Today, many wrestlers progress in their careers inside the wrestling circle. Whether it be joining the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), chasing down an Olympic gold, or even just passing down knowledge in the coaching ranks. For Greg Warren, well, he took more of the unconventional route.
Warren is a former Mizzou All-American wrestler, and during the 1988-1991 seasons, he reached the NCAA Championship three times, finishing on the podium his senior season with a seventh-place finish. The four-year letter winner also achieved multiple accolades during his time with the Tigers, including three Top-4 Big 8 medals, the Marshall Esteppe Most Outstanding Freshman award (1988), and a Most Outstanding Wrestler award (1991).
After stepping away from the wrestling mats, Greg Warren found his calling inside the comedy industry. With many performances under his belt, his most recent special, “The Salesman,” may be his best to date!
In what turned out to be a great chat, Greg took the time to discuss his upbringing as well as his past, current, and future thoughts on Tiger Style. And when asked if wrestling comes up nowadays in his current acts as a comedian, Warren said, “I’ve been fooling around with the next bit of material and there’s a little bit of wrestling in there,” he said.
Let’s dive in.
“My dad was a high school coach,” Greg said. “When he started with me he was a junior high school coach in St. Louis. I would go to his practices and when I was five he put me on this little league team in St. Louis called Bonhomme, which is a big deal now. My dad and his coaches did a lot of the work to get it started and I was on that team for years with a lot of good wrestlers.”
Greg Warren wasn’t just a wrestler in his youth, though. Besides winning state his junior and senior years and placing fifth as a sophomore, he was a multi-sport athlete. He wrestled, ran cross country for three years, and played football.
“Except,” he recalled, “I was not a good football player. I was not fast by any stretch and I couldn’t catch, so I played center. I was not good, I was terrible. We played Webster Groves at Busch Stadium, which is like this annual big game, and I got called for holding like five times or something.”
Before making the switch to Mizzou, Greg noted that he spent time inside the Military Academy to further his wrestling and academic career. After a visit from newly appointed Head Coach Wes Roper, Warren had decided Mizzou was where he needed to be stating, “Deep down I wanted to wrestle for Missouri, my home state school, the whole time. I liked it there.”
During his freshman season in a bout against UNI, Greg recalled, “I wrestled so horribly, the referee was making fun of me and I almost stalled out of the match. In the third period, I was just praying for the match to be over. The referee starts banging on the mat yelling, ‘Are you okay down there, son?’ The crowd’s laughing like it’s a comedy show. It was terrible, I was terrible.”
He continued, “Later we had to go watch the match in Wes Roper’s (Head Coach) hotel room. We sat on two hotel beds with a VCR and he had a tape of the match. I was at 150lbs and he started at 118lbs where Bobby Crawford tied Mark Schwab, who was no. 1 in the country, and then it got bad. Someone got taken down on the edge of the mat, a pet peeve of Roper’s. Another got taken down 16 times on the edge and he’s just yelling, and I’m thinking, ‘he’s going off on these guys and I was way worse. If these guys are getting yelled at, he’s gonna shoot me.’”
“Then he got to my match, and he was like, ‘Warren, Martinez messed up the tape, somehow we didn’t get your match.’ That was the greatest. I couldn’t believe it. I should be way more grateful to Martinez than I am today. I need to seek him out and be like, ‘I love you, man. You saved me some of the worst humiliation possible.’”
Firing right into another story, Greg recalled a time they had Domino’s delivered in the middle of practice. “I remember just wanting to do anything to distract yourself from the fact that you have to go through hell for the next two hours,” he recalled.
“Me and this guy Chip Boner would always try to make each other laugh, and we had a heavyweight named Bobby Henderson, and we called Domino’s [on the shuttle bus to Hearnes] and ordered a pizza from Bobby Henderson to the wrestling room. And we forgot all about it,” he said.
“We were in the middle of drilling, and the Dominoes guy in uniform walked into the practice room with a pizza. The coach was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ He’s like, ‘Sir, I have a pizza.’ Coach asked, ‘Who’s it for?’ He’s said, ‘Henderson, sir.’ Henderson, our heavyweight. He weighed like 300 pounds. He’s a big boy. Coach yelled, ‘Does he look like he needs a pizza?! Get out of here!’ Poor guy had to turn around and leave, man.”
You can’t bring up Greg Warren now without also addressing his comedy career. How did it start, exactly? Warren’s start in comedy seems to date back to many different occasions. Where he chalked it up to some lack of courage, I saw it as commitment and persistence to a dream becoming a reality.
“I had sort of a slow start,” he said. “During my freshman year in Columbia, Craig Martin, a senior teammate, and a bartender at a comedy club (Deja Vu), signed me up for this contest during wrestling season. During a workout, (Wes) Roper calls us in and says, ‘Alright, guys, we’re going to knock off a little bit early today so we can all go down and watch Warren do his stand-up.’ I didn’t even know he knew about it, so that was kind of cool. I won that contest, and so I did it (comedy) a handful of times in college.”
