TAMPA - So how do you follow up a stellar career with the Brandon High wrestling program and college completion at the University of the Cumberlands?
For Matt Juncal, it's a simple answer: get into mixed martial arts.
Although the rules of folkstyle wrestling are much more rigid, there were times during Juncal's high school and college career when he saw an opening perfect for an MMA pounding of his opponent.
"Sometimes when I wrestled, I would think, 'Dang, I've got this guy in this position and if we were in a fight, I could rain down some punches,'" he said, laughing.
Juncal will make his professional MMA debut in the XFC's Salute to Our Armed Forces 4 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. The first match is at 7.
Juncal was a three-time state champion (2001-03) for Brandon and went on to wrestle at University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, landing All-America status during the 2004-05 season when he finished third in the nation at 184 pounds.
When Xtreme Fighting Championships president John Prisco got word Juncal walked into the XFC training facility on Nebraska Avenue more than a year ago, his reaction was classic.
"They said, 'Matt Juncal just walked in the training facility.' I told them to lock the door behind him, I'm coming right down,'" Prisco said. "Matt's a legend in Brandon."
In addition to Juncal's debut, there will be executives from Rokskul Entertainment, a movie production company based in Clearwater, scouting the atmosphere inside the arena tonight. The group has a movie tentatively titled "Versus" about an ex-Marine involved in the MMA world who wins the light heavyweight title despite his underdog status. If they like what they see, a partnership between the XFC and Rokskul could develop.
"The XFC is local and they've come on pretty strong," said Dave McDaniel of Rokskul. "They're actually gaining a lot of ground. ... We could make up a fictional alliance or group that they are part of and they fight in for the movie, but it would be a lot cooler to pick a real one and have that in the movie."
As for Juncal, look for him and XFC to partner up in the near future on a training facility in Brandon. For now, Juncal has some pounding to do.
"It's going to be crazy, especially since you have people throwing punches at you, trying to knock you out," Juncal said. "It's going to be wild."