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From my blog www.bryantwrestling.com
Several years ago when the UFC and Spike TV debuted The Ultimate Fighter, I was freelancing for InterMat and had run into Josh Koscheck several times during the wrestling season. I first saw him wrestle at the EWL Championships at Virginia Tech a few years prior and I remember saying "That's the biggest 174-pounder I have ever seen."
He was big and bad back in the day. I remember talking to Kos and his college teammate, Cory Ace, then a first-year assistant at ODU, up at the Mat Town USA Invitational literally 12 hours after I'd left my job at the Daily Press. About a month later, there was Koscheck again, coaching for Buffalo, at the Virginia Duals.
Two days after that, I was at the Sandbar & Grill in Newport News, enjoying a tall beverage and talking to "Monkey," a former boxer turned MMA fighter/bartender. He had connections to Chris Leben through Matt Horwich and Team Quest. During the debut of the show, I watched and went "I was just talking to that guy on Saturday."
That guy was Josh Koscheck, dyed blonde hair and all. I was very interested in the show immediately, as were many wrestling fans. I didn't know Kos too well, we'd crossed paths, had some mutual friends, but it was a connection to the show. I watched the first three seasons intently, but then lost interest. Rashad Evans' journey was fun to watch. As were other wrestlers who I'd have the chance to cover over the years. It's been great to talk about with my boys like Nick Frost, an Arizona State alum who has several friends go through the MMA ranks and TUF.
Now, I'm sitting here watching Ultimate Fight Night Live, awaiting the Ultimate Fighter. This season, I have two connections to the show. One of which is Antwain Britt. He wrestled in high school back in my area at Indian River High School and was pretty tough. He trains with John Dolida, a former ODU heavyweight from New Jersey who was one of the last guys cut from the TUF interviews prior to this season. Britt's mom worked at ODU when I was a freshman. Britt and my former roommate, Joe Wright, work out at Hybrid Academy of Martial Arts, the same place Cory Ace got his start with MMA.
Now, I don't know Antwain very well, but I do know David Kaplan. A wildly, but unconventionally smart individual, he's also one of the must off-the-wall guys on the planet. Some of the stories I could say, but decorum prevents me from such. Kap spent many a night on our coach at "The 12 House" in Norfolk and started fighting after his college career at Old Dominion came to a close. He wrestled at Woodbridge H.S. in Virginia before going to Longwood, Missouri and finally landing at ODU. The stuff that would come out of his mouth still makes me laugh, not to mention, he's got a huge cranium. I kid, but seriously.
This won't be Kaplan's first national television showcase ... he won $50,000 last year on NBC's show "The Singing Bee." I'm serious. He was the tattooed guy with the huge head. The Soup even called him out on his failed attempt at the splits during The Singing Bee.
So while I know the show is taped months earlier, I had the notion to text Kap and ask "where are you watching yourself on TV tonight?"
I'll have a vested interest in this season ... and of course, there's another one of Frost's boys -- Ryan Bader. Wrestling fans will find ties to this season, but this season, I've got so many stories about one of the contestants that I'll be able to tell, off the record, and get some laughs.
One of those lines is ... "Well, I wouldn't say I chased her." I guess you had to be there.