Meet the dads who resolved to become pro wrestlers in five weeks

Jerard and Patrick wrestling
Jerard Fagerberg and Patrick Strait wrestle at The Academy School of Professional Wrestling
Courtesy Bryan Frank

Many of us are trying to become new people in 2023 and by lots of accounts, most New Year’s resolutions fail. But the journey is in trying something new. Jerard Fagerberg and Patrick Strait did exactly that.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer talks with these two writers and dads, who set out to chase a childhood dream last year: becoming professional wrestlers in just five weeks. They wrote about it in an article for the Twin Cities Alt weekly “Racket.”

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.   

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: I'm betting some of you remember these names-- Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal. All of them wrestled for the old AWA, the American Wrestling Association, a Minnesota-based promotion that at one time was home to some of the most famous pro wrestlers in the country. Minnesota is still home to some smaller wrestling promotions, and there's a training facility in the Twin Cities that promises to make you into a pro wrestler in five weeks.

Our next guests, longtime wrestling fans, chased their childhood dream last year of being in the ring and wrote about it in the Twin Cities alt weekly Racket. Jerard Fagerberg and Patrick Strait are on the line. Guys, welcome.

PATRICK STRAIT: Hey, thank you so much.

JERARD FAGERBERG: Good to be here.

CATHY WURZER: You guys aren't exactly 19 years old anymore, I hate to point that out. Both of you are dads too. What possessed you to want to train to be a pro wrestler? I'm going to start with Patrick.

PATRICK STRAIT: Sure. You grow up watching wrestling, it's something that you love, it's something that you do with your friends. And I know for me personally, it's something that I was always like, man, if I could just get in there one time and really feel it and experience it-- me and Jerard, we decided we had to go for it, we had to live that dream one time.

CATHY WURZER: Jerard, did you have second thoughts about this?

JERARD FAGERBERG: Patrick had to talk me into it, but, as you can tell by his response to that last question, he has a lot of passion. And he's the type of person who just put it to me in a way I couldn't say no to. So at first, I was like, I don't think I ever really need to be in the ring.

I'm happy watching it on TV or from the gallery. But as the idea came together, it became a dream for me to get into the ring. And it was really amazing to be in a place where people are learning to do this as their passion that they want to pursue forever. And to do it with our kids there was really just another level on top of it. My daughter still talks about it all the time.

CATHY WURZER: I bet she does. I bet she does. Now, pro wrestling, a lot of it has to do with theater and selling an angle. It's a performance, which is an art. But you both know it's also really physical. What was it like learning to take a bump, a fall?

JERARD FAGERBERG: You know it hurts, right? In all the interviews we did with all the trainees, they tell you going through the training, it's like adult gymnastics at first, where you're rolling around. And then eventually, you learn how to fall. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

But you can't really prepare for the way that it hurts, because it hurts a little bit in the moment and then it hurts for days on end after that.

PATRICK STRAIT: When we were going through this process I would text your card the next day after training and I would always have these weird mystery sorenesses or injuries. And I'd say stuff like, hey, my lower ab feels like I got stretched in half yesterday. Why?

And he'd go, oh, it's because we did bag drill drop downs yesterday or it's because we did takeovers or something. I go, ah, that's right. That's what it is. So a lot of it is just getting your body comfortable and used to the idea of doing these really awkward and unusual movements over and over and over until it kind of becomes second nature. And, man, I have such an incredible amount of respect for people who've gotten themselves to be able to do that and make it look so effortless, because it was anything but effortless for us.

CATHY WURZER: Some of the really good wrestlers, the most famous guys, and women, have signature moves, right? Did you guys come up with your own moves? Or was it just a matter of just trying to just get the basics down in five weeks?

JERARD FAGERBERG: This is definitely a situation where our will far exceeded our ability. It's one thing we heard from Ken Anderson, the head trainer at the Academy School of Professional Wrestling, was everyone comes in here, they want to do the big moves. But you really have to master the little stuff before you get the right to even do something as audacious as a piledriver or a powerbomb.

CATHY WURZER: Patrick, what was the toughest move to learn?

PATRICK STRAIT: We took body slams, so we learned how to fall on our backs. And the funny thing is you see two guys like Jerard and I, obviously very physically imposing specimens, but you think to yourself, tossing another guy around, that's got to be tough, right?

