After failing to make the United States Olympic wrestling team, finishing third in the heavyweight division at the recent trials, North Bergen native Steve Mocco has decided to retire from competitive wrestling and will apparently focus his intentions on becoming a professional mixed martial arts competitor.
The 30-year-old Mocco, a two-time NCAA wrestling champion and a member of the 2008 United States Olympic team, where he finished seventh overall at the Olympics in Beijing, gave it a try to make the Olympics for a second time, but fell just a hair short.
Mocco, who trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., helping champion Anderson “Big Foot” Silva prepare for the Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC) title fight, apparently realized that the world of mixed martial arts might be to his liking. He has since moved to Florida to train full-time with American Top Team in preparation to make his MMA debut later this year.
Mocco won the NCAA championship with Iowa in 2003, then took the 2004 season off to concentrate on making the U.S. Olympic team, then went back to college wrestling in 2005 and won another national title at Oklahoma State, where he also played football as a defensive tackle.
That year, Mocco was the recipient of the Dan Hodge Trophy, symbolic of the best collegiate wrestler in the country, like college wrestling’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
Mocco has a background in judo, like his sister Katie, who aspired to be an Olympian as well, so that background should be extremely beneficial in the world of the UFC.
Many of the top amateur wrestlers who compete at the top freestyle levels have taken the road of MMA and the UFC in order to receive a significant payday, finances that are not available in amateur wrestling.
There are many MMA experts nationwide who have already written that Mocco is destined for stardom in the UFC. One of Mocco’s college rivals, Cole Konrad, whom Mocco defeated to win the 2005 national title, is already collecting seven-figure pay checks as a member of the UFC…
It still is astounding that the township of North Bergen has never done anything to honor Mocco for his incredible athletic achievements. Disregard what his father, Joe, has done politically and the bad blood between Joe Mocco and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. One should not have anything to do with the other. Steve Mocco’s achievements stand out on their own. Plain and simple, he should have been recognized in the town where he was born and raised. Every time he stepped onto the wrestling mat, he was announced as being from North Bergen, even in the Olympics. He always said that was proud to be from North Bergen. The township should be proud to have him as a highly successful native son…
Another member of the St. Peter’s Prep Class of 2013 has already made his decision official where he will play football next year.
Shane Huber, a fine linebacker for the Marauders, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Massachusetts last week. UMass, under the guidance of Jersey native Charley Molnar, recently became an NCAA Division I program, so Huber should do just fine in Amherst. Huber had a handful of other top college offers before settling on becoming a Minuteman.
Huber joins teammate Tre Bell (Florida) as having made big-time commitments before the 2012 season even begins official practices.
It’s a trend that concerns veteran head coach and recent Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Rich Hansen.
“The process starts earlier and earlier now and there are a lot of other people who are involved in the recruiting process,” Hansen said. “I am concerned with that trend. It used to be much easier, but we now have some schools offering kids [scholarships] in eighth grade. That’s crazy. With all the social media and websites, it is very difficult to keep up with it.”
How much is social media a factor? Well, Hansen said that he just gave word to other schools that Huber was committing to UMass and less than 10 minutes later, the announcement was plastered all over Twitter. A sign of the times, perhaps…
Auto race experts wrote last week that the upcoming Grand Prix race that will take place on the streets of Weehawken and West New York next summer will eventually become “the marquee race of the Grand Prix circuit.” The experts are marveling at the New York skyline backdrop and the course being “extremely competitive.” That’s good news for both Weehawken and West New York, not to mention race fans worldwide…
Tyshawn Taylor made a splash in his debut with the Brooklyn Nets, scoring a team-high 17 points in his first game in the Orlando Summer League. It means that the Hoboken native and former St. Anthony standout will forever be remembered as the first leading scorer in the history of the Brooklyn Nets. A little trivia bit.
Taylor’s chances to make the Nets’ roster come October improved tremendously after the team unloaded almost half of its roster to acquire All-Star guard Joe Johnson last week…
Two local golfers fared well in the opening round of the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Open championships Tuesday at the Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle.
St. Peter’s Prep junior-to-be Kieran Purcell shot a 79 in the first round, while Jersey City firefighter Kevin McSorley carded an 80 to advance to the second round. Both golfers are amateurs, playing with and among the professionals…--Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.