How did you get started in wrestling?
Thirty years of ticking and tocking. The clock struck first in the fall, I was five. Watching Hulk Hogan was my favorite thing to do, dropping legs off an ugly patterned couch onto poor teddy bears.
I brought the paper home, Eastside Wrestling Club on the top. It was my chance to “Superfly” off the top rope, and body splash a poor kid. I asked mom, and she said it would be okay. I practiced while she signed the page, flexed when she handed it to me. I probably kissed my 6 inch pythons, took my vitamins, and said my prayers.
I rode to Eastside School in whatever beat up Chevy truck Dad had at the time. It had cracked vinyl seats which burned in the summer and pinched in the winter. I know it did, because all of Dad’s trucks were that way.
When I stepped in the school, I caught a whiff of something I’d smell for the rest of my life. It was an Eastside smell, a mixture of cleaning product and a couple hundred elementary school kids who had just gone home for the day. I’ve never smelled the same smell anywhere else, but the olfactory sense has memories, and I can smell it on cue.
I took twenty paces and turned right, carefully placing my feet centrally in each earth-toned tile. Around the corner, I expected to see three glorious ropes connected by turnbuckles. Instead, I found an old blue mat. I expected to see a walking, talking Greek statue. Instead, I saw him.
The moment he first opened his mouth, I knew my life was going to change. He was loud. His voice echoed around the gym, bouncing off each wall back into my ears for a second and third time making sure I had the message. His head was smooth, like the hair decided it had had enough and jumped ship. He wasn’t a huge man in the grand scheme of things, but he was larger than life.
Thirty years. It’s been thirty years since that day. Mr. Mickle hasn’t changed, but he’s changed me. A second dad, an extra uncle, he’s always been more than a coach. He’s always been someone I’ve loved.