Eric Larkin, one of the most accomplished wrestlers of the past decade for Arizona State University, and emerging mixed martial artist, signed with Bellator Fighting Championships Monday.
Larkin’s collegiate mat credentials are impressive. The Tucson native was a four-time Pac-10 champion and four-time NCAA Division I All-American, winning the 149-pound crown at the 2003 NCAAs in Kansas City… and Outstanding Wrestler honors for the tournament. Also in 2003, Larkin won the prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy, awarded by WIN (Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine) to the year’s best collegiate wrestler. What’s more, Larkin was the only wrestler in 2003 to be nominated for ESPN’s ESPY Award for best male collegiate athlete. In 2005, he competed in RealProWrestling which featured former college wrestlers competing in a variation of amateur-style wrestling for pay.
“Eric Larkin’s wrestling pedigree is as good as anyone competing in our sport today,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Larkin possesses an overwhelming amount of athleticism which gives him huge potential to become a top fighter in the sport. Ben Askren and Joe Warren, both tremendously talented wrestlers, have dominated at Bellator. I’m excited to see if Eric can follow a similar path.”
In 2009, Larkin entered professional MMA competition, following in the footsteps of numerous fellow Sun Devil wrestlers-turned MMA fighters.
“Seeing friends of mine from ASU like Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway, and Aaron Simpson get to where they are now in MMA and working out with them all the time let me know that I should make the transition,” said Larkin. “They were always trying to talk me into it and finally I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll do it’.”
Training out of The Lions Den in Scottsdale, Arizona, Larkin is already 2-0 in MMA.
In addition to Warren and Askren, Bellator’s stable of fighters who were once top collegiate wrestlers includes Cole Konrad, two-time NCAA heavyweight champ for the University of Minnesota.
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UnfilteredMMA.com: Bellator signs NCAA champ Eric Larkin
Bellator Fighting Championships: Official website
RealProWrestlingFans Yahoo group (includes photos and info on 2005 contestant Eric Larkin)
NCAA Heavyweight Champs 2 Yahoo group (includes photos and info of champs since 2001, including Cole Konrad)
College Wrestling 101: Links to articles answering basic questions about wrestling, including rules, scoring, uniforms, more
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