Despite the country’s long wrestling tradition, the United States of America has never had a back-to-back world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling. Rulon Gardner came the closest when he followed up a dramatic Olympic championship with a world championship.
When the dust settled at the 2006 world championships in China, it appeared as if the USA had another serious contender. No one expected Joe Warren to walk out of the competition with a championship. Even though his bracket was packed with former world medalists, he was able to plow through the field and win gold.
Warren returned to a hero’s welcome. He was honored by his alma mater, the University of Michigan, before their football game with Michigan State. Then, after some time off, it was back to training and preparing for the 2007 world team trials.
The hype around Warren reached critical mass when he was able to secure a spot on the world team by winning the trials. However, USA wrestling’s next great hope was soon dashed as it was announced that Joe Warren had tested positive for marijuana for a second time. The test result not only eliminated him from the 2007 world team, but also carried a two-year suspension that effectively disqualified the former Wolverine all-American from the 2008 Olympics.
Life is full of irony. After having his Olympic dreams destroyed, Joe Warren will get another chance at international athletic stardom in DREAM, a popular MMA promotion based in Japan. He will make his MMA debut as a participant in the promotion’s featherweight tournament. On March 8th, Warren will once again find himself in another tournament that no one expects him to win.
Recently, Warren has been training with Team Quest in preparation for his MMA debut. He is already 31 years old, which may explain why he is jumping into the deep end of the talent pool. The DREAM featherweight tournament is loaded with talent, but then again so was his bracket back in 2006. Perhaps Warren will be able to surprise everyone once again, and join the current amateur wrestling renaissance that has seen Mo Lawal, Brock Lesnar, Ben Askren, and more rise to prominence.
By: Richard Mann