Veteran enters ring
As "The Veteran", student veteran Mike Lafors enters the ring, a daunting task to some, but to Lafors, nothing compared to his previous arena of combat: the Iraqi desert.
Lafors, a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, always aspired to one day enter the ring as a pro, he said. He trained in multiple sports as a youth, including several martial arts, to improve his skills in wrestling.
"Every sport I've ever started was in preparation for pro wrestling," said Lafors, 32.
Despite his dedication to the sport, his start in the ring came abruptly. At an event in Columbus, Georgia, then 26-year-old Lafors was spotted practicing round-offs, a common gymnastics move, while waiting for tickets. Event security approached him and took down his information.
"I was led down a dark hallway, where I saw a 6-foot-6 platinum blond 50-year-old, bleeding heavily from his forehead," said Lafors. "He asked me if I wanted to wrestle, I said, ‘All my life.'"
Since that fateful day, the 5-foot-10-inch, 250-pound Lafors has wrestled the likes of indie wrestling greats Koko B. Ware and Super Diablo, ventures that are not easy on the body.
"Throw yourself to the ground 20 to 30 times," said Lafors. "Imagine a 300-pound man in tights hitting you as hard as he can."
Outside of his wrestling activities, Lafors, a founding member in Veteran-Student Alliance and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is very active in veteran's affairs at CSM. Some of his efforts on behalf of student veterans include speaking in front of the district board of trustees and a panelist at the Financial Aid Regional Conference.
"He's a very active speaker," said Mario Mihelcic, certifying official of veteran's benefits at CSM's office of admissions. "He's a terrific person and a terrific advocate for veterans."
Among his other commendations of Lafors, Mihelcic also praised him on his "lack of insecurity in front of large crowds," which undoubtedly proves beneficial in the ring.
Lafors has been frequenting the charity circuit, wrestling in events designed to raise funds for veterans' services such as the American Legion. As far as his future in wrestling goes, Lafors remains realistic but hopeful.
"(WWE) won't take me, I'm too old and too short," said Lafors. "My choices are in (wrestling leagues in) Japan or TNA (Total Non-stop Action Wrestling)."
As for professional wrestling's reputation as a fake sport reliant on melodramatic histrionics, Lafors makes no excuses.
"People know it's fake," said Lafors, "But so are movies and, like movies, people watch wrestling to be entertained."
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