Foley: Agon I in the books, Agon II set for Dec. 22

Amateur wrestling took center stage on Sunday night at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas when Agon I debuted with its silver hexagon mat, high production value and pay-per-view stream. The event, which was held at the end of the Freakshow high school wrestling tournament, pit former collegiate wrestling stars in money matches in front of youth wrestlers and online subscribers.

Though much of the attention was created by headliners Ben Askren and Quentin Wright, there were three other marquee matchups.

The first match of the night saw 2010 NCAA champion Jay Borschel beat 39-year-old NCAA All-American and MMA star Aaron Simpson handily. Borschel, who is an assistant at Northwestern University, was in much better condition than Simpson and utilized several hi-crotch attempts to secure an 11-3 victory.

Lance Palmer flexes at weigh-in (Photo/Urijah Faber)
Two-time NCAA champion Jordan Oliver kept things going for the younger competitors, beating NCAA finalist and current undefeated RFA fighter Lance Palmer, 8-0. Oliver, who is considered one of the best 66-kilo freestyle wrestlers in the country, capitalized on several re-shots and quick finishes against the Team Alpha Male fighter.

The third match of the night was saw 2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas best 2011 World Team member Nick Simmons, 2-1. Abas, who won three NCAA titles for now-defunct Fresno State, was impressive enough for some to wonder if he should make a comeback on the freestyle circuit.

Two-time NCAA champion Ben Askren earned a convincing 22-8 victory over recent Penn State graduate and two-time NCAA champion Quentin Wright, scoring quickly on a takedown and series of turns and holds.

Looking to make a big splash in their first event, Agon offered larger than expected cash purses to several of wrestling's most marketable stars. Askren who is the current Bellator welterweight champion and the matchmaker for Agon, was paid $10,000 for his win over Wright. Though Agon wasn't willing to release the information for each of the purses, Askren confirmed that Oliver received $3,000 to show and another $3,000 for his win, while Jay Borschel was awarded $2,000 and $1,000.

"Agon I put on a pro-level production value," said Askren on Monday. "And they paid wrestlers real money (for competing)."

Though buffered by the monies collected by the high school fans in attendance, Agon struggled to promote the event outside of their distribution network on and through their Twitter feed. In addition to their promotional difficulties, the event was delayed an hour, leaving same fans to complain on Twitter.

Though well short of the polish and professionalism of a major MMA or boxing promotion, Agon was mentionable among the best produced first-time wrestling events, outpacing what the NCAA produced in the early 90's. There were some preventable production mishaps (lack of pre-packaged highlights and an absence of on-screen scoreboards), but the variety of camera angles and addition of Daniel Cormier as a guest broadcaster were huge additions to the evening's event and appeal.

"We were very disorganized before the event and there was lots of turmoil in getting this thing off the ground," assessed Askren. "It was very stressful. No full-time employees and no real exact responsibilities yet. That was part of the problem from an organizational level."

"Lots of great ideas, though."

Taking from the lessons they learned in Las Vegas Agon owners and operators, including Mike DiSabato and Ernie Ciaccio are already planning to host Agon II on Dec. 22 in Flint, Mich., in coordination with NUWAY's Mat Mayhem event. The lineup card is filled with compelling matchups, with a majority of the wrestlers hailing from the state of Michigan, a move Agon is hoping will attract more fans into the stands.

Agon II lineup card:
Chris Bono vs. Brent Metcalf
Max Askren vs. Jon Reader
Cam Simaz vs. Ben Bennett
Andy Simmons vs. Kellen Russell


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