TEMPE – The future of WWE wrestling is being birthed right here in the Valley.
Two ASU athletes were announced in the second class of WWE’s Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) program – “Next in Line” – which provides 15 athletes a clear pathway from collegiate athletics to the WWE.
ASU wrestler Cohlton Schultz and fullback Case Hatch were among those selected, with ASU being the only university out of 14 schools to have two recruits. Schultz is an All-American wrestler and was rated the No. 1 pound-for-pound recruit in the nation coming out of high school. Hutch is a fullback on the Sun Devils football team.
“I grew up being a fan of the WWE and in high school, me and one of my buddies got really into it,” Schultz said, adding, “it was really exciting just to think of an opportunity of something like (the WWE) in my future.”
“Next In Line” began last December and serves to recruit and develop potential future superstars. The program further enhances WWE’s talent development process through brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations with college athletes from diverse athletic backgrounds.
NIL athletes get their name attached to the WWE brand and all athlete partnerships will feature access to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. Upon completion of the NIL program, select athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract.
In just his second NCAA tournament, Schultz advanced to the NCAA heavyweight gold medal match in March. With Schultz being involved with wrestling since he was a child, and the WWE being one of the biggest brands in wrestling, it’s no surprise that Schultz was a fan growing up.
“I started wrestling when I was 3 or 4 years old,” Schultz said. ”Pretty soon after, just fell in love with it. It’s all I can remember doing.”
Hatch is a Gilbert native who walked on to the ASU football team as a two-star prospect from Perry High School, where he played linebacker. Hatch made the transition to fullback, where he was named a 2021 semifinalist for The Burlsworth Trophy (a distinction given to the nation’s most outstanding walk-on college football player).
“When he got (the WWE NIL deal), I feel like it inspired the whole team,” said Daniyel Ngata, Hatch’s ASU teammate. “It just made us comfortable in reaching out to bigger companies. … Anything he puts his mind to, I think he will accomplish.”
Hatch has set many high-level goals for himself that includes getting drafted into the NFL, playing successfully at the highest level in football, and now, being a WWE wrestler. He brings a certain energy and toughness level to the football field that should translate over seamlessly into the WWE.
“I’ve met some of the (WWE) guys out there and just their energy, that’s what I’m about,” Hatch said. “I’m pretty vocal on the football team right now, I’m one of those kids that’s always yelling and screaming, trying to get the juices flowing, so I think it’s a really good fit.”
If one thing is apparent in these athletes, is that they are two athletes at the top of their game, with a tough edge to them, something that will fit the WWE brand perfectly. ASU will be well represented with these two leading the charge.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Hatch said. “I’m excited to get things going. I’m excited to learn as much as possible, and I want to keep this door as wide open as as possible.”