The Cougar Wrestling Club of Manassas Park received a visit from a special guest Tuesday when all American wrestler and professional mixed martial artist Neil Johnson came by to coach the kids and talk about wrestling as a base for mixed martial arts (MMA).
Johnson took home the 1992-1993 Virginia State Championship back when he was just a 140-pound wrestler at Stonewall Jackson High School.
He went on to be an all-American wrestler for George Mason University. After a wrestling career, Johnson like many great collegiate wrestlers, wanted to continue to compete. He found a new outlet with the rise of mixed martial arts.
After answering some questions about his wrestling in high school and college and continuing to compete in MMA, Johnson marched the team through wrestling drills designed to help them control their opponent and set up takedowns that would help them in their upcoming regional tournament.
Johnson said he has fought locally for Operation Octagon and Shogun Fights and in national promotions such as Bellator Fighting Championships. He trains with UFC fighter Dustin Pague at Disciple MMA in Sterling, Johnson added.
Children as young as 5 years old join the cougar club to learn the basics in wrestling. Many of Manassas Park’s state champions started with the club.
Cougar Club head Coach Greg Jenkins was in Manassas Park’s first wrestling camp. Nowadays, he and a team of volunteer coaches spend two nights a week and many weekends sharing their love and knowledge of wrestling with the young, but aspiring wresting champions.
Other wrestlers who have competed on the collegiate level have gone on to test their skills in MMA.
UFC champs like Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Dan Severn and Cain Velasquez all have a wrestling background.
Bellator champs include decorated wrestlers like Ben Askren and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier has won the Strikeforce Heavy Weight Grand Prie and should make his UFC debut this year.
Disciple MMA Academy, where Johnson trains, offers Judo, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai as part of its MMA program. Johnson also teaches a wrestling class at the academy.
Disciple MMA Academy is located at 45925 Maries Rd., Suite 120. The website is disciplemmaacademy.com.
The Cougar Wrestling Club headed to the regional tournament this month, but is already looking forward to the beginning of next season which begins in the fall.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on registering for next year’s program.
During wrestling season the club meets at Manassas Park Middle School two nights a week.