A Challenge in Catch Wrestling

Curran Jacobs hoodie

by Eddie Goldman

Whilst perhaps not as magical as watching a child be born and grow, it is nonetheless quite exciting to see the rebirth and development of catch wrestling.

Just this week, when it appeared that things were slowing down a bit as the various catch wrestling organizations were shaping their 2015 schedules, a challenge was issued which lit up this nascent movement.

Curran Jacobs, the former Michigan State Spartans’ wrestling team captain, had entered the world of catch wrestling by scoring a pin over Christopher Crossan of the Snake Pit Wigan on June 7, 2014, in the main event of the Catch Wrestling Alliance International Invitational: The Rebirth, at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Now he plans to return to action this year, and in a big way.

This week, during an interview on No Holds Barred, he issued a challenge to Travis Newaza, who was victorious at the West Coast King of Catch Wrestling Tournament held January 11, 2015, in San Diego, California.

“I would like to actually call out that gentleman who won that tournament, Travis Newaza, I believe his name is,” he said.

“He is being claimed the King of the West Coast, and I’m on the West Coast.” He added that he was unaware of the January 11 event.

He went on to criticize his performance in that event.

“He’s a good jiu-jitsu guy, but I saw no catch wrestling happening at all.” And he stated that he considered him to be holding a “fake title”.

Following this challenge, various posts on Facebook and Twitter indicated that several people, including veteran catch wrestlers and martial artists Josh Barnett and Erik Paulson, were involved in trying to arrange this match. While thus far no details of when and where this will take place, it does appear that everyone is on board with it, at least in principle.

Early last century, when catch wrestling was still to varying degrees a real sport, it was common for catch wrestlers to issue challenges through the newspapers, usually with promises to put up prize money and have side bets. Today, when the remaining newspapers are generally irrelevant to wrestling, these challenges are made online (and, I am proud to say, through media such as my podcast). But there still is not much money, if any at all, in catch wrestling, a deficit that is likely to change as the sport continues to mature and thrive. Still, it will require some type of formal structure at some point to advance to the next level, a development which will take time, professional leadership, and integrity from all involved.

But wait, there’s more!

Many of the same people who are involved in rebuilding catch wrestling as a legitimate sport are also working with an international project around the sport of combat wrestling. Originated by wrestling legend Noriaki Kiguchi in Japan in the 1990s, in recent years combat wrestling has received less attention, especially as many of its stars have gone into MMA.

Combat wrestling can basically be described as sort of catch wrestling with a point system, or sambo without the jacket (kurtka). The key person involved in this revival is Ivaylo Ivanov, who is originally from Bulgaria but is now based in Mexico.

An international federation has been set up to govern combat wrestling, called the Combat Wrestling International Federation (FICW). Their first world championships have been scheduled for August 22, 2015, in Varna, Bulgaria, with national team trials already slated for Canada, the USA, and Bulgaria, with more to come. For more information, go to http://combatwrestling.org.

So 2015 has already begun with a bang, or a suplex and a pin, if you will, for these revived styles. And we’re not even done with the first month of this new year!

An interview with Curran Jacobs about his challenge can be heard here:

An interview with Ivaylo Ivanov about combat wrestling can be heard here:

(Eddie Goldman is host and producer of the No Holds Barred podcast, at EddieGoldman.com.)

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Springtime for Catch Wrestling, 2015 Edition


by Eddie Goldman

Almost exactly a year ago, our sister site, GrappleGnostic, heralded the beginning of a new era in the revived sport of catch wrestling, where you win by pin or submission.

The plans for 2014, we said, were for the biggest year for catch wrestling in the 21st century.

Jake Shannon of Scientific Wrestling, who has been a key leader for many years in rebuilding this sport, said: “It’s an exciting time. It really is exciting. It is beginning to blossom. So it’s kind of ‘Springtime for Catch Wrestling’, if I can steal, if I could paraphrase a Mel Brooks movie title.” (“Springtime for Catch Wrestling”, http://www.defensesoap.com/grapplegnostic/?p=676)

Besides the numerous seminars, camps, videos, books, and the growth of dozens of web sites and Facebook pages devoted entirely or in large part to catch wrestling, 2014 saw the greatest number of catch wrestling competitions since its rebirth as a legitimate, standalone sport.

