and is learning from one of the best grapplers in the country. Also watch out for Ramon Diaz of No Limits MMA, who was a 2007 World silver medalist and strong wrestler and Sombo competitor. Others to look out for include, James Haddon (Fogtown JJ), Bobak Ranjbaran (Demon Jiu Jitsu), John Dolida (Hybrid).
Women’s Divisions:The women divisions will have some of the nation’s finest female grapplers. At 105.5 lbs., Lisa Ward will be the heavy favorite with only a few possible competitors. The 121-lbs. division is turning out to be the toughest division of the trials. Defending World Team Trials and World Champion Felicia Oh is the favorite to repeat as Champion. However, rumor has it that MMA bad girl and defending 138.5 lbs. World Team Trials and World Champion, Tara LaRosa, is dropping down to take on Felicia Oh for the title of #1 female grappler in the United States. Also in this division is Bahar Shahidi, who was 2007 World Team Trials and World Finalist, losing to Oh in both finals. In the 138.5 lbs. weight class, Cindy Hales of Gracie-Barra Seattle and Josh Barnett protége Ginele Marquez-Lee will battle for the top spot. Ginele is the returning World Team Trials Finalist in the division, but Cindy Hales is known as one of the top female grapplers in the country. It should be exciting. At 158.5 lbs., Val Worthington of New Breed Jiu-Jitsu stands atop the mountain with few challengers. However, if Tori Adams of Colorado Fight Factory decides not to go down to 138.5 lbs., it should be an exciting match for the 158.5 lbs crown. Other grapplers to look out for are Angela Poe (Grappler’s Edge), Meisha Tate (Victory Athletics), Molly Helsel (NCFC), Vanessa Hardy (Riverside Submissions), Betsy Jones (Capitol Jiu-jitsu Team) Danielle Hobeika, Carla O’Connell (No Limits MMA), and Sandy Nickal (Rio Rancho Wrestling Club).