Into The Fire

By: Carrie Messantonio


Amateur Wrestlers & Professional Wrestlers CAN Work Together


On Saturday, November 13 at Owings Mills High School in Owings Mills, MD, the 700+ fans in attendance at the Maryland Championship Wrestling show witnessed a match that many said would never happen. Two amateur wrestlers (and now coaches) took on two professional wrestlers in what would be the hottest match of that evening.

As the Battle Royal ensued, the fans were informed that the winner of that Battle Royal would team with Mark “The Shark” Shrader in the main event against the Owings Mills High School wrestling coaches, Guy Pritzker and Justin Ott. Ramblin’ Rich Myers was the ultimate winner of that Battle Royal.

“The Shark” then came out and called out coaches Pritzker and Ott. Mark reminded the fans, the coaches and Ramblin’ Rich that a couple of months ago, he had lost a match that carried the stipulation of never wrestling in MCW again. Shrader said that they must forfeit the match to the coaches because of this. He shook hands with the coaches, and the coaches left.

Ramblin Rich was angered by Shrader’s announcement that there would be a forfeiture. Rich then called out his manager Platinum Nat and an ally, Earl The Pearl. He said he didn’t need Shrader and that he and Earl would wrestle the coaches instead. They then took the boots to Shrader until coaches Pritzker and Ott, who had been watching this from the catwalk, chased Nat, Earl and Rich from the ring. The coaches then stated that they would accept the challenge to wrestle Earl and Rich in the main event of the evening.

The following results were reported by Jeff Amdur, MCW timekeeper at large:


GUY PRITZKER & JUSTIN OTT (with CHASTITY) vs. EARL "THE PEARL" & "RAMBLIN" RICH MYERS (with PLATINUM NAT). Coach Ott took some punishment at first, being on the receiving end of body slams. He evened things up by hip tossing both wrestlers, with Rich being tossed out of the ring.

Coach Pritzker tagged in and presented a clinic on textbook scholastic wrestling moves, getting various 2-counts on Myers. When Earl hit Pritzker with Nat's "good book", however, things turned bad for the OMHS heroes. Pritzker was Flair-chopped and suplexed by Earl, then backdropped by Rich. Earl then held the coach up for a top-rope leap by his partner, but Pritzker moved and Rich nailed Earl.

Then, that familiar entrance music played, and out came GILLLLLLLBERRRRRRRG!!! Gillberg speared both Rich and Earl and then said something about the two of them happening to be "in the wrong place at the right time". The coaches then whipped the weakened Earl and Rich into each other.

Pritzker stunnered Rich while Ott did a dive off the top turnbuckle onto Earl, getting the 3-count. The crowd, as a result, went into an absolute frenzy in support of their alumni.


This match was definitely one for the books. It’s a credit to Coaches Pritzker and Ott as well as Maryland Championship Wrestling to see people from somewhat opposite sides of the fence working together and putting on a technically sound and entertaining match for the fans. There are no egos here, folks. That’s what makes MCW such a hot promotion. They have the interest of the fans at heart rather than being concerned about putting themselves over. Additionally, Pritzker and Ott took to this genre of wrestling like ducks to water. While Pritzker told me continually that he could never hope to be as good as those who have trained for years - - even months - - in my eyes and the eyes of the fans, he and his partner worked with Earl and Rich like a tight, well-oiled machine.

I was fortunate enough to speak with Coach Pritzker a couple of days after his famed match at the high school. Not only has he been a coach there for the past 17 years, he has been an amateur wrestler overall for 32 years. Pritzker wrestled in junior high school, high school and college. It was in college where he began his coaching career as he was both a coach and a wrestler.

Surprisingly enough, Coach Pritzker isn’t like most amateur wrestlers who look down on professional wrestling as a bastardization of their sport. Far from it; he has a great deal of admiration for the men and women who are involved in the business. “Amateur wrestlers that look down on professional wrestling are the same as those who look down on others for any reason. If you look down on someone, you have a bad attitude in general” said Pritzker. He continued, “Professional wrestling has done a great deal for amateur wrestling. People who are interested in pro-wrestling will sometimes start as an amateur because they feel that’s where the foundation begins. It’s definitely a starting point for professional wrestling”.

As a young man, Pritzker looked at professional wrestling as something that was easy. “My friends and I used to wrestle all the time. For 20 years, we thought it was a breeze”, said Pritzker. “We always said, ‘Man, if they saw us, they’d sign us up right away’ but when I went to work out with the guys at MCW, I was nauseated, dizzy and physically sick after the first night of training. I went home and called a friend of mine who wrestles professionally and apologized for thinking it was ever easy. I have a great deal of respect for the business and the people involved in it and I’ve learned a lot, too. All the showmanship, evolving characters and everything else is absolutely amazing. You have to become that person, that character, and if it’s not done right, you can cheapen it and make it look bad. These guys produce live shows and it’s like producing a live television show or a movie in one night. There’s so much more behind the scenes and they’re the whole show. It’s not all glamour and it’s not easy. These guys work for pennies. It’s definitely an honorable sport.”

How incredible it was to hear a respected amateur wrestler give such high praise to a business that most amateur wrestlers have condescended upon for so many years. These are definitely not your typical responses to professional wrestling but then again, Coach Pritzker is not your typical person. Aside from coaching, he is also teaches math at Owings Mills High School. He’s the type of teacher and coach that everyone loved when they were in school. “I’m not a strict disciplinarian”, said Pritzker “but the kids like me. I have an odd personality, which makes me very likable to the kids. They learn but they also have fun with me and that’s what makes me a good teacher and a good coach.”

