USA Wrestling NCAA Div I standout...

NCAA Div I standouts Munoz Sanchez to compete in USA Wrestling Grappling Qualifier in Irvine Calif May 12

By Art Barker | May 09, 2007, 5:11 p.m. (ET)

In 2006, FILA, the international wrestling federation, added Grappling as one of its official styles and has taken steps to integrate and develop this sport under its authority. Another announcement was made that the first Grappling World Championships will be held alongside Beach Wrestling and Sombo at the 2007 FILA World Wrestling Games in Antalya, Turkey, Sept. 7-10th.

USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States, immediately took action to produce a team to compete at the first ever Grappling World Championships in Turkey. USA Wrestling will be holding four sanctioned qualifiers (California, Virginia, Washington, Georgia) with the top three finishers earning a chance to compete at the United States Marine Corps U.S. Grappling World Team Trials in Las Vegas June 8-10th. For the first time, Grappling will be held alongside freestyle and Greco Roman, with the results of the Grappling Trials forming the U.S. team that will compete in Turkey.

For many of the wrestling community, Grappling is not a new concept. Grappling is a hybrid sport that combines aspects of both wrestling and jiu-jitsu with the ultimate goal being the submission or tapout of your opponent. Grappling is an integral part of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and with organizations such as the IFL, UFC and Pride growing in mainstream popularity many former wrestlers are focusing their attention on this new discipline.

Mark Munoz and Matt Sanchez, former NCAA Div. I wrestling standouts and now coaches at UC Davis, are extremely excited about FILA and USA Wrestling's involvement in this new sport. Both Munoz and Sanchez will be competing this weekend at the No Limits West Coast World Team Grappling Qualifier Trials in Irvine, Calif. on May 12th.

Mark Munoz wrestled for Oklahoma State under legendary coach John Smith and was a Div. I NCAA champion and two-time All-American. He won a Junior World silver medal and competed on three Junior World teams. Munoz won two California state high school titles and a national high school championship. On the Senior level in freestyle, he won four All-American honors.

Matt Sanchez was a two-time NCAA Div. I All-American for Cal State Bakersfield and a Pac-10 runner-up as a senior. In high school, Sanchez was also a National High School runner-up.

Munoz and Sanchez are assistant coaches at the University of California Davis, working with head coach Lenny Zalesky to build the program. UC Davis had its first NCAA Div. I champion this year in Derek Moore. Munoz and Sanchez coach also train in Grappling and jiu-jitsu with former UC Davis wrestler and current MMA Champion Urijah Faber at his Sacramento gym, Ultimate Fitness.

I sat down with both Munoz and Sanchez to discuss their thoughts on FILA and USA Wrestling's involvement with Grappling, their training for the upcoming qualifiers, wrestling in comparison to Grappling and the impact this new sport will have on the MMA scene.

"What do you think about USA Wrestling and FILA adopting the sport of Grappling?"

I feel that it is a great opportunity for wrestlers young and old to be able to have extensive knowledge in Grappling especially with the growing popularity of MMA. Wrestlers will have an opportunity to go into a more lucrative extension of the sport. I believe wrestling is the best foundation one can have to be successful in Grappling and MMA. For USA Wrestling to adopt Grappling is a great and wonderful opportunity to expand the sport of wrestling and be able to create a greater diversity in skills.

I think it's great. It brings credibility to the sport. Grappling rules are simple and make sense, nothing artificial. It's a six-minute match with no break. There are points for takedowns and controls, and a tap out ends the match. All scoring is based on skill.

What has made you want to begin competing in Grappling?

I've always had an interest in Grappling. It is fascinating to me, but just recently within the last eight months I have been concentrating on it more because I've made the decision to challenge my skills in MMA.

Right after my senior year in college I had my second ACL reconstruction. I had to take a lot of time off and didn't really see myself ever competing in wrestling again. When I took the assistant coaching job at UC Davis, my roommate was putting together a team for an ISWA event and needed to fill a weight. I had a mediocre performance but our team won. I really enjoyed the competition. In the last couple months, I have actually dedicated more time to Grappling and it has been great for me.

Where do you train and with who?

I train in the Sacramento area mainly. I am a wrestling coach at UC Davis and I have an opportunity to wrestle all my athletes on a daily basis. I also train my jui-jitsu at Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento. I travel two days a week to train my Muay Thai at Fairtex's training facility in San Francisco. I train with Ganyao (#1 Muay Thai trainer in the world). I train my jui-jitsu with Dustin Akbari, Urijah Faber, and Scott Smith. I also learn a lot from Dmitry Maydannik and James Irvin in my striking for MMA.

I train with my guys at UC Davis and at Ultimate Fitness in Downtown Sacramento. As far as wrestling goes, at UC Davis we have a great practice room. We have some really tough lightweights including national champion and Outstanding Wrestler Derek Moore. At Ultimate Fitness, I have a great instructor from Brazil, Andre Glodzinski. My workout partners are great too. I train with Urijah Faber who is a multiple-time MMA world champ and an ex-UC Davis Wrestler. I also train with Grappler's Quest Champion Dustin Akbari and a bunch of other tough guys around my weight.

Compare Grappling to Wrestling

Grappling and wrestling have the same principles but have very different rules. Everything you can't do in wrestling you can do in Grappling. While both disciplines are very strategic, wrestling to me is performed at a high intensity and very fast paced, while Grappling is performed at a slower pace. This is the reason why I believe wrestlers have a distinct advantage over "pure" Grapplers because wrestlers are able to sustain a higher degree of intensity for a longer duration of time.

To me it's just a matter of being able to learn new techniques and fit them into your game, changing some reactions, and learning good position. The same thing that makes guys good wrestlers will make them good Grapplers.

With the growth of MMA, how do you see Grappling and USA Wrestling affecting MMA?

I believe Grappling and USA Wrestling will affect the MMA scene dramatically. More and more wrestlers will challenge their skills on the MMA level. Like I said before, wrestlers have a great foundation for the sport and can be very successful doing it.
I also think the more coverage Grappling and wrestling receive, the more understanding people will gain of the sport and the more popular the sport will become.

I think it will make the transition from wrestling to MMA easier for guys in the future if they have a background in Grappling, too. You may start seeing more wrestlers getting a financial payoff for their years of hard work and dedication.

The remaining USA Wrestling Grappling Qualifiers are as follows:

May 12 - Mid-Atlantic Grappling Championships, Virginia Beach, Va.
Held at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach

May 12 - No Limits West Coast World Team Grappling Qualifier Trials, Irvine, Calif.
Held at No Limits Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness, 1962 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA 92606
949-251-8822 phone, 949-251-8833 FAX

May 19 - Team Quest World Team Grappling Qualifying Trials, Olympia, Wash.
To be held in Olympia High School, 1302 North Street, Olympia, WA 98501

May 26 - No Limits East Coast World Team Grappling Qualifier Trials, Alpharetta, Ga.
"Last Chance"
Held at The Cooler, 10800 Davis Drive, Alpharetta, GA 30004
Qualifiers for men (15): Top three place finishers in each of the five FILA weight classes
Qualifiers for women (12): Top three place finishers in each of the four FILA weight classes

The United States Marine Corps U.S. World Team Trials will be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., June 8-10 and is hosted by USA Wrestling. This event is the qualifier for the U.S. Grappling World Team which will compete in the World Wrestling Games in Antalya, Turkey on Sept. 7-9. For information, visit:

For more information about USA Wrestling, visit: