Aspiring wrestler dies in fall at tavern - Stand-in for event at Sussex bar lands neck-first on mat
Journal Sentinel (WI) - Tuesday, August 8,
Author: LISA SINK AND MIKE JOHNSON, Journal Sentinel staff
Tony Nash, 30, of Milwaukee died Saturday night after the match at a Sussex sports bar.
The event was staged by Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling, one of several such groups to have sprung up in response to the national craze created by the World Wrestling Federation and its "Smackdown" broadcasts.
When another wrestler backed out of his match Saturday, Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling owners asked Nash if he would fill in, said Waukesha County Sheriff's Lt. Karen Ruff.
"They thought he was ready, and he thought he was ready, so he agreed," she said.
Nash "was supposed to either tuck his head or land on his shoulder, and for some reason he didn't do that," Ruff said.
"He didn't fall properly. We don't know why."
Nash, a parking checker for the Milwaukee Police Department, had been in training for about four months with Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling, a group that holds matches at taverns.
His opponent, whom authorities would not identify, had known Nash for about a year, Ruff said.
"They were friends, so he's very broken up about it," she said.
Nash was 6 feet 3 inches and weighed more than 300 pounds. His opponent, 23, was 2 inches taller but weighed about 240 pounds.
Authorities said the death appeared to be an accident, but they are investigating what training the wrestlers received, as well as how the maneuver was performed Saturday night.
District Attorney Paul Bucher said: "I want to know as much as I can about the company, what the wrestlers were told, what they signed, what precautions were taken."
But Bucher said that the death appeared to be a "tragic accident."
A spectator caught the match on videotape, which authorities are reviewing.
According to sheriff's reports:
About 40 bar patrons were watching the match about 8:24 p.m. Saturday at Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill when Nash put the other wrestler into a headlock.
In a staged move, the other wrestler lifted Nash into the air for a maneuver called a "back supplex."
As the other wrestler fell backward with Nash, "something went wrong and Mr. Nash ends up landing" on his head and neck, instead of his shoulders as choreographed, Ruff said.
Nash was knocked out and never regained consciousness.
A nurse who accompanies the wrestling group for its performances provided aid as emergency personnel were summoned, officials said.
Nash was pronounced dead at Community Memorial Hospital of Menomonee Falls.
Ruff said the Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling owners Clarence White and Trevor Lange told authorities they teach amateur wrestlers how to perform holds, moves and falls.
The medical examiner's office was to conduct an autopsy, but the exact cause of death had not been determined as of late Monday.
Ron Stortz, who runs Sussex Place with his wife, Pauline, called the death "one of those tragic things that happen."
"He was a new guy. It was his first match, I was told. He made a wrong move," said Stortz, who wasn't at the bar Saturday night.
He said the bar had held three or four such wrestling events.
The matches are held at the tavern 's indoor sand volleyball courts, where wrestling organizers set up a ring.
"They are a really great bunch of guys," Stortz said of the wrestling organizers and the wrestlers. "Everybody has a great time. People enjoy them."
After Saturday night's tragedy, Stortz said it likely would be some time before the bar held another wrestling match.
Nash's relatives were stunned by his death.
"All we can say at this point is that he was very interested in wrestling. He was involved in it as a hobby, but we didn't know he was doing actual tournaments," said his aunt, Diana Wright.
His mother, Bannette Nash, learned only a week ago that Nash was involved in some sort of wrestling practices, Wright said.
"He kept it a secret from his mom," Wright said. "He knew she didn't care for the wrestling thing at all."
Nash has a 2-year-old son, Tony Jr., and was engaged.
"He was a very outgoing person. He loved sports. He was a Christian. He loved going to church," Wright said. "He loved to help out. . . . He had so much going for himself."
Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Carmine DeSpirito, owner of Mid American Wrestling in Milwaukee, said there were an increasing number of "backyard wrestlers" and semiprofessional groups popping up in the Milwaukee area.
|"There's so many of these little groups," the wrestling
promoter said. "They're not professionals; they don't have
professionals training them. (They) are just mimicking what
they see on TV, and all of a sudden they are going to get
He recommended that would-be wrestlers receive at least six months of formal training before they enter the ring.
The maneuver that Nash was performing is a "very basic move. You see it all the time," said DeSpirito, who acknowledged using wild gimmicks like matches in rings surrounded by barbed-wire and others in which wrestlers break fluorescent lights on each other's heads.
"My guys are all thoroughly trained," he said. "There is a science to it, believe it or not. As preposterous as it sounds, there's a way to do it and you're not going to get hurt."
