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WWE Inks Schultz and Knighton-Ward to "Next in Line" Program

Cohlton Schultz (right) and Zachary Knighton-Ward (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)


WWE unveiled 15 college athletes who will join the company's NIL (Name, Image & Likeness) program - "Next In Lineā„¢" - that provides a clear pathway from collegiate athletics to WWE.

The second "Next In Line" class includes athletes from 14 universities, seven NCAA conferences and seven sports, including the program's first athletes from cheer & dance, gymnastics, volleyball, men's basketball and representation from an HBCU program.

The following 15 athletes will be unveiled later this evening at the inaugural NIL Summit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta:

• Ali Mattox of Ole Miss, a 5-foot-7 cheer & dance athlete from Little Rock, Ark.
• Case Hatch os Arizona State, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound football player from Gilbert, Ariz.
• Chandler Hayden of Tennessee, a 5-foot-11 track & field athlete from Pittsfield, Ill.
• Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound wrestler from Parker, Colo.
• Derrian Gobourne of Auburn, a 5-foot-4 gymnast from Sarasota, Fla.
• Ericka Link of Elon, a 5-foot-6 volleyball player from Hedgesville, W.Va.
• Keshaun Moore of Hampton, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound football player from Suffolk, Va.
• Luke Ford of Illinois, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound football player from Carterville, Ill.
• Maliq Carr of Michigan State, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound football and basketball player from Inkster, Mich.
• Mikala Hall of Central Michigan, a 5-foot-5 basketball player from Danville, Ill.
• Rachel Glenn of South Carolina, a 6-foot track & field athlete from Long Beach, Calif.
• Ruben Banks of Arkansas, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound track & field athlete from Binfield, England
• Thunder Keck of Stanford, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound football player from Northfield, N.H.
• Tyanna Omazic of Miami, a 6-foot-2 volleyball player from Kansas City, Mo.
• Zachary Knighton-Ward of Hofstra, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound wrestler from Rosedale, N.Y.

Editor's Note: Schultz, who was NCAA runner-up at 285 for Arizona State this season, recently made his second straight U.S. Senior World Greco-Roman Team. Knighton-Ward is an NCAA qualifier for Hofstra. Ironically, Schultz beat Knighton-Ward in the first round at the 2022 NCAA Championships in Detroit.

WWE's comprehensive NIL program launched in December and serves to recruit and develop potential future Superstars, and further enhances WWE's talent development process through collaborative partnerships with college athletes from diverse athletic backgrounds. "Next In Line" has signed 31 full-time college athletes since its inception and currently has 25 active athletes following the graduation of six inaugural members from the program.

All athlete partnerships will feature access to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., in addition to resources across the organization including brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations. Upon completion of the NIL program, select athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract. All six athletes who graduated from the first class have either signed or are in discussion to join WWE on a full-time basis.

Four of the 16 initial members of WWE's "Next In Line" program are nominated for awards at the NIL Summit including Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson (University of Minnesota) for Male Athlete of the Year, Haley & Hanna Cavinder (University of Miami) for Female Athlete of the Year and Jon Seaton (Elon University) for the Hustle Award. Additionally, WWE is a finalist for Brand of the Year.

For more information about the inaugural NIL Summit, held June 13-15 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, visit nilsummit.com. Learn more about the "Next In Line" program at wwerecruit.com.

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