If you have ever ordered an Ultimate Fighting Championship or caught some mixed martial arts on the Spike channel, you have undoubtedly seen fighters who made the transition from college wrestling into professional fighting.

But something that you don’t see everyday is a black belt veteran of a martial art making his moves on the high school wrestler scene.  That’s right; teenage black belt and high school wrestling.

John Carroll’s Joe Vitucci has been perfecting the grappling art of Aikido for nearly six years, earning a black belt, and the martial art has made his transition into high school wrestling rather seamless.

“In Aikido, they teach a lot about hips and being stable, while Jujutsu works on being on top, working legs tighter and keeping pressure to work hard,” Vitucci explained.  “They make sure I’m not slacking off.”

Starting the training when he was nearly 12 years old, Vitucci was put into Aikido by his father, who also participated in martial arts.  But his move to high school wrestling was the first time anyone in his family tried the sport, and has proven to be successful.

“I have seen a great difference in my wrestling skill,” Vitucci said.  “My sophomore year I didn’t place at MIAAs or even go to states, and last year I was fourth in the MIAA and seventh at states, so there was a huge improvement from my sophomore year to my junior year.”

Preparing him for the wrestling practice pace, Vitucci says a martial arts practice can have two speeds; one when they are instructional, and another, higher pace for those who are advanced.

“There is a lot of structure in the instruction part of MMA, but there is also a lot of live, sometimes an hour and a half of just non-stop live,” he said.

Like any good athlete, Vitucci is able to combine the skills he learned in Aikido and Jujutsu and apply them to his time on the wrestling mat, mostly when he is trying to ride his opponents while in the referee’s position.

“There have been times when I was a freshman where I had legs in and I had to rely on my Jujutsu training to keep me in a match,” he said.  “I like to ride legs, and those skills translate very well to wrestling.”

Not wishing to go professional in MMA, Vitucci instead has turned his passion for wrestling into a goal of competing at the next level.  He has already met with the coaching staff of Bridgewater College in Virginia about his interests.

“Now that I am starting to focus on wrestling in college, it would mean a great deal to me to go to National Preps,” Vitucci said.  “I am working hard every day, putting in extra work so that I can go far.”

Vitucci has found success already in 2010, working wins in John Carroll’s recent dual-meet wins, and took fourth place at The Mule Classic in Pennsylvania.

“First off, I want our team to be number one,” Vitucci said of the Patriots’ 2010-2011 season.  “Then, individually for me, I want to be number one.  I want to win states and go far in nationals.  We just have to work hard, get the mindset in and push ourselves in practice.”

John Carroll can be found this weekend at the Beast of the East tournament at the University of Delaware.