Gary Davis, spokesman for WWF, said the interest among would-be wrestlers had been spurred by the wild popularity of pro wrestling, as demonstrated by the 22.5 million viewers who watch WWF programming each week.
But he warned people not to try to imitate pro moves in their backyard. "Our athletes are well-trained," he said. "They have worked long and hard to perform these exceptional feats of athleticism without injury."
But even the highly trained WWF wrestlers can be injured, or worse. Last year, WWF wrestler Owen Hart plunged about 80 feet to his death at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
Fellow wrestler's death prompts others to quit
Journal Sentinel (WI) -
Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Author: LISA SINK, Journal Sentinel staff
Going into Saturday's dues-paying contest, he understood that the payback for the choke holds and body slams was not a single dime but rather valuable experience.
Instead, his pursuit of glory -- played out in a ring erected in a Sussex tavern before 40 spectators -- cost him his life.
And now his fellow wrestlers who had likewise been shooting for wrestling stardom are throwing in the towel, saying the risk far outweighs the small chance at fame.
"We will no longer set foot in a ring," said Jared "Phoenix" Jamrozy, who wrestled with Nash for the Wisconsin All-Star Wrestling Federation, or WAW.
"The WAW no longer exists, it's no longer together," said Jamrozy, 20.
He and other wrestlers say they have quit the federation.
"We all knew it was a risk," Jamrozy said. "We were willing to take it until this happened."
When asked by WAW owners to fill in for another wrestler Saturday night, Nash initially wasn't sure he was ready, Jamrozy said.
But then the opposing wrestler, a close friend, changed Nash's mind, said Jamrozy, who arrived just after the accident.
"After this happened, (the other wrestler) was in shock," Jamrozy said. "He just sat there with this blank look on his face."
Nash, a parking checker for the Milwaukee Police Department, was 6 feet 3 inches and weighed about 240 pounds, officials said. His opponent, 23, was 2 inches taller but weighed about the same.
In a choreographed move gone wrong, the opponent flipped Nash, who, instead of falling on his upper back as planned, failed to tuck his head and landed on his neck. He was knocked out and pronounced dead later that night.
"We all just stood there in shock," Jamrozy said. "It was completely silent.
"We all joined hands and said a prayer. We prayed and prayed and prayed. We were all hanging onto hope."
Jamrozy said Clarence White, part-owner of WAW, told wrestlers that he and fellow owner Trevor Lange would close the WAW.
Reached by phone Tuesday, White refused to speak with a reporter.
"I don't have any comment for you," said White, who then hung up.
The medical examiner's office Tuesday ruled Nash's death accidental, caused by neck and head injuries. But District Attorney Paul Bucher said he was just beginning a review.
Bucher said he had "great concern" about information he had received about the group's training and safety precautions, but he would not elaborate.
"We're going to continue our review (into) all of that -- training, lack of training, lack of regulations," he said.
State officials confirmed Tuesday that there are no state regulations or oversight of amateur and professional wrestlers.
Jerid "Venom" Bohmann, another WAW wrestler, said Nash's death prompted him to walk away from wrestling, which he called a lifetime love.
"I quit because of my three-year-old son," said Bohmann, 24. "He's at every match. I couldn't imagine if he was there and that was me. That could be my son without a daddy."
Nash had a 2-year-old son and was engaged.
Bohmann not only won't wrestle anymore, he won't let his son -- a wrestling fanatic -- watch the WWF on television anymore. He said he boxed up all his son's wrestling posters and figurines and sent him into tears by saying he would no longer let him watch professional wrestling.
Bohmann said Nash was serious about wrestling and was one of the most focused wrestlers in the group. "He was all business," Bohmann said. "This was something he had his heart stuck on."
The WAW group had about 20 wrestlers, who often practiced at each other's homes without any ropes, sometimes throwing mattresses on the floor to simulate the canvas mat, members said.
"This is going to sound really cold, but in a way they had it coming," said Mike Thompson, who trains and promotes matches for Powerhouse Pro Wrestling in Richfield. "These guys are not professional wrestlers. These guys are backyard wrestlers who just bought a ring."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Sussex Village President Patricia Bartlett called the incident "unfortunate" but didn't want to comment further because of the pending investigation. She said, however, that Sussex officials are cooperating with the investigation and looking into the village's past dealings with the Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill.
Pat Ostenga, assistant area director for Occupational Health and Safety Administration in Milwaukee, said the agency likely does not have jurisdiction over the death of the wrestler. OSHA investigates employee/employer accidents and not contractual agreements between a sponsor and individual party.
"We're still checking into it just to make sure," Ostenga said.
Fires New Hires and Plans Another Name
A bad partnership is dissolved and the former Sussex Place changes again.
