WWE holding college tryout around WrestleMania

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

WWE will begin talent tryouts Wednesday for 45 current and former college athletes, including 19 football players, as part of WrestleMania Week in the Dallas area.

The three-day tryout, taking place at Dallas Cowboys headquarters in Frisco, Texas, will include evaluations for performance and promotion as well as interviews and technical sessions in the ring. The tryout, along with the name, image and likeness program WWE launched in December, is designed to identify and sign younger athletes for its development program. All 53 participants at this week’s tryout — 29 men and 24 women — are 25 or younger. Eight participants did not compete collegiately but stood out in MMA and CrossFit.

In addition to the football players, the participant list includes seven basketball players (four women, three men) and athletes from sports such as volleyball, wrestling, track and field, and soccer. WWE scouted college bowl games as well as NCAA championships for track and wrestling and several combine events for its tryout list.

The average age of the male participants is 23.4; the average for female participants is 22.8.

“The long-term goal is to create a pathway in which the talent identification process is streamlined and then the talent development processes is accelerated,” James Kimball, WWE’s senior vice president for global talent strategy and development, told ESPN. “We’re able to identify talent at a much younger age, and we’re able to develop them in an accelerated manner.”

The football group includes former starters such as TCU offensive lineman Anthony McKinney, Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs, Kentucky defensive lineman Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald, San Diego State offensive linemen Kyle Spalding and Dominic Gudino, and Samford defensive lineman Armond Lloyd. Former UCLA and Miami tight end Evidence Njoku, the younger brother of Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku, also is trying out.

The basketball contingent features Ezekiel Balogun (North Florida), Asia Royster (Florida A&M) and Lorenzo Edwards (St. Joseph’s), the son of former NBA first-round draft pick Kevin Edwards.

Other participants include Lexie Amrhein, a national champion tumbler at Baylor; former George Washington volleyball player Alexis Lete; Daniel McArthur, a four-time All-American shot-putter at North Carolina; and former Texas relay national champion Zola Golden. Former LSU soccer player Tiana Caffey turned down a pro opportunity to pursue WWE.

Current college athletes will be considered for WWE’s second 15-member NIL class, set to be announced in June. WWE announced its first NIL class in December, which included Minnesota wrestler Gable Steveson, an NCAA and Olympic heavyweight champion.

WrestleMania 38 takes place Saturday and Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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