ONE-ON-ONE | Pete Lucic Professional wrestler has an arresting personality
Q. What made you decide to become a professional wrestler?
A. I have always loved professional wrestling. When I was growing up, most of my friends were huge baseball or football fans, but not me; I loved wrestling. I wrestled in high school, too. Wrestling was always in the back of my mind, and then in 1987 I was laid off from the sheriff's department, so I decided to try it.
Q. What did you have to do to become a professional wrestler?
A. At that time, you had to send a video and a picture to the professional wrestling federation. So I did that, and they told me that I looked OK but that I didn't have any experience. So I asked, 'How do you get experience?' and they told me to go to a professional wrestling school.
Q. So did you go?
A. I sure did. I went to Dominic Denucci's School of Professional Wrestling in Pittsburgh. At that time, the cost was $2,200 for the eight-month course.
Q. What do you learn?
A. Oh, they teach you just about everything you need to know. They teach you the moves and how to fall so that you don't get injured.
Q. When did you have your first match?
A. Well, I was still in school when I had my first match. It was three months and one day after I started school. I didn't win that one, but I've won several since then. When I was the bad guy, I rarely won, but as a good guy, I won a lot.
Q. Can you explain about the good guy and bad guy? Is that something decided upon before each match?
A. That's secret wrestling information.
Q. OK, then. Can you say how you got the name Preston Steele?
A. Sure, that's not a secret. My dad was a steel worker, so that is why I took the last name of Steele. Then I couldn't think of a first name, and I was driving down the road and was behind a Preston Trucking vehicle, and I liked that name -- Preston. So it stuck.
Q. Do you earn much money as a professional wrestler?
A. Right now things have slowed down, but there was a time when I was earning more as a wrestler than I was on the sheriff's department.
Q. What do you enjoy about wrestling?
A. The No. 1 thing is the fans. The kids. They just love to watch, and I love getting to meet them. Also you get to travel. I have gone to Australia, Italy, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, England and every state. I really enjoy meeting the different people. It's been a wonderful experience.
Q. Are there a lot of professional wrestling fans in Japan?
A. There sure are. It's a different style in Japan. They are very hard-core fans. They like to see the blood and guts. And in Japan and in Puerto Rico, the people from the states are considered the bad guy as soon as you set foot in the ring. It's hard to win over fans. Australia, however, they love the Americans.
Q. How long do you think you'll keep up the wrestling?
A. Oh I don't know. I've had a lot of injuries. I was hoping to make it to 60 or 70 years old, but things are starting to get me now. I broke my ankle in 1998. So it depends on how long I hold up.
Q. Have people you arrested ever recognized you as Preston Steele?
A. Yes, lots of times, and I think it has worked to my advantage because they'll look at me and ask if I am the wrestler. It defuses situations.
Q. What do you do on the sheriff's department?
A. I am the midnight turn commander for the road patrol, and I am also a member of the SWAT team and dive team. I really enjoy my job. I love working for the people in the community and working with some of the most professional and qualified people.
Q. What do you do in your spare time?
A. I coach Little League baseball and football. I love working with children. I had a very rough childhood, and I like being a positive force in their lives.
Q. You said you had a rough childhood, why?
A. My father died when I was 9. He was hit at a railroad crossing. My mom was at work, and I remember finding out by hearing it on the radio. It was horrible. My mother died of a heart attack when I was 14, so then I had to live with an older sister and her husband. Her husband was very abusive toward me, and it was literally four years of hell.
Q. How did you get through those tough times?
A. I had a lot of good friends and wonderful teachers and coaches that helped me pull through. I really don't know what I would have done had they not been there. They took time to talk to me, and reflecting back, I owe them a lot. I don't think I would have been able to get through and succeed had I not had their love and support.
Q. Does the tragedy that you had growing up make you very protective with your children?
A. It sure does. In fact, we joke because my father died on his 58th birthday, and his father died on his 58th birthday. So I say that on my 58th birthday I am going to stay in the house and I want a paramedic right next to me.
The interview was conducted by Peggy Sinkovich, Vindicator Trumbull County staff.