By Timothy Cox
Most kids go through many phases of what they want to be when they grow up. Not Celina native Mike Thobe; the 20-year-old has had his eyes on a professional wrestling career since fifth grade.
At the time, his parents shrugged it off as a passing fancy. In eighth grade, Thobe starting saving money to attend wrestling school someday. Still, his parents thought their son would change courses and follow a more traditional career path.
That didn't happen. After graduation, Thobe informed his parents he was moving to Cincinnati to attend Heartland Wrestling School. He now wrestles regularly for the Heartland Wrestling Association and will be a special guest of Midwest Championship Wrestling when the organization stages a show in Celina on Feb. 19 at the Fieldhouse.
"Now they're very supportive," Thobe said of his parents. "They come to shows all the time and support me."
Thobe said he is expecting a lot of family and friends to pack the fieldhouse for his Feb. 19 match, his first in front of a local crowd. Thobe wrestles as Mike Desire and is generally considered a good guy, or face, in wrestling lingo. He briefly played the role of a bad guy, or heel, following his return from a serious knee injury that kept him out the ring for six months.
Thobe's evil persona disappeared when he teamed up with wrestler Tack to win Heartland's tag team championship. The fans now love him again.
Crowds typically chant, "Be like Mike," in support.
Wrestling has proven to be everything Thobe says he wanted. He said he still gets nervous before coming out for a match and called the roar of the crowd "indescribable." He said moments such as signing his first autograph for a child will never be forgotten, even long after his career in the ring is over.
The well-muscled, but small-framed Thobe wrestles as a cruiser weight. He doesn't let that stop him from taking on larger foes.
"I always want to take on the bigger and badder guys," Thobe said. "Being a cruiser weight will not keep me from wrestling a seven-foot, 500-pound guy."
Ironically, even though Thobe was working out and watching his diet in high school, he never played any sports. He admits now he probably should have wrestled in high school, to give him at least the basics of his future career.
"I just wasn't good at anything," Thobe said of a high school sports career.
At the Celina match, Thobe will face "High IQ" Quentin Lee, a wrestler he has faced before but never beaten.
"He is a very intelligent wrestler who thinks he's better than everybody," Thobe said. "I figure if I have the whole town behind me, I'll have the advantage."
A number of other matches are on the Feb. 19 card, including a tag team championship match featuring St. Henry residents Jeff Garman and Jeff Puthoff. The local duo participated in a Midwest wrestling event last year in St. Henry and now are back at a shot for the titles against the Kansas Outlaws. A 10-man over-the-top-rope battle royal featuring some local people also is on the card.
For now Thobe is content to keep wrestling for Heartland. The association performs throughout Cincinnati, Dayton and northern Kentucky. Someday, though, Thobe aspires to the same level every other pro wrestler yearns for -- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The glitzy, audacious wrestling outfit is the undisputed king of the sport, with sold out arenas, monthly pay-per-view events and genuine superstars.
"That's the ultimate dream and not nearly everyone makes it," Thobe said.