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The ‘Principal’ of wrestling

In God’s house, powerslams and piledrivers are the mission for promoter and school leader Tortorello

1a
Steve Tortorello, the principal at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and owner of Warrior Wrestling, addresses the crowd prior to “Warrior Wrestling Six” in the MCHS West Gym on Sept. 1, 2019.

Story by Drake Kizer

Photos by Basil Mahmud

In a dimly lit venue about 30 miles south of Chicago, 800 professional wrestling fans cry out to their favorite, and least favorite, competitors with reckless fervor.

“Moose!”

“Cero Miedo!”

“S-C-U!”

“This is awesome!”

They represent only a handful of the chants that rain down on the wrestlers flying off the ropes and slamming each other onto the mat. The ring is almost entirely black except for a gold “Spartan” helmet logo emblazoned in the center of a weathered canvas. Above that, the phrase “Warrior Wrestling” is etched in gold.

The passionate cries echoed through a high school gymnasium in a struggling town where wrestling fanatics paid as little as $35 or more than $100 to watch costumed villains and heroes pretend to inflict harm on their enemies — all for the purpose of keeping the students who use the gym for standard athletic fare from doing or suffering the same fate in real life.

Steve Tortorello, a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, sits and watches the action with a discerning eye. But as chatter rings through his headset, Tortorello is reminded he’s not just an onlooker.