Friday, March 11, 2011


Sometimes a good story just falls into your lap. The story of Neil Superior's Wrestling School was one of those stories. Last summer I was grabbing some dinner one Friday night after work in Washington, DC when one of the metro editors from The New York Times gave me a call. She asked if I would accept an assignment in Western Maryland on Saturday night. Details were sparse at the time, but I thought "why not?" It would be a nice change from shooting politics downtown, even if it was on a Saturday night. Sometimes not having much of a social life can have its benefits.

The story ended up being an early midterm election profile on Linda McMahon (Connecticut Republican Senate candidate and wife of WWE CEO Vince McMahon) I met NYT reporter Ray Hernandez in Hagerstown, Md. and we scoured Neil Superior's Professional Wrestling School for any possible ex-WWE pro wrestlers who might have insights on Mrs. McMahon. There were no leads to be found, just a bunch of wide-eyed young wrestlers who dreamt of making it to the big leagues one day. While the photos never ran in print or online, I made a few more visits over the summer and really had a blast shooting photos and making friends with the good folks of Hagerstown.

Aspiring professional wrestler D.J. "Tytan" Crim of Martinsburg, W.Va. gathers his gear before wrestling at Neil Superior's Professional Wrestling School in Hagerstown, Md. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Wrestlers collect their thoughts before performing during the weekly Saturday evening practice session in Hagerstown during the Summer. Most wrestling students at Neil Superior's aspire to perform in professional wrestling leagues like the WWE. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Housed in the basement of an old warehouse in Hagerstown, Md. the wrestling school draws aspiring amateur wrestlers from Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia to the weekly matches on most weekends in the Summer. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Brian "Shorty Smalls" Noonan grabs the face of wrestler "J-Balla" during a free-for-all match. Performers coordinate their moves and stunts before performing in the ring for the neighborhood fans in Hagerstown. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Audience members, most of whom wander in from neighboring streets or are family of the performers, react during a wrestling match at Neil Superior's Professional Wrestling School in Hagerstown. Following the last match of the night fans and performers alike often host a barbecue in the parking lot behind the old warehouse. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

wrestle_upload_06Referee Fred Stanley of Hagerstown, Md. shows off his homemade knuckle tattoo between officiating wrestling matches. "I'm probably the oldest referee in wrastlin [sic]," he said. "I'm 65 years old!" Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Matt "Ollie Shortz" Schultz, 18, of Frederick, Md. jumps off the ropes as other wrestlers wait to join outside during Saturday matches in Hagerstown, Md. Students at the school range in age anywhere from 18-50 years old. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Former professional wrestler John Rambo poses with his National Wrestling League Heavyweight Championship belt in his backyard next door to Neil Superior's Professional Wrestling School in Hagerstown. Rambo inherited the wrestling school when his mentor Neil Superior died in 1997. He spends most of his time training students, booking matches, and inspiring students with memorable quotes like "Don't be an ass-kisser, be an ass-kicker!" Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

WASReferee Fred Stanley cools off before officiating several Saturday evening matches in Hagerstown. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times


An hardcore wrestling champion belt lays at the feet of wrestling coach John Rambo in the aging ring at Neil Superior's school. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Thanks for looking!
**Photos copyright Luke Sharrett and The New York Times**
The photographer takes an elbow to the head while shooting ringside at a Saturday night wrestling match.


Will Duncan said...

Damn. You took this to another level. Great work man.

Rebecca said...

Luke always takes things to another level. He's amazing.