There isn’t a lot of similarities between “professional wrestling” and “amateur wrestling.” In fact, the difference is so stark that you almost immediately need to clarify that you’re talking about “real” wrestling versus “pro” wrestling.

Amateur wrestling doesn’t have the pageantry or showmanship of its similar-named cousin, but the physicality and athletic skill are still there.

That’s why there have been a lot of pro-wrestlers who got their start on the other mat.

Kurt Angle

The most successful amateur turned pro. Kurt Angle is considered one of the greatest American wrestlers of all time. Not only did he dominate while he was in college, he then went on to the Olympics and shocked the world with a Gold Medal win at the 1996 Atlanta games. He even thought about trying out for the 2012 team before injuries sidelined him.

Brock Lesnar

They call him The Beast for a reason. Brock Lesnar was and is an absolute freak of an athlete. He won by the NJCAA and the NCAA heavyweight championship while in college. He only lost five times in his entire collegiate career. Lesnar also went on to become an UFC champion and even make the roster of the Minnesota Vikings despite only playing football in high school.

Shelton Benjamin

Shelton Benjamin was Brock Lesnar’s coach at Minnesota. Some people speculate that the reason Benjamin was signed by WWE was as a way to entice Lesnar instead of training for the Olympics. He claims he started amateur wrestling because he thought it was the same as “pro-wrestling.”

Dolph Ziggler

While the “Show Off” is more known for his rock-star gear, wet hair, and amazing selling, Ziggler was a champion wrestler at Kent State. He has the 2nd most wins all-time for the Golden Flashes.

American Alpha

amateur wrestling wwe

The former Smackdown and NXT tag champs are a team based on amazing mat wrestling skills. Both Chad Gable and Jason Jordan were accomplished amateurs before their time in WWE

Gable represented the US at the 2012 Olympic games in the Greco-Roman wrestling event. Jordan wrestled for Indiana University and qualified for the national tournament three years in a row.

Other amateurs who competed in WWE and elsewhere:

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