Coach prides himself on being different. “There’s just no teacher like me”, he said. “I’m a math teacher, a coach and I also am a house painter on the side. How odd would it be to see your math teacher or your coach coming into your house to paint your bedroom? I also like a loud classroom. I like my kids to have fun and I like to be close with all of them”.

Coach Pritzker has received numerous awards for both his teaching and coaching. He is very active in his community and extremely popular which prompted his involvement in the match. “It was a fundraiser and I knew I could get a lot of tickets sold”, he said. “Normally, they sell candy-bars or calendars and things like that. I figured this way, we’d raise all the money in one shot and everyone would have a great time to boot”.

I was curious as to whether he wrestled in tournaments or other competitions. “I wrestled in Varsity but wasn’t all that great”, said Pritzker. “In college, I placed in the Mason Dixon tournaments but I feel that really good wrestlers don’t know how to coach well. They lose sight of where they’ve been and where they’re going”. Pritzker coaches Jr. League as well and even coaches the kids of some of the people he has coached in the past. “I want my students to be good sports”, he said. “I teach them to shake hands after the match and return compliments. If you’re nothing but sour grapes, that makes the victory that much sweeter for the opponent.”

I questioned Coach Pritzker on who some of his favorite pro-wrestlers were growing up and who had the most influence on him. Without hesitation, he responded. “I lived and breathed by Bruno Sammartino. He was my absolute favorite. Of course, there is no good without evil and my favorite to that end was Killer Kowalski. I look back on them now and appreciate them even more because now I know what they endured back then and they got paid even less than these kids do today”.

I assumed Coach Pritzker would have a great deal of endurance given his background in amateur wrestling so I was curious as to what his training regimen was for this particular match. “Not long enough”, he quipped. “We planned on training religiously for 6 weeks, two nights a week. After the 2nd night, I told them I couldn’t do it and that I just wanted to do what I could do and get through what I could. We scaled the training back but it was still very tough. Compared to the guys that do this day in and day out, we’d be graded about a D”, he said with a laugh.

Pritzker had wonderful things to say about the guys who run Maryland Championship Wrestling ( My husband Ed and I have worked with many of these guys as well and echo Coach Pritzker’s sentiments ten times over. “It was physically and mentally one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The preparation and work behind the scenes for these guys to put on a show is like no job you ever want to have. It’s the most stressful thing you could ever endure. There are always last minute problems, possible no-shows, booking the building, tickets, posters and so much more. Those guys are coaches, stunt coordinators, mothers, movie producers and guidance counselors. I have the greatest respect for those guys ever.”

“It’s like a fraternity”, he continued. “It’s a family atmosphere where everyone respects one another. I enjoyed the camaraderie. I enjoyed being a part of their family. This was not a step down by any means, it was a step up.”

Has he received a hard time from the other amateur wrestlers and coaches in the community? “Absolutely not”, he answered. “They also see the possibilities. It’s every guy’s dream to be a professional wrestler, to have the glory of walking down to the ring and to have that day in the sun. Amateur wrestlers are no different. I really feel that what I did brings amateur wrestling and professional wrestling closer together”. He’s 100% correct because he also informed me that other amateur wrestling coaches in his community are now following his lead by also getting involved with local independent groups for fundraisers.

However, as much positive praise he has given to his experience, he would never recommend it as a career. “It’s entirely too dangerous”, he continued. “These guys get back 2% for every 100% they put in. They should all be millionaires for what they go through. Some guys drive three hours to make $25 - $50/night. Careers are cut short because of debilitating injuries. To be honest, professional wrestling on the larger scale is getting out of hand and becoming a case of “can you top this” week in and week out. For these guys, there’s no disability, life/health insurance rates are sky-high and some can’t even get approved for insurance. There are no retirement plans. The bottom line is that if you don’t wrestle, you don’t get paid. It’s a horrible way to live your life.”

“Selling Amway would probably be easier”, he added.

Maybe he should talk to Chavo Guererro.

“Do you have any regrets, Coach Pritzker?”, I asked.

“No, not one regret”, he answered. “However, I doubt that I’ll ever do it again. Maybe I could manage but I doubt that I could be involved to the extent I was. I’ve had three knee operations and I just want to stay healthy. I have a painting business, my coaching and I’m a math teacher. This is the path I choose and I thank God everyday for what I have. Besides, when the applause stops, I’d have nothing to show for it but a busted up body. Then what good would I be to my wife and kids?”

“Besides, I’ve taken 6 hot baths since Saturday and I’m still sore!”

I’d like to thank Coach Pritzker for his time and for helping bridge the gap between amateur and professional wrestling. Additionally, I want to urge anyone and everyone to go to an MCW show if you get the opportunity. These guys put on top-notch shows and their training facility is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They also boast a broad range of talent coupled with some of the top names in the business such as Jerry “The King” Lawler with Miss Kitty, Sherri Martel, Gillberg, Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, King Kong Bundy, Chastity, Tom Brandi, Julio Sanchez/Fantastico, The Iron Sheik, The Honky Tonk Man, The Headbangers and many others. Visit their website and make plans to attend one of their shows.

It’ll be a show you won’t soon forget.

Maryland Championship Wrestling
Rebuilding Maryland Wrestling One Show At A Time

Carrie A. Zohn –