Taking bumps

Seth Roy

Professional wrestling school requires dedication, outgoing personality

Credit: Jason Hall

Bryan Schory’s left arm is wrapped around his opponent’s head. His opponent lifts him up into a belly-to-back suplex attempt, but he reverses it and falls forward to the mat; he attempts to flip his opponent over onto the mat.

It works – kind of.

Jeff Lanham, also known as “Big Guns” Jeff Cannon in the independent wrestling community, is standing outside the ring watching Schory’s technique.

“When he lifts you up,” Lanham says to Bryan, “go right down to your knee.”

The next time Schory practices the headlock takeover, he slams his knee on the mat harder and snaps his opponent over his shoulder in a more fluid motion.

Schory, a 22-year-old former Kent State student, said he’s been a fan of professional wrestling, off and on, his whole life.

For the past few years, he’s had the idea of actually training to be a wrestler.

“The only thing that held me back,” Schory said, “(is that) I didn’t think I had the time to do it.”

But after transferring from Kent State to Stark State, Schory researched professional wrestling schools more in-depth, and found Lanham’s school in Coshocton. He called for a tryout and showed up for a practice.

Running the ropes

Lanham’s Big Guns Pro Wrestling Academy is situated across the street from Pizza Hut in Coshocton, about 90 miles south of Kent. It serves as a training ground for Ohio Championship Wrestling, an independent wrestling organization that is based in Coshocton and travels around Central Ohio.

Lanham said tryouts are free and consist of taking bumps (falls or hits used to sell moves) and running the ropes (running across the ring, bouncing off the ropes).

“If they can do those two things, they have the ability to be taught how to be a professional wrestler,” he said.

Lanham looks at a few other things when a person is trying out for his school. The person has to be willing to do as the trainer asks, must have athletic ability and a certain amount of personality and charisma.

“In this business,” he said, “you can’t be laid back and shy.”

Schory said he tried out in mid-December 2006 and started training at the beginning of January. Training at the academy requires a down payment of $300, plus $100 a month.

“It’s a big financial commitment,” he said.

The academy holds practice every Thursday and Sunday, barring other conflicts, for about two-and-a-half hours.

Schory, who is from Canton, makes the hour-plus drive to Coshocton twice a week.

Lanham said the average person will train about eight months before being booked at an OCW event, but the length of time varies.

“It just depends on how often they train,” he said.

Depending on the day, between 10 and 25 people will train at the school. The wrestlers converge in Coshocton from different places; some from school, and some from work.

Off the mats

Lanham, apart from wrestling as much as possible and acting as OCW promoter, works a full-time job. There isn’t enough money in independent (non-World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) wrestling to make a living.

“You have to love the business first,” Lanham said.

Schory is studying interactive media for 3-D modeling at Stark State – he wants to do animation. He also has a part-time job.

“For me, it’s (wrestling) just going to be a hobby,” he said. “Something to do on the weekends.”

Joey Roberts, 26, a resident of Thornville who wrestles as J.T. Hogg, said he’s been wrestling since he was 18.

“I’m like a Star Wars nerd with wrestling,” he said.

Roberts said although he enjoys the sport, he probably won’t ever move up to the WWE or TNA. Most people who wrestle in OCW, and the various other independent organizations in Ohio, have families and other jobs.

“Chances are, none of us are ever going to make it,” he said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. The people who make it … dedicate their whole lives to it.”

Roberts said he’s stuck with wrestling because of the performing aspect, more than actually wrestling.

“I’m not really that good of a wrestler,” he said. “(But) the crowd really connects with me.”

Mastering the basics

But Schory is still about five or six months from stepping in the ring, from connecting with the crowd.

Until then, he trains with the other wrestlers, learning and perfecting new moves every session. During OCW events, he helps set up and tear down the ring, and other general preparation.

“Once you’re ready to compete, you get put on the show,” he said.

Another part of training for professional wrestling, aside from the physical, is coming up with a character and style.

“I think as your training progresses, you pretty much start thinking about what your character is going to act like,” Schory said. “I see myself as more of a luchadore-type wrestler.”

When he was younger, Schory said he looked up to Rey Mysterio Jr. because Mysterio is one of the smaller, yet more entertaining wrestlers.

Like Mysterio, Schory sees himself as somewhat of a risk taker – a high flyer with few limits.

But first he’s got to master the headlock takeover, the armdrag and the belly-to-back suplex.

Contact editor Seth Roy at [email protected].