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ASU throwing legend Turner Washington prepares for "once-in-a-lifetime" WWE tryout

The five-time NCAA champion is using his elite physical skills and electric personality to make his mark in professional wrestling


ASU then-redshirt junior Turner Washington throws during the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Friday, March 12, 2021. Washington won first place with a throw of 21.36 meters

Five-time NCAA throwing champion Turner Washington is looking to go from tossing weights around a field to tossing people across the squared circle.

Washington, a multiple-time NCAA throwing champion at ASU in both shot put and discus, is embarking on a new journey in professional wrestling after graduating this past spring. He will try out at the WWE Performance Center July 18-21, hoping to earn a contract and thrive in a unique competitive field.

Washington said he wants to convert his Olympic-level skills into dollars and cents. He said athletes in other sports with national championships make millions of dollars in professional sports right after college, but that “isn’t a luxury” for track and field athletes.

"It has the opportunity to change the course of my life," Washington said. "Of course, I want to keep throwing and chasing Olympics, but there's not a whole lot of money involved in that. So if I can take my athletic abilities to something else and have the chance to make money, why not? I want to be, in a way, compensated for my work."

Since WWE launched its NIL program in 2021 off the back of its first signee Olympic gold medalist, Gable Steveson, it has made a conscious effort to diversify the program. 45 WWE-NIL recruited athletes span across 13 sports. Washington is the third ASU athlete to earn a NIL deal with WWE, joining former football team captain and fullback Case Hatch and NCAA All-American redshirt sophomore wrestler Cohlton Schultz.

According to WWE's NIL website, the program relocates its recruits to Orlando, Florida, where the athletes train and access WWE's Performance Center, where the tryout will occur. The program uses three of WWE's full-time athletic trainers and a full-time physical therapist while training. WWE also provides resources to assist athletes in brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations.

Washington said he foresees a future where he hoists WWE's Universal Championship. Though when he was first presented with the opportunity through WWE's NIL recruitment team on Instagram, it was just "cool." 

"Now it's one of those (experiences) where it's just like the way I was with track where I will push myself to want to be the best," Washington said. "I don't want to just be someone on the roster."

WWE's NIL recruitment team reached out three months after their initial contact, informing Washington that he'd earned the deal. As part of the offer, he was invited to the Performance Center to attend WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view at San Antonio's Alamodome in January.

During Royal Rumble, Washington had the opportunity to meet several WWE superstars, including Bianca Belair and Big E, both former champions. Additionally, Washington has developed a relationship with Omos, a former college basketball player who is now a towering 7-foot-3 WWE wrestler.

Washington said he doesn't know what the WWE tryout will entail but that he's been preparing by doing some of his usual track workouts — he's still training to qualify for the Olympics — which consists of "a ton” of Olympic-level lifting, jumping and throwing, according to ASU's throws assistant coach and six-time NCAA champion Ryan Whiting

YouTube has served as a guide for Washington as well. On WWE's YouTube page, he learned that one day could consist of in-ring training and the next could be cutting promos and speaking in front of the camera in character.

"I feel good. There are throwers from other schools already into it right now,"  Washington said. "A couple of my buddies, Isaac, who goes by Oba now, he's already made it to NXT. So just seeing that, if other similar athletes like myself can do it, I don't see why I can't do it myself."

Washington isn't concerned about his athletic capabilities in the ring; he said his short-term goal is gaining comfort in front of the camera and growing confidence to become a larger-than-life persona, what he called "Turner Washington turned up to 10."

"His nickname has been 'Turner Time' for quite some time," Whiting said. "When Turner Time comes out, it's a lot of fun to see. We saw it at nationals. He got the win on his last throw, tore his shirt off, and ran across the track and scared the crap out of some Arkansas kids that were taunting him." 

In terms of sheer athleticism, Whiting called Washington "quite a monster." 

"I was an elite athlete myself, and he's got plenty of tools I didn't have," Whiting said. "I would want to see him go through a combine. I think he would be pretty impressive relative to some of the guys getting drafted to the NFL."

Whiting raved about Washington's nervous system control, praising his body control and awareness as tools to allow him to thrive while competing in a wrestling ring. Whiting said one of the facets of Washington that makes him most impressive is that, across the board, he generally has outstanding numbers and visually moves like a "much smaller person" at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds. 

Olympic gold is still on the radar for Washington at the 2024 Paris Olympics; however, if his showing goes over well enough for the WWE's hierarchy to extend an offer after tryouts, his legendary career on the field could be nearing a close. 

"If everything goes well at my tryout this July, I will probably hang up the throwing shoes because I see this as an opportunity that is a once-in-a-lifetime," Washington said. 

Edited by Shane Brennan and Jasmine Kabiri. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @AlfredS_III on Twitter. 

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