Grapplers vs. Wild Animals encounters sound like something out of Lex Friedman’s podcast (pun intended), but in reality, these encounters do happen, although not at all at the request of the grapplers. Encountering a predatory wild animal in its environment is always dangerous, and few people live to tell the tale.
Here are 4 examples where people used grappling and martial arts skills to survive encounters that would otherwise have been fatal.
College Wrestler vs. Grizzly Bear
Let’s begin with the latest in a string of stories that depict how grapplers vs. wild animals fare in reality. Last week (October 15. 2022), a group of wrestlers from the Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, went on a haunting trip to Shoshone National Forest. The group got separated as they looked for antlers, and two teammates, Brady Lowry and Kendell Cummings, had their lifetime encounter. Just as Lowry noticed signs of a bear being nearby, the animal came rushing out of the trees. It got a hold of Lowry, breaking his arm in the process.
“The only thing I could yell is: ‘Bear! Bear!’ just knew I had to protect my head and just kind of fight for life, you know—it’s life or death.”Lowry (Good Morning America).
His teammate Kendell Cummings saw the whole thing happening in front of his eyes. After hearing a loud crash, he saw a bear mauling Lowry between the trees.
“I didn’t want to lose my friend, It was bad. There was a big ol’ bear on top of him. I could have run and potentially lost a friend or get him off and save him.”Cummings (Deseret News).
When shouting and waving didn’t do anything to scare the bear away, Cummings acted on instinct, jumping forward and grabbing the bear, trying to pull it off Lowry and save his teammate’s life. The bear took notice of Cummings, turning its attention to him instead.
“It knocked me onto the ground and then, with its head, pushed me on the ground all the way up against the trees and then kind of pinned me up there, and it was attacking me… I was putting my hands in its mouth and stuff, so it wouldn’t be chewing on my neck and everything.”Cummings (ABC News).
The bear then left, but almost immediately circled back and once again launched at Cummings, who decided to play dead.
“I remember curling up,” he said.
The bear eventually walked away, allowing the two teammates to escape the scene, reconnect with their friends, and call 911. A helicopter came to fly Cummings straight into surgery, given the seriousness of his injuries. Both sophomores survived and will have no lasting consequences, earning their spot in the grapplers vs. wild animals Hall of Fame.
Runner vs. Mountain Lion
I will reference the recent Lex Friedman Podcast with John Danaher when the pair discussed which wild animal would win in a fight, and then carried on to speculate how imaginary grapplers vs. wild animals matches would end. When writing this, it seems like the two just took examples out of real life. A while back, there was a story that went viral when a Colorado runner managed to choke a mountain lion that attacked him to death, crushing its windpipe with his leg. In 2019, Travis Kauffman, 31, was running in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space near Fort Collins, Colorado. The runner heard a noise behind him, and as he turned, a mountain lion sprang at him.
“I stopped and turned…” “In the back of my mind I always wonder if it’s something dangerous like a bear or a bobcat or a mountain lion, and in this case it was in fact a mountain lion.”Kauffman (KUNC radio).
The mountain lion gashed Travis’ face and arms, and as the two started to tumble down the trail, the runner managed to trap the animal’s neck with his knee, eventually suffocating it to death.
“But during that fall, the cat ended up on its back, and it still had my wrist this whole time in its mouth…”Kauffman (KUNC radio).
“There was a point, where I was concerned I wasn’t going to make it out. I got my right foot onto its neck,” he said. “And then I was able to get some weight onto its windpipe and that’s what eventually suffocated it.”
Climber vs. Black Bear
While descending from the rocky face of Mount Futago in Japan recently (early October 2022), a mountain climber had to fend off an angry black bear, which he did by shouting at it, punching and kicking it repeatedly. While he didn’t grapple the bear per se, it was most likely due to his vertical position on the rocks, and he still gets his spot in our grapplers vs. wild animals feature. The climber used some well-placed hammer fists and kicks and retained high ground to ensure the bear did not maul him.
“I was attacked by a bear from behind while descending the rocky ridge of Mt. Futago in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan,” the climber said in the video’s description. “Instead of fear, I switched to the feeling that if it was coming, I had no choice but to face it.”
“Looking back at the video, it seems that the bear attacked me to protect the cub,” the climber said. “I invaded bear territory, but since they attacked me, I defended myself with self-defence.”
Farmer vs. Wolf
Despite the encounter happening randomly, when a Russian farmer got revenged when managed to literally get his hands on the rather large wolf that killed two of his dogs, and he choked the canine to death without any mercy. The wolf attacked the Novotroitskoye, east Russia farmer, when he went out to confront it, after it attacked the man’s horse and killed two of his guard dogs. The unnamed farmer went to protect his cattle, carrying a rifle, but had no time to reach for it as the large wolf lunged and why fell to the snow, grappling each other. The farmer managed to get the wolf y his throat, choking him to death to save himself and his farm. He suffered no life-threatening injuries, but was badly bitten and wounded by the wolf.
Bear Wrestling as Entertainment?
When we look at grapplers vs. wild animals, particularly bears, with disbelief and awe these days, it was very popular as entertainment across Europe and the US during the late 1800 and early 1900.
Man-versus-bear matches were mostly exhibitions initially, with the bears muzzled, their claws and front teeth extracted, and surrounded by ropes representing rings.
New York and, later, the Pacific Northwest were particularly famous for this peculiar spectator sport. Grapplers signed up to face the bears, and large paying crowds came to witness the spectacles, which, in most cases, went in favor of the bears.
The “sport” attracted even Holywood celebrities and made several bear wrestlers famous. Terrible Ted (7’0″ and 680 pounds) was the most popular among bears, with Victor the Wrestling Bear coming in a close second.
Both had thousands of matches, according to reports from the time, most of which they won. A couple of eventual WWE Hall of Famers, Bobby Heenan and Superstar Billy Graham, faced Terrible Ted early in their careers.
While as ports version of grapplers vs. wild animals is unfair and cruel to the animals, the answer to whether or not a man can out-grapple wild beasts remains open, given that the scarcity of documented evidence like the 4 stories above can only be considered anecdotal at best.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.