Jordan Oliver throws Zain Retherford (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- David Taylor and Kyle Dake served as team captains.
J'den Cox sang the national anthem.
The three reigning U.S. world freestyle champions were all here, but none of them wrestled when the American Wrestling League made its debut Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Even without those stars competing, the night still featured a strong 10-match card with numerous NCAA champions before a vocal crowd of around 800 fans in eastern Iowa.
Team Taylor won 7 of 10 matches (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Team Taylor won 7 of 10 matches in the AWL dual that awarded prize money to the athletes.
Each of the AWL participants collected $2,500 to wrestle in the freestyle wrestling event, which was streamed on Trackwrestling.com. The winners picked up an additional $5,000.
The final match of the night came between two top-level wrestlers at 65 kilograms. Jordan Oliver came out strong with a blast double-leg takedown that set the tone for a wild match with 2017 World Team member Zain Retherford. Oliver hit a big throw to build a big lead at the end of the first period before earning a 13-11 win over Retherford, a two-time Hodge Trophy winner.
"I just needed to get to my positions and put some points on the board," Oliver said. "This is just a steppingstone for me. I want to win worlds. Zain is a great competitor and I love scrapping against him."
The night's most anticipated matchup came at 61 kilograms where past Hawkeye NCAA champions Tony Ramos and Cory Clark squared off.
Clark powered to an 8-0 win in a match where Ramos was unable to generate any offense.
Cory Clark gets interviewed after defeating Tony Ramos (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
"It was a lot of fun out there and the fans were really awesome," Clark said. "I really like this event. It was fun to wrestle in it and I've enjoyed watching some of the other wrestling. It's nice having an opportunity to make some money and wrestle in an environment like this."
The fans erupted when past Hawkeye All-American Sam Brooks rallied from a 4-0 deficit to down Nick Heflin 11-4 at 86 kilograms. Brooks came on strong with a huge second period to prevail as the fans went wild.
A fired-up Brooks pounded his chest after earning the win.
Sam Brooks with Thomas Gilman (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
"I loved the crowd support here -- it was awesome," Brooks said. "I love the idea of wrestling in an event like this. This is just the beginning. Hopefully, this is a steppingstone for younger wrestlers who can hopefully make a lot of money in this sport."
Past Iowa State national champion Kyven Gadson earned a hard-fought 5-3 win over Jacob Kasper at 97 kilograms. Gadson was off to the hospital right after his match with his wife about to deliver a baby girl to their family.
"I loved competing here and having an opportunity to wrestle close to home," Gadson said. "Wrestling in an event like this is awesome. It's great having an opportunity to win some prize money. And the fans were awesome. The crowd was great."
Alex Dieringer scored a pair of takedowns to earn a 4-2 win over Isaiah Martinez in a battle of wrestlers who combined to win five NCAA titles.
"It was a good, tough match," Dieringer said. "He's a good opponent and I knew I had to get it going early. It was fun having a chance to wrestle here in front of these fans."
James Green picked up a 10-0 technical fall over Brandon Sorensen (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
James Green was the lone 2018 World Team member who competed Friday.
Green, a two-time world medalist, started the night with a decisive 10-0 win over past Hawkeye All-American Brandon Sorensen at 70 kilograms.
"It's exciting to have a chance to wrestle here at this event," Green said. "I had a disappointing performance at the World Championships and I was anxious to get back out on the mat to compete again. It's great having an opportunity to wrestle in an event like this and put on a show for the fans. And it's great to have a chance to win some prize money in the process."
NCAA champion Mike Macchiavello overpowered veteran Deron Winn 8-0 at 92 kilograms.
Winn, competing less than a week after winning a mixed martial arts fight, took his shoes off and retired from wrestling following the match.
"I want to thank all of the fans for all of their support," Winn said. "I've had a great run in wrestling and now it's time to focus on MMA full-time."
Nico Megaludis topped Frank Perrelli (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Past Penn State national champion Nico Megaludis came on strong late in the match to down Frank Perrelli 7-2 at 57 kilograms.
None of the seven U.S. freestylers who medaled last month in Budapest took part in the professional league debut.
No announcements have been made about any future AWL events.
70 kg: James Green (Team Dake) tech. fall Brandon Sorensen (Team Taylor), 10-0
74 kg: Tommy Gantt (Team Taylor) dec. Richie Lewis (Team Dake), 7-2
79 kg: Alex Dieringer (Team Taylor) dec. Isaiah Martinez (Team Dake), 4-2
86 kg: Sam Brooks (Team Taylor) dec. Nick Heflin (Team Dake), 11-4
92 kg: Mike Macchiavello (Team Taylor) dec. Deron Winn (Team Dake), 8-0
97 kg: Kyven Gadson (Team Taylor) dec. Jacob Kasper (Team Dake), 5-3
125 kg: Dom Bradley (Team Dake) dec. Zach Rey (Team Taylor), 3-2
57 kg: Nico Megaludis (Team Taylor) dec. Frank Perrelli (Team Dake), 7-2
61 kg: Cory Clark (Team Taylor) dec. Tony Ramos (Team Dake), 8-0
65 kg: Jordan Oliver (Team Dake) dec. Zain Retherford (Team Taylor), 13-11
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.