Audio Interview: Shawn Bunch
World team member and two time Olympic alternate* wrestler Shawn Bunch has signed with the fighting promotion Bellator. This marks the presence of yet another world class wrestler on the MMA scene and, more specifically, another world class wrestler in Bellator.
With the addition of Bunch, Bellator expands its wealth of elite wrestling talent. This talent has thus far thrived in the promotion, and Bunch should be no exception; he possesses all the tools to make up for his relatively late start in the sport and excel like Cole Konrad, Ben Askren, and Joe Warren before him.
Bunch and Edinboro
Originating in Kansas, a state with no Division I wrestling programs, Bunch had no choice, but to go out of state to compete on the highest collegiate levels. That he choose Edinboro University of Pennsylvania speaks volumes about his commitment to the sport.
Wrestlers do not go to Edinboro to become a Rhodes Scholar, they do not choose a campus that close to Lake Eerie for the weather, and I would guess that they do not select the 'Boro' for its girls. Wrestlers go to Edinboro because the wrestling program's no nonsense, blue collar approach to the sport consistently gets the most out of its recruits year after year. Their program is quietly and consistently one of the best in the nation, commonly finishing in the top ten at the NCAA tournament, producing a slew of All-Americans and an impressive number of national champions. I have no clue what Head Coach Tim Flynn does to his athletes in their dank dungeon of a practice room, but it is probably unpleasant and undeniably effective.
At Edinboro, wrestling is the only game in town. It is the school's lone sport to compete on the elite NCAA division one level. Their athletic director is the nation's second greatest wrestler ever, Bruce Baumgartner. Even the mighty University of Iowa has a popular BCS football team to contend with. This is not so for Edinboro, the only division one school where wrestling, usually banished to languish in the sporting belfry, occupies the lone place of privilege on the altar of the college's athletics budget.
The wrestling Scots of Edinboro University are so emboldened by their status as the pond's big fish that they don kilts in lieu of sweatpants as part of their team warm-up uniforms for home dual meets. I would not believe this to be true were I not to see a photo. They apparently are very, very proud of this take on Scottish fashion, and they think it looks really cool.
I digress. Bunch is part of a long line of Edinboro wrestling success stories and a burgeoning trend of MMA success. UFC star Josh Koscheck, Strikeforce contender Justin Wilcox, up and coming heavyweight Chris Birchler, and new prospect Chris Honeycutt all took the mat with a big red "E" on their chests. Bunch enters mixed martial arts with a distinction unique among Edinboro wrestlers; he represented the U.S. on the world stage and came within a hair of becoming an Olympian.