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A decade after Real Pro Wrestling, four former competitors make news this week

Real Pro Wrestling participants (from left) Daniel Cormier, Pat Cummins, Doug Schwab, Damian Hahn
Real Pro Wrestling participants (from left) Daniel Cormier, Pat Cummins, Doug Schwab, Damian Hahn
Danielle Hobeika for Real Pro Wrestling

Nearly a decade after the demise of Real Pro Wrestling, four of its participants are still making headlines.

Daniel Cormier, Pat Cummins, Doug Schwab and Damion Hahn – all former college wrestlers who participated in the 2005 venture much like today’s Agon Wrestling Championships or Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers) – have been featured in College Wrestling Examiner news stories this week.

Hahn was promoted to associate head coach at Cornell University on Thursday, while Schwab was announced as an inductee into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Cormier and Cummins, who will be battling at UFC 170 Saturday night, have been conducting a war of words in the media all week over Cummins’ disclosure that he “broke” his UFC opponent and made him cry while Cormier was training for the 2004 Olympics.

What was Real Pro Wrestling?

A decade ago, Real Pro Wrestling was launched by two former Northwestern University wrestlers Toby Willis and Matt Case to provide former college wrestlers an opportunity to make money and continue in the sport.

Despite having “pro” in its name, Real Pro Wrestling bore very little resemblance to traditional professional wrestling; there was no ring, no characters, no costumes, no soap opera storylines, and no predetermined outcomes. Real Pro Wrestling was more a hybrid of various styles of amateur wrestling, conducted on a raised circular mat surrounded by a dry moat.

There were seven weight classes that mirrored international weights of the time, with eight wrestlers seeded at each weight. All but the heavyweights wrestled in trunks, without shirts; the big men competed in singlets.

After a 2002 test event, in spring 2005 Real Pro Wrestling was shown on cable TV in a series of eight one-hour telecasts – one program for each weight class, along with a championship finals show -- that had been previously filmed and edited. Real Pro Wrestling garnered respectable ratings and a following within the amateur wrestling community, but then vanished as a Season Two was in the works. The founders told Matt Krumrie of that others within the organization had tried to hijack the venture.

Real Pro Wrestling was somewhat ahead of its time in providing former college wrestlers an opportunity to participate in something other than pro wrestling. Realize that in the early 2000s, mixed martial arts in general – including Ultimate Fighting Championships – were not the sports juggernauts they are today. Back then, a number of states outlawed MMA competition; Senator John McCain – a wrestler at the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1950s – called MMA “human cockfighting.”

Meanwhile, the sports landscape has shifted considerably since the 2005 Real Pro Wrestling venture. MMA events such as this weekend’s UFC 170 fill arenas and generate millions in pay-per-view revenue (now surpassing pro boxing)… and a number of former wrestlers have found fame and fortune competing in the Octagon.

Today’s newsmakers, yesterday’s RPW stars

Daniel Cormier, Pat Cummins and Doug Schwab all won individual titles in Real Pro Wrestling in 2005.

Cormier wrestled for the Oklahoma Slam (one of eight teams in Real Pro Wrestling), winning the 96 kilos/211 pound weight class by defeating Tommy Rowlands in the finals. A native of Louisiana, Cormier was a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) champ at Colby Community College in Kansas, then transferred to Division I powerhouse Oklahoma State. The Louisiana native earned All-American honors by making it to the 184-pound finals of the 2001 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, where he lost to Iowa State's Cael Sanderson, 2004 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle, now head coach at Penn State. In addition to his college credentials, Cormier earned a place on the U.S. freestyle team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Cormier’s opponent at UFC 170, Pat Cummins, was the 120 kilos/264.5 pound champ for the Pennsylvania Hammer at Real Pro Wrestling in 2005, beating Tolly Thompson for the title. Cummins wrestled heavyweight at Penn State, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American. The Pennsylvania product placed fourth in the 285-pound weight class at the 2003 NCAAs; one year later, Cummins found himself in the 2004 NCAA finals, facing off against 2002 champ Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State. The Buckeye defeated Cummins, 6-2, to win his second NCAA title.

Doug Schwab won the 66 kilos/145 pound title for the Iowa Stalkers at Real Pro Wrestling, topping Chris Bono in a hard-fought bout. An Iowa high school state champ, Schwab wrestled at University of Iowa, where he was three-time NCAA All-American, winning the 141-pound crown at the 1999 NCAAs. Schwab continued to make his mark in the sport in international competition, wrestling freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Schwab launched his coaching career as an assistant at Virginia Tech and Iowa before being named head coach at the University of Northern Iowa in 2010. His Panthers just finished the 2013-14 season undefeated at 12-0, the program’s best record since it first took to the mat in 1923.

At Real Pro Wrestling, Damion Hahn wrestled at 96 kilos/211 pounds for the Minnesota Freeze, losing his opening-round match. Hahn was a three-time New Jersey high school state champ who then accomplished great things on the mat at the University of Minnesota, where he was a four-time All-American, three-time Big Ten champ, and two-time NCAA champ, winning the 197-pound title in 2003 and 2004. A member of the coaching staff at Cornell University for the past eight seasons, Hahn was promoted this week to associate head coach.

About the photo: This week's newsmakers, as competitors in Real Pro Wrestling in 2005. From left, Daniel Cormier, a bearded Pat Cummins, Doug Schwab, and Damion Hahn. Wrestlers in all weight classes other than heavyweight competed in trunks, bare-chested; the big men like Cummins wore singlets.

Want to know more about Real Pro Wrestling? For photos and info, visit the unofficial RealProWrestlingFans Yahoo group... and check out wrestling photographer Daniell Hobieka's website showcasing her Real Pro Wrestling photography (includes action shots and athlete portraits)

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