Denfeld News

July 21, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Wessman show joins wrestling’s two disciplines
By Rick Lubbers

Does amateur wrestling — with its half-nelsons, chicken wings and cradle holds — have much in common with professional wrestling and its sleeper holds, pile drivers and chairs across the back?

Wrestling and wrasslin’ — that’s amateur and professional grappling for those who don’t know the difference — will not share the ring tonight at Superior’s Wessman Arena, but a portion of the proceeds from the professional wrestling card will go toward high school and youth wrestling in the Twin Ports.

The two wrestling disciplines aren’t often mentioned in the same breath, but show promoter Dave Sabick said more amateur wrestlers are prolonging their careers by jumping into the professional wrestling ring. So when the 22-year-old Duluth Denfeld graduate decided to donate 10 percent of the proceeds from the card, youth wrestling seemed a logical recipient.

“When you first get into pro wrestling, they tell you not to watch amateur wrestling because it kind of messes your whole technique up,” Sabick said. “Now, you have a lot of amateur wrestlers — guys like Brock Lesnar and Scott Steiner — who have made it and have done quite well.”

Lesnar and Steiner won’t be mixing it up tonight, but Sabick has assembled an evening featuring several well-known current and former pro wrestlers for bouts and appearances, including Baron Von Raschke, Adrian Lynch, Nora Greenwald (aka “Molly Holly”), “Wild” Bill Irwin, Heavy D (sshh, don’t tell anyone that this is actually Sabick’s wrestling identity), Cameron Steele, “Superstar” Steve Stardom, the Dark Wolf, Arik Cannon, Zakk Neo, Josh Calisto, Jay Chaotic, Allison Wonderland, Ben Sailor and Mike Rollins.

The two featured matches will be Duluth’s own “Wild” Bill Irwin against Adrian Lynch and Ann Brookstone vs. Christy Hemme, with guest referee Molly Holly.

While the wrestlers battling in the co-main events are well-known to pro wrestling aficionados, others on the card still hope to make their way to the “big ring” for a major wrestling organization such as World Wrestling Entertainment. Sabick hopes this event — and the others he plans to organize — will boost the aspirations and careers of several local and regional independent pro wrestlers, who dream of one day entering the ring for the WWE, winning a battle royal and wearing the heavyweight belt.

Sabick runs in pro wrestling circles in the Upper Midwest. When someone mentioned how difficult it was for many of those wrestlers to advance to big-time grappling, he decided to put a show together to aid their cause. Although the event at Wessman is his first, Sabick hopes others will follow if tonight’s show is a success. He’s hoping 500 to 800 will show up at the venue that holds 2,400.

“There’s a lot of guys who have been busting their butts for years,” he said. “There’s a lot of athleticism out there that no one knows about. They need a stage, they need to show what they’re capable of doing. And, hopefully, they will have enough work where, down the line, the WWE will show up.

“A lot of them have what it takes; a lot of them are better than what you see on television. It’s all in who you know. WWE does not see you unless they call you and ask you to a tryout.”

Sabick’s calling the event Heavy on Wrestling — a play off his pro wrestling moniker and the show’s emphasis. He recognizes the irony of a professional wrestling show benefiting the “real thing,” but it’s a nice gesture.

Youth and high school wrestling are very popular across the country and in the Midwest, but in the Northland they struggle for attention during a busy winter of prep hockey, basketball and cross country skiing. And the few schools that actually carry the sport — Grand Rapids, Cloquet, Superior and Northwestern, among them — often struggle to raise funds for youth and high school teams.

So, wrestlers who are used to making single-leg takedowns should cheerfully accept the charity of those who would rather body-slam their opponents.

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