It is never easy pursuing your dream. For many, the childhood dreams get pushed aside by work, family and other responsibilities as we get older. Some, however, have a chance to chase them.
Oakdale High School graduate Matt Vandagriff was mesmerized by the world of professional wrestling over a decade ago and from that moment on, he was hooked.
“I remember when I was around eight years old watching wrestling and saw Jeff Hardy for the first time. His moves and style were insane and I knew I wanted to be just like him. He was a big inspiration and still is to this day,” Vandagriff said of the moment he fell in love with the sports entertainment business.
Vandagriff graduated from Oakdale High School in 2015 where he was a multisport athlete as a Mustang. He played football, wrestled and competed in the pole vault for track and field during his time at Oakdale High School.
“Pole vaulting helped me prepare for wrestling. It built my upper body strength,” Vandagriff said.
Prior to graduation he did his homework on finding a pro wrestling school where he could live out his boyhood dream. He came across Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy in Bell Gardens (Southern California).
“I started looking up wrestling schools as early as my freshman year. Santino Bros. are well respected and have great trainers there. I called them up and made the trip down there and it made sense for me to be a part of it. Also, World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar Brian Kendrick offers a class there and I knew that would benefit me as well.”
Vandagriff stands five feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds and is considered a cruiserweight in the sport. Kendrick is also a cruiserweight and shows the aspiring wrestlers the ropes. Although Vandagriff has attended Kendrick’s class, his main trainers are Joey Kaos Munoz and Robby Phoenix.
“Every day is different at the academy. Some days we work on cardio, other days we work on moves and some days we work on ring psychology and promos,” the OHS alum explained.
As a cruiserweight, Vandagriff spends most of his time doing high risk moves, including aerial moves off the top rope. Wrestling is scripted but the injuries are very real. With almost two years of training under his belt, Vandagriff has been fortunate enough to only sustain minor injuries during his time with Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy.
“I grew up idolizing Jeff Hardy and some of the other high flyers as well. Everyone gets hurt, it is a given. Wrestling takes its toll on the body and so far I have had minimal injuries,” he said.
In his short time Vandagriff has wrestled in over a dozen matches in various venues in California and in Mexico. He wears a mask during his matches to honor the lucha libre style.
“I have wrestled in San Diego, Los Angeles and even on the border of Mexico and it is the best feeling in the world. I have the best trainers and my family has been really supportive during my journey.”
Vandagriff is still in the early stages of his career but the youngster is focused and is taking this opportunity very seriously.
“My trainer (Munoz) says reach for the sun because if you don’t make it to the sun, you can still make it to the stars.” Vandagriff said.
His ultimate goal is to perform in Japan, at other locations overseas and someday perform with World Wrestling Entertainment. Other notable Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy alumni include Rico Dynamite, Ruby Raze, Eli Everfly and Darwin Finch.