Ed Ruth, who currently sits atop the United States freestyle wrestling Olympic ladder at 189 pounds, recently did some training at Jackson’s MMA. Below, we have an video of Ruth using some sort of jumping spinning kick to knock a pad from none other than UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ hand. The video comes from the Instagram account of wrestling coach extraordinaire Izzy Martinez.
At the conclusion of the video Ruth says “MMA world, I’m coming for y’all,” and then Jones makes odd shrieking noises in appreciation for the younger man’s kicking skills. If Ruth is indeed coming for the MMA world, then this constitutes major news. Just this year, Ruth made his first appearance as the United States representative at the Freestyle Wrestling World Championships, finishing in 15th place. Furthermore, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native looks poised for a long reign atop the USA’s freestyle wrestling rankings. This past month, Ruth beat his most dangerous domestic competition, former USA World Team member Keith Gavin, in a Flo Premier League match. The defeat of Gavin, Ruth’s third this year, solidifies the former Penn State wrestler’s status as the strong favorite to claim the USA’s freestyle wrestling Olympic team slot at 86 kg for the Rio Games in 2016.
Ruth’s wrestling teammate in college, David Taylor, who won wrestling’s equivalent of the Heisman trophy twice, once described Ruth as the most talented wrestling in the entire country. Starting four years for the nation’s best wrestling team, facing the toughest competition possible, Ruth lost a grand total of three times, and won three national championships (he placed third as a freshman, falling to Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui in the quarter finals, a wrestler Ruth would thrash in the NCAA finals the following year). Ruth’s results alone arguably make him one of the ten greatest college wrestlers of all time, but it was the manner in which he won that stands out more than his credentials.
Three years ago, in an interview with MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas, my first foray into internet wrestling commentary, I stated that Ruth had more potential as a mixed martial artist than any other wrestler in the field at the NCAA Championships. I stand by this assertion. Ruth is one of the top-five most naturally gifted combat athletes I have ever laid eyes on. These gifts don’t just include raw athleticism, which he has in spades, but an innate understanding of what it takes to execute intricate and demanding techniques without seeming to try too hard. I’ve witnessed this latter capability in wrestling, and have no doubt it would transfer to other combat disciplines.
Ruth was generally so much better than his competition in college wrestling that he would often look disinterested or bored. At times he looked like he was Neo at the end of the Matrix, toying with his enemies in a world that he alone understood. Ruth’s trademark was his misdirection single leg – an extremely tricky move to pull off, but one he would hit and finish on top opponents without the slightest hint of effort. Below executes this technique on Ohio State’s three-time All-American Nick Heflin.
Ruth makes this takedown look as commonplace and easy as brushing his teeth. This was part of the genius of Ed Ruth; on the wrestling mats he routinely made the extraordinary appear pedestrian. Now it looks like Ruth has an interest in bringing these spectacular talents to MMA.
Unfortunately, there is no final word on if or when Ruth might make the transition to prize fighting (we are seeking information on this topic at the moment). Personally, I find it hard to imagine that Ruth would depart wrestling before the 2016 games with an Olympic bid likely in his future. However, Ruth’s international competition at 86 kg could foreseeably lead him to depart wrestling soon after the end of this Olympic cycle. Iran boasts a gaggle of extremely good 86 kg wrestlers, and Russia has seen the emergence of 18 year old world champion Abdulrashid Sadullaev, one of the only wrestlers I have ever seen more talented than Ruth (I’m not even sure I like writing about Sadullaev, he is so good that he sort of scares me a little).
Ruth is only 24 years old, and if he transitions to a career in mixed martial arts while still young, then his almost unmatched talent and wrestling accolades would quickly make him one of the most watched prospects in the sport.
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