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ODU Doctoral Student Balances Engineering Studies with Classes at Pro Wrestling School

He's an electrical engineering scholar, an Old Dominion University doctoral student. Mike Stelzer, a recipient of the National Science Foundation Marine Engineering Scholarship, works in the ODU Dynamic Environment Simulation Lab under Gene Hou, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

But after hours, Stelzer transforms into "Monster Mike," an aspiring grappler in the Southside Pro Wrestling league.

With psychedelic green pants and a Frankenstein-style scar drawn on his face, Stelzer cuts an imposing figure in the ring. He trains and competes in bodybuilding as well as in many different types of martial arts, in addition to his academic studies and professional wrestling school.

"It's tough to manage my time for studies and pursuing so many other hobbies during the week," Stelzer said. "I'm pretty busy, and it's one more thing in my day, but I really like it."

Stelzer has always been interested in math and science. He has self-published books on solving math problems in your head and winning at poker. The interest in wrestling came later. "My dad used to watch wrestling on TV in my youth, but I didn't have much interest in it at that time," Stelzer said.

After serving a three-year engineering contract in Michigan performing research and engineering for a new design of naval vessel, he relocated to Hampton Roads in 2009 to pursue a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. He attended a TNA Wrestling show at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, and was intrigued.

"I like to stay physical and active," Stelzer said. "It was something that looked like a lot of fun."

Last year, he was one of 24 students who enrolled in the Southside School of Professional Wrestling. Recently, he and other SPW wrestlers entertained the crowds at the Hampton Convention Center's first Hampton Roads Tattoo Arts Festival.

Stelzer has done well in wrestling school, receiving the "best gimmick" award for his Frankenstein-inspired wrestling persona. He's made up shirts to go with his costumes, with slogans such as "Assembled from the Best Parts the Graveyard has to Offer."

Once he has completed his doctoral studies at ODU, Stelzer hopes to use his education and experience in an engineering job, researching emerging electronic technologies. But he also wants to continue wrestling on the side.

After he "graduates" from wrestling school, Stelzer will be able to earn some extra cash applying chokeholds and body-slamming fellow grapplers.

His colleagues in the Dynamic Environment Simulation Lab are aware of his hobby, and are interested in the date of the next show.

This article was posted on: March 21, 2011

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