Esai Dominguez was a three-time All-American for Nebraska-Omaha who also excelled nationally in USA Wrestling Greco-Roman events. Sandy Higdon photo.
The idea was hatched when the sport of wrestling was immersed in a battle for its Olympic future.
During wrestling’s seven-month fight this year to convince the International Olympic Committee to keep wrestling in the Olympic Games, Zac Dominguez came up with an idea that would benefit the sport.
Dominguez, who was a nationally ranked Greco-Roman wrestler in the U.S., wanted to stage an event that could help grow the sport and also benefit wrestlers financially as they continue to pursue their Olympic dreams.
Dominguez’s idea will become a reality when the inaugural Victory Wrestling Challenge is held on Friday night at Omaha’s Ralston Arena.
The Victory Wrestling Challenge is a freestyle and Greco-Roman event featuring past World and Olympic wrestlers in a 12-bout card. The event will bring together Victory Fighting Championships’ first-class promotion of events and grassroots wrestling clubs. A portion of each ticket sold will be pledged to USA Wrestling.
“It’s going to be an exciting event with great matchups,” Dominguez said. “We have wrestlers who have competed in the World Championships and the Olympics, in addition to wrestlers who have been NCAA champions and All-Americans in college. There will be some entertaining matches for the fans and the wrestlers will make some money to help subsidize their training. It’s also a chance to get wrestling in the mainstream by hopefully attracting some new fans to the sport.”
Dominguez initially pitched his idea to Ryan Stoddard, president of the Victory Fighting Championships, and Stoddard quickly jumped on board.
“Ryan runs a fantastic event and he is going to put in place a lot of the elements he uses for his mixed martial arts events,” Dominguez said. “The production value he brings to an event is awesome. The mat will be elevated, up on a stage similar to how an MMA event is set up. We will have lights and music and ring girls, with walkouts for the athletes when they come out for their matches. It is going to make it an awesome atmosphere for the wrestlers and the fans to experience.”
The event features an abundance of top matchups and is headlined by twins Trent and Travis Paulson, who grew up just across the river from Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Paulsons have both made U.S. World Teams in freestyle wrestling.
Trent Paulson, an NCAA champion for Iowa State, is scheduled to face past Missouri standout Nick Marable at 163 pounds. Marable won the New York AC International title earlier this month.
Travis Paulson, a three-time All-American for Iowa State, is scheduled to battle 2010 NCAA champion Max Askren at 185 pounds. Travis Paulson placed second at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials.
Among the other standouts expected to compete is 2010 World Team member Les Sigman, who won four NCAA Division II titles for Nebraska-Omaha. Sigman placed second at the 2012 Olympic Trials at heavyweight. He is scheduled to face past NCAA All-American Jarod Trice.
Dominguez, who runs the MWC Wrestling Academy in Omaha, convinced his two younger brothers to compete in the event.
Eli and Esai Dominguez were standout wrestlers at Creighton Prep High School in Omaha and for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They both also excelled in USA Wrestling Greco-Roman events on the national level.
Eli Dominguez, an NCAA Division II runner-up, is scheduled to face past University of Nebraska NCAA qualifier Ridge Kiley at 163 pounds.
Esai Dominguez, an NCAA Division II runner-up, is scheduled to face 2012 Olympian Justin “Harry” Lester in a Greco-Roman bout at 163 pounds. Lester is a two-time World bronze medalist.
“It’s great to have both of my brothers wrestling in our hometown again,” Zac Dominguez said. “They have both been doing well with their training. It’s going to be fun and exciting to see them step out there and compete again.”
Another top matchup features two-time NCAA runner-up Montell Marion against two-time NCAA Division II champion Raufeon Stots at 145 pounds.
Dominguez said the international rules will be used with the one exception being that overtime also will be used if a match is tied after regulation.
Tickets for the event are $25 apiece for general admission and $750 for a seated table with 10 spectators. The event is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.homepridetix.com
“The Ralston Arena is a great venue,” Dominguez said. “It’s been open less than two years and it will be a great place to watch some great wrestling. We have sold out a lot of the table area. We would love to fill the whole bowl in the arena, which would be about 4,000 fans.”
Victory Fighting Championship is based in Omaha and is a premier mixed martial arts organization in the Midwest.
“I would love to see us hold three or four events a year like this for wrestling,” Dominguez said. “I think it’s something that can definitely benefit the sport.”