After college, Greg landed a job in Cincinnati at Procter and Gamble, and during his decade in Cincy, he spent the majority of his evenings on stage. Eventually, he came to a crossroads, ultimately choosing to put everything into his stand-up career. A major contributor in his life during this time? Fred DeMarco, the owner of the aforementioned Deja Vu comedy club in Columbia. “Fred actually helped me out a lot when I first quit my day jobs, he got me a bunch of gigs,” Warren said.
And any follower in the wrestling community would be hard-pressed to forget Greg’s comedy bit, Wesley “Wes” Wesley, which is about a wrestler who must wear his headgear and be on alert at all times. Watch for yourself.
When asked about it, Greg laughed and said, “I haven’t done any of that (the Wes Wesley bit) in a long time, man. That was pretty fun, though.” He continued. “It was crazy. That was just sort of something me and a couple of ex-Mizzou wrestlers threw together — Mark Bader and Joe Williamson — when they were working for FloWrestling. We did that screwing around one time back in 2009 or something and threw it up. And then all of a sudden it kind of got big with wrestling people for a while. It was about as stupid as you could make it; we had fun with it.”
Tiger Style Today
When asked about his relationship with the program to this day, he responded, “Yeah, I’m really good friends with Brian (Smith). I’ve remained extremely close to the program and I’m a big, big fan. I don’t miss many matches. Most of the time I’m not there, I’m doing shows, but I watch almost every match online.”
He continued. “I usually make it to a couple of duals. I’m going to Kansas City this next year. There’s not much that goes on in Mizzou Wrestling that I don’t know about. We’ve got a great team coming up this year.”
In a quick rundown, Greg and I discussed the potential within the starting lineup as well as noted how balanced the team will be in the coming season.
After mentioning the five returning All-Americans (Mauller, O’Toole, Mocco, and Elam x2), Greg jumped right into the other returning starters and names that will stand out.
“Josh Edmund down at 141 is a real threat, the 125-pounder, Noah Surtin is a real dangerous wrestler, he’ll put it all on the line. He’s a gamer. I think we’re tough at 184. There are probably a few guys in there, and it’ll be fun to see who comes out. Hawks probably has the upper hand. Then at 157, I’m not really sure who’s gonna be there. I would imagine you know, If Cam Steed can make it, that guy’s legit, man. He was a stud at the Southern Scuffle. It’s gonna be fun.”
Old Man Time
With mentions of the current roster and having his time in the Tiger wrestling room, Greg wasn’t hesitant in letting me know his time on the mats has come and gone after asking if he ever put on the headgear as an old timer.
“No, man, I think by the time I knew Brian (Smith), it was a little late for me to be doing any of that,” he said. “I did run with him in my early years. I think when I was with Procter & Gamble, they’d go on a five-mile run and I’d go with them. That was back when I was in a lot better shape. But the wrestling part man, that is not a lifelong sport unless you’re doing it consistently.”
He also mentioned his last time trying to lace up the shoes, “I tried to go with this kid from Ohio State about ten years ago for like two takedowns, and I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack,” he said.
“I don’t know how it’s physically possible, but I wrestled with him and I got a cold like two hours later. Literally got a cold because my body shut down so much. And I was like, okay, that’s the last time I’m gonna wrestle with a college kid.”
Past vs. Present
I was curious if there was anyone in the black and gold during his time at Mizzou that he would put up against a current Tiger.
“Well, we had a lot of good guys,” he said, “But it’s such a different sport now. I mean, (Shaon) Fry placed second and third in the nation, and I’d put him up against anybody in his prime. He was really good.”
He continued. “Of course, Sammy (Henson) was a silver medalist in the Olympics. Bobby Crawford was really good and was one of the guys that helped make Sammy what he was. Bobby was a senior when Sammy came in and Sammy did not get the best of Bobby all the time early on. He kind of helped toughen him up a little bit. We had a lot of really good wrestlers. Wes (Roper), my coach, was really good. He was fourth in the nation and two of the guys in front of him were Olympic gold medalists.”
After hitting on multiple unmentioned subjects from a stacked 1991 All-American bracket to weight-cutting and training stories, it’s easy to see Greg Warren is a proud Mizzou Wrestling alum.
“I’m about as big of a Missouri Wrestling fan as there is,” he said. “I’m really proud of the team, really proud of Brian (Smith). I think we have a great coaching staff with Tyrell (Todd) and Kendric (Maple) and now Dom (Bradley) as a full-time assistant, which is awesome. I watched all those guys wrestle in college. I think we’ve got a really, really great staff. We’re going to be tough to deal with this year.”