SHS senior learns the ropes of pro wrestling

He's not even 18 years old yet and Todd Baldwin is polishing his moves, his smile, his step.

The Sequim High School senior is intent on making a dream come true in a world where athletes are actors, where bone-crackers are often wisecrackers, too.

Baldwin is one of uncounted thousands of young men and women hoping to break into the world of professional wrestling.

Loosely dubbed a "sport" and much more like a sweat-soaked barrage of high-flying soap operas and dramas with bulging muscles, professional wrestling is a multi-billion dollar industry that rakes in dollars from nationwide events, television broadcasts, merchandise, pay-per-view events and DVDs.

Baldwin says he likes sports and played soccer, football and ran track for a few years, and got into boxing in the past couple of years.

When his friend Patrick Turner turned him on to professional wrestling, something stuck. Perhaps it was the spotlight wrestlers garnered.

"I get a kick out of making people laugh," Baldwin says, noting his class-clown habits.

Baldwin decided to do some research about how someone becomes a professional wrestler and he stumbled onto a camp. It was in Atlanta and Baldwin has a sister Taylor who lives there. He could visit his sister, he figured, and get some training toward his dream job, too.

Baldwin's mother, Sandra Ramsey, said she didn't want her son to get into wrestling, that perhaps the camp would open his eyes to how difficult and potentially dangerous the profession could be.

"She was hoping I'd go there and hate it," Baldwin recalls. "I loved it."

The four-day WWA4 camp in late August was held in a warehouse in what Baldwin calls a "sketchy" part of town.

Still, the 17-year-old student says he learned plenty, from running the ropes to submission holds.

Best of all, he says, he learned an important rule among other wrestlers: Don't hurt each other.

"You've got to learn how to not hurt people," Baldwin says, noting that if one wrestler hurts another by accident or intention, it comes back later in the match in the form of a nonaccidental revenge move. Wrestlers call that move a "receipt," he says.

The camp organizers also helped their young recruits understand that the world of professional wrestling is a bit of business and a bit of Hollywood, that the way an athlete/actor sticks is with the way he looks or the charisma he can show off.

They also impressed on him that each wrestler needs to develop a persona - Baldwin picked "The Fox," because he expects he'll always be an underdog - and that they all need to look and be strong.

"I was the smallest and the youngest (at the camp)," Baldwin says, (but) they accepted me."

That's why he's here at Anytime Fitness after school, hitting the weights day after day.

Baldwin wasn't knocked completely senseless at the camp. He plans on attending college and getting his four-year degree in physical education with a minor in Spanish, knowing that his wrestling dream may not come true.

But that doesn't mean The Fox isn't going to give pro wrestling a try.

"I feel if I don't go for it, I'll regret it," he says.

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