By Andy Ambrosius, Email the author, January 5, 2012
|"After a number of run-ins
with the law, and the village
claiming there was “some
significant problems with the
establishment,” owners of Dive
Bar have announced some change
in leadership and another name
Ronald Stortz, the bar’s owner, and his manager Sue Powers were called to appear at the Finance and Personnel Committee Tuesday night to explain what’s happened and what they intended to do.
“We had an internal problem with our limited liability corporation,” Powers explained to the committee. “The man causing the problems and police actions has been removed. Jenna Grode was involved in those police actions and has been removed. We removed him and all his hires with the exception of one girl.”
Jeremy Smith, the Village Administrator, said Lt. Jim Gumm and other Sussex police have been checking in at Dive Bar over the last three weeks, and there haven’t been any additional problems.
However, with all the recent police actions at the bar, Power’s scheduled acquisition of the business from Stortz has been pushed from February to June. The committee believes they need some more time for Dive Bar to prove itself before a transition of ownership.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” said Stortz to the committee. “From now on, I don’t want anyone drinking behind the bar… Sue has been doing a good job and I told her the name’s got to be changed because of the reputation.”
So now, just three months after Sussex Place changed its name to Dive Bar, another rebranding is in the works. Powers said the bar is currently doing a “name the bar” promotion where, for $5, residents can submit a suggested name on some paper at the bar. Dive Bar staff will then choose which one they like best sometime next week.
In the meantime, Powers and Stortz insist the bar is no longer going to be a problem.
“Were happy to see Waukesha and Sussex’s finest anytime for a positive time.
After a short time as the Dive Bar, it was renamed "Benchwarmers" for again, a very short time. It then returned to being Sussex Place Sports Bar & Grill.
First it was Sussex Place, , and now say "hello" to , the latest name given to the famous Sussex volleyball bar.
But a name change isn't the only thing different about the bar. Ronald Stortz, the bar’s owner, and manager Sue Powers meeting back in January to discuss a number of with , prompting a slew of changes.
"There was kind of a negative connotation associated with Dive Bar, and when we spoke to the village back in January, one of the things we said we'd do to ensure the bar had a more positive image was to change its name," Powers said.
One thing Powers and Stortz did shortly before January's meeting was clean house. The man behind a majority of the police action was fired, along with most of the staff he hired. And now, after months of planning and implementation, Powers is hoping to leave the former image of Dive Bar in the dust.
"It's not just a matter of changing the sign," Powers explained. "It's a matter of getting permission from the village, marketing, creating new logos, getting a new menu and expanding our sports activities. We started beanbag toss on Sunday afternoons, we started a pool league in spring, we'll be continuing our darts league and hopefully expanding our volleyball leagues."
Powers also said the bar will start sponsoring rides to . For $20 a person, or $15 for a group of four people, Benchwarmers will drop customers off at the game, pick them up when its over and serve them beverages along the way.
The only thing left to do is put up a new sign. Staff removed the outdoor sign for Dive Bar after only six months of use on Wednesday. They plan to install the new one either Thursday evening or sometime on Friday.
Benchwarmers Sports Pub & Grill
By Sussex Patch
Benchwarmers, formerly know as Dive Bar and Sussex Place
Sports Bar, has been serving up beers and cocktails in its
spacious venue since 1995. The bar changed its name to Dive
Bar in 2011 to rebrand itself with new managment. It did so
again in April of 2012 to Benchwarmers.
Benchwarmers' big draw is its year-round sand volleyball leagues, with both indoor and outdoor leagues for adults of all ages and abilities. There are also pool and dart leagues. The bar itself is huge, with 33 chairs, nine booths, and four large tables for big groups. Food is served all day.
Monday: Half price wings and free pool 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tuesday:<br></strong>$1 tacos, $2-off nachos
Wednesday:$1-off all burgers, Double Bubble night (9 p.m. to close), 2-4-1 rail mixers and domestic drafts
Thursday:$5 tall mixers of Bacardi/Jack/Captain.
Friday:Ladies night 9 p.m. to close
Saturday:$3 Bombs, $5 Malibu Long Island Buckets
Sununday:$6 Absolut Loaded Bloody Marys, $6.50 Bud Light Pitchers, $5 BW Brew Pitchers, $1 BW BREW Drafts, Bags
Tourneys every Sunday at 1 p.m. Classic car shows begin in May on Fridays. 4 p.m. indoor/outdoor volleball, pool, darts.
Chef: T.J. Knihtila
General Manager: Sue Powers
Bar Manager: Mike Sturbaum
N64 W22480 Main St, Sussex, WI 53089
Hours: Sun - Thu, noon - 10pm; Fri, Sat, noon - 11pm