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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Senior All-Americans who could excel in MMA

    Many wrestlers are faced with a choice when their collegiate career ends. Oklahoma State All-American Kyle Crutchmer perhaps said it best on Twitter, "Fight … Wrestle … Coach?" From 1979 to 2015 at least one NCAA Division I All-American has tried their hand at MMA. Some decided it was not for them, while others have become some of the best fighters in the history of the sport. The following is a look at eight senior All-Americans would could excel if they decided to transition to MMA.

    Thomas Gilman (Iowa)

    Gilman finished his Iowa career as a three-time All-American. However, after putting together an undefeated regular season, he is likely unhappy with his third-place finish. Unfulfilled goals in wrestling have been the driving force behind several top MMA fighters such as UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who often brings up the fact that he never won an NCAA title. Off the mat, Gilman's brash persona would obviously fit in within the fighting world. During the tournament, he said "I'm not soft. If you can't beat me on the mat, let's go to the parking lot. I'm not above, or below it." From a technical standpoint, his height and reach would be a valuable asset in the 125-pound division.

    Kyle Crutchmer battles PSU's Mark Hall (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State)

    As previously stated, Crutchmer seems open to at least exploring a possible career in MMA. He would not be the first Oklahoma State wrestler to do so as some of the best fighters ever came out of the Cowboy program. Crutchmer has even helped Johny Hendricks prepare for some of his UFC fights. He finished his career as a two-time All-American after placing seventh at this year's tournament.

    Lavion Mayes (Missouri)

    Despite losing in the 149-pound final to Zain Retherford, Mayes showed something in the first few minutes that should intrigue any MMA agent or promoter. In MMA, fighters need to be able to score takedowns from the outside without much of a traditional wrestling set up. Mayes was able to do just that against Retherford with a blast double in the first period of their finals match. Missouri has produced several top MMA fighters in the past including Bellator champion Michael Chandler, UFC champion Tyron Woodley and One champion Ben Askren. When Chandler tweeted about training with Mayes last year, he made sure to tag Bellator in the post.

    Ty Walz gets his hand raised after a victory at NCAAs (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)

    Given the state of heavyweight MMA, any and all heavyweight All-American wrestlers should give the sport a try. Walz came to Virginia Tech after wrestling at 215 pounds in high school. He has since grown and lifted himself into a full heavyweight body. He ended his career as a three-time All-American after finishing fourth at the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. There will likely be a backlog of high level wrestlers on the heavyweight world team ladder, while MMA is dying for heavyweight talent.

    Denzel Dejournette (Appalachian State)

    Staying in the heavyweight division, Dejournette finished eighth at the NCAA tournament to become an All-American for the first time. Over the course of his career, Dejournette showed continued improvements before breaking through as a senior. He joined the Appalachian State program as an unranked member of the 2012 class, and then built himself into an All-American. That type of development is usually a good sign for conversion into MMA.

    J'den Cox (Missouri)

    With an Olympic bronze medal already on his resume, Cox finished his collegiate career with his third NCAA title and fourth All-American season. Last September, he talked openly about joining the Missouri football team following his senior year, so he appears to be open to at least trying new things. If that football career does not work out, he will always be welcome at an MMA gym. His ability to quickly transition to freestyle and medal in his first world-level competition shows that he can adapt to a new rule set.

    Ken Theobold (Rutgers)

    Theobold finished his Rutgers career with a fall in the seventh-place bout over Alex Kocer (South Dakota State) and took home his first All-American honors. Theobold is known for putting up a lot of points. In one stretch during his senior season, he outscored his opponents 56 to 2. One of the close followers of his success is fellow Toms River native and former UFC champion Frankie Edgar who has worked with several members of the Rutgers program in the past.

    T.J. Dudley celebrates after pinning Iowa's Sammy Brooks for third place (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    T.J. Dudley (Nebraska)

    Dudley has not really said anything about transitioning to MMA, but he could certainly be successful. He finished his Husker career with a fall in the third-place match over Iowa's Sammy Brooks. It was his third All-American finish in four years at Nebraska. Dudley is an interesting wrestler since he has good upper-body throws, but he can also scramble and funk on the ground. Both would serve him well if he transitioned into MMA. Plus, he is a long and lanky guy for the light heavyweight division much in the mold of former UFC champion Jon Jones.

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