Among the major catch wrestling events of 2014 were:

June 7 — The Catch Wrestling Alliance International Invitational: The Rebirth, at the John Wooden Center on the campus of UCLA, in Los Angeles, California. This was the first major event of the year, and saw top catch wrestlers from the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. competing. Of particular note was the main event, in which former Michigan State wrestling team captain Curran Jacobs of Catch Wrestling Los Angeles pinned Christopher Crossan from the Snake Pit Wigan in 2:02 to win the Frank Gotch Award. Among the people at this event were Snake Pit Wigan coach Roy Wood, wrestling historian and author Mike Chapman, catch wrestler Josh Barnett, and many other notables in the wrestling and combat sports worlds.

July 27 — The 2014 Catch Wrestling World Championship, presented by the Snake Pit U.S.A., at the MMA World Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. After tournaments in several weight classes, the absolute division final was a classic. In an epic match, the 314-pound Nick Caggia faced the tournament’s flyweight champion, Phil Caracappa, who weighed just 148 pounds. This turned into a marathon match, with Nick Caggia finally scoring a pin at 4:41 of the overtime period, after almost 20 minutes of wrestling, to capture the title. This also turned out to be one of the most popular events at the MMA World Expo.

August 9 — At the Metamoris 4 grappling event in Los Angeles, Josh Barnett submitted two-time ADCC world champion Dean Lister with a head-and-arm choke with just seconds remaining in their 20-minute, submission-only, no-gi match. This became the most discussed and analyzed match of this event, and helped rekindle the old debate and rivalry between catch wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

August 17 — The Let’s Shoot 2014 – the Mesoamerican Catch Wrestling Championships was held at the Parque de la Industria in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Mike Martelle of the Grizzly Gym in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, along with Fight Club Guatemala and Grizzly Gym Central America, brought this event to Guatemala. With more than 70 competitors, Mike Martelle said, “It appears as though Let’s Shoot 2014 in Guatemala City was the largest attended, participated catch wrestling tournament possibly not only of this year, but possibly of the entire modern era of catch wrestling.”

August 30 — The Liberty Bell Classic/King of Catch Wrestling Tournament at the Primal Gym in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The main event featured a match to crown an American heavyweight catch wrestling champion, the first such holder of this title in real catch wrestling since the early 1900s. In this match, Luis Ojeda, the two-time King of Catch Wrestling heavyweight champion, faced Anthony Sansonetti, the 2013 King of Catch Wrestling USA absolute division champion. It was another marathon match, with Luis Ojeda finally winning by pin in 55 minutes and 10 seconds to capture the title.

November 8 — The third annual International Week organized by the legendary home of catch-as-catch-can wrestling, the Snake Pit Wigan, was capped off by the annual catch wrestling invitational tournament involving wrestlers from around the world, in Bolton, England.

November 22 — The main event of the Metamoris 5 grappling event in Long Beach, California, featured a no-gi grappling match between Renzo Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba, which went to a 20-minute draw. This was also framed as jiu-jitsu vs. catch wrestling. When these two fought at Pride 10 in 2000 under Pride’s MMA rules, that match was not positioned that way.

December 21 — The California Catch Wrestling Association Test Tournament organized by that newly-formed group, at the Brea Olinda High School in Brea, California.

You will not have to wait long in 2015 for the first major catch wrestling tournament to take place.

The West Coast King of Catch Wrestling Tournament and No Gi Submission Only Grappling Tournament takes place Sunday, January 11, 2015, at San Ysidro High School at 5353 Airway Road, San Diego, California 92154. Its main organizer is Luis Ojeda. More information on this event is at https://www.facebook.com/events/1513236772291240.

It is very likely that 2015 will see not only new editions of all these events which took place in 2014, but also some new and larger ones as well.

We’ve been saying that catch wrestling is back for some time now, so check out all this exciting, new activity in your area and online.

An interview with Luis Ojeda previewing the January 11 event can be heard here:

A recent interview with Jake Shannon reviewing 2014 and discussing what to expect and needs to be done in catch wrestling for 2015 and beyond can be heard here:

(Eddie Goldman is host and producer of the No Holds Barred podcast, at EddieGoldman.com.)

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