And I remember the night that Ken Anderson taught he and I how to do that, I was getting really nervous about the idea of dropping him on his head, because you're not used to picking somebody up and slamming them on the ground. And I think for me, it was less about the pain of taking the move so much as it was about trusting yourself.

That's something we learned is you got to be confident. You got to be willing to go for it, because if you don't and when you hesitate, that's when people can start to get hurt.

CATHY WURZER: I think that fans, even casual fans, don't quite understand the love of collaboration you have to have with your opponent, right? Because you're both trying to figure out what you're doing in the ring to orchestrate this theatrical performance, right, Patrick?

PATRICK STRAIT: Absolutely. There was two gentlemen who we wrestled with in our grand finale, the System and Jason Rage-- those were our partners-- but these guys were so great about not just, hey, let's get in here and make sure these guys don't get hurt, but really making us look good, really making sure that we had a positive experience.

And I think that that's something that I feel like hear a lot about when you talk about professional wrestling. It's just the collaboration, the kinship that you get with the individuals you're wrestling with. It's really a bond that you form with another person. And if you don't have that bond, it's not going to come off the way you want it to. At least that's what I learned.

CATHY WURZER: Did you learn something about yourself in that five-week period of time, beyond the fact that your body really hurts a lot?

JERARD FAGERBERG: We trained from 9:00 PM to midnight on Wednesday nights. And I have a two-year-old and a four-month-old. And it's a really long day. And at the end of the day, you're going to go to the gym and you're going to hurt yourself in new and creative ways.

And there were so many times where I was just like, I could just not go. I could just not do this. And every time I went, I didn't want to leave. And if I was 15 years younger and had no children, I could easily be sucked into this world and be doing it full time.

CATHY WURZER: And, Patrick?

PATRICK STRAIT: On a personal level, I learned that my limbs are longer than I realized. Because all of a sudden when you're upside down and you're trying to figure out how to roll, and fall, and flop, your legs and your arms all of a sudden feel like they're 10 feet long and they're all over the place and you're landing all over yourself. So that was something I learned.

But another thing that I think I learned about myself and just about, I think, wrestling in general is just that wrestling for everybody-- to me, it's unlike anything else. This is the dreamer's performance.

CATHY WURZER: By the way, is it harder to be or easier to be a heel or a face? Meaning a good guy-- heel or good guy?

JERARD FAGERBERG: I think everybody wants to be a heel. It is more fun. And as I mentioned in my previous answer, usually, the heel is the person who determines what happens in the match. So it was a challenge for me to work the match as a babyface because I just don't relate to it.

I was very jealous of Patrick getting to yap off at me the entire time. I would say being a heel is definitely easier and more fun.

PATRICK STRAIT: I owe Jerard all that, because he allowed me that opportunity. Because let's just be real here, he's just a more likable human being than I am. So, really, it just made sense.

I have one of those slappable faces, Cathy. And I think that it's one of those when you can embrace it, it's so much fun. And getting to see Jerard's daughter, who is the cutest child I've ever seen, and just see how proud and how excited she was, yes, it's more fun personally to be the heel, to be the bad guy.

But, man, that hero worship and adulation, that's something you can't get being a heel. That was incredible.

JERARD FAGERBERG: We'll have to have a rematch where we switch roles.

CATHY WURZER: I was going to say-- exactly, maybe in the backyard or something. I don't know. But congratulations on fulfilling your dream.

JERARD FAGERBERG: Thank you so much, Cathy. I'm glad we got a chance to talk about it a little bit more. And hopefully a few more people can watch us stumble through it.

PATRICK STRAIT: And, Cathy, whenever you're ready to come on down, I know the academy is ready for you. They are ready for you to step in there and they are ready for you to defend the honor of NPR against the Ragtag Racket Guys. You let us know when and where, we're ready.

CATHY WURZER: I might have to take you up on that. Guys, thank you so much.

JERARD FAGERBERG: It's a pleasure, thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Jerard Fagerberg and Patrick Strait are writers and dads in the Twin Cities. You can read the article documenting their experience and watch a video of their match-- and they did quite well, by the way-- at I would make a pretty good heel, I think.

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