July 31, 2011

Former UM-Morris Wrestler Sara McMann Making An Impact In MMA

Photo by K. Mills (Sherdog.com)
It was the fall of 1998 at the college campus of the University of Minnesota-Morris. A small town in west central Minnesota, with a population of just around 5,000, another school year was set to begin. A small 18-year old girl from North Carolina had somehow made her way to Morris, a school with a high reputation in academics. And in wrestling. Women's wrestling.

Sara McMann had started wrestling at age 14 at McDowell High School in Marion, North Carolina. Her older brother, Jason, was also a wrestler and her role model. He needed a practice partner and who better than his little sister. McMann went to UM-Morris, which was, in 1993, the first college in the United States to sponsor women's wrestling as an official varsity sport. Her coach was Doug Reese, who helped build UMM into a wrestling power. Unfortunately, the program was cut in 2003 due to budget constraints.

After competing with the Cougars all winter, tradgedy struck the McMann family. On January 22, 1999 Jason disappeared from Lock Haven University after an altercation with several football players. Three month went by before the body of Jason McMann was found in the woods about 30 miles away from campus. Sara decided to transfer closer to home and ended up at Lock Haven in the fall of 1999 competing with the men's wrestling program.

Flash forward to June of 2010. Now an Olympic Silver medalist (2004 Athens Games), the first American woman wrestler to medal, the wrestler has turned to a new sport. McMann made her mixed martial arts debut as an amateur at an event in South Carolina. Three victories as an amateur before McMann debuts as a professional in May 2011. She defeats Christina Marks by submission in just 1:41 of the first round. Her second fight was against former Canadien Olympic weightlifter Julie Malenfant, who she stoppped by TKO in just 32 seconds.

In just her third career pro fight, McMann took on veteran mma fighter Tonya Evinger on live television at Titan Fighting Championships 19 on HDNet. Evinger came in with a 8-5 record, but had fought some of the top female mma athletes like Jennifer Tate (6-1), Gina Carano (7-1), Julie Kedzie (16-9) and Alexis Davis (10-4).

Using her superior strength and wrestling, McMann easily won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). It was an impressive performance considering Sara had a total of just 2 minutes 13 seconds of cage experience.

Keeping up with her one fight per month schedule, Sara McMann (3-0) is scheduled to face Hawaiian Raquel Pa'aluhi (3-1) on August 27 at ProElite 1 in Honolulu. The event is headlined by former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski.

Like the male wrestling athletes before her, could McMann be known for paving the way for female wrestlers to make it in mma? I would say she is off to a good start.

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