WASILLA — Deonn Richardson, a 2011 graduate of Wasilla High School, is back and town. But it’s not your typical homecoming. And those who remember him as No. 44 for the Wasilla Warriors football may not recognize them.
Richardson has long hair, a chiseled physique and a new persona as Deonn “Iceberg” Rusman, a pro wrestler eager to hit the big stage as part of the “The North Will Remember” event scheduled for Saturday night at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
“I’m a whole different person,” Richardson said earlier this week.
Glenn Nelson, Richardson’s head football coach at Wasilla High, said Richardson was always a gifted athlete. But since he decided to make a life-changing move to Illinois to pursue pro wrestling three years ago, Richardson has hit an entirely different level.
“I wasn’t a healthy kid back then,” Richardson said.
Now, he’s not sure how many of his high school buddies would actually recognize him. But that comes after three years of intense work, and long days in the gym and the ring. Richardson is no stranger to the stage. He said he’s competed in 200, maybe 300 bouts during his first two years on the circuit. But Saturday is a night he has been waiting for.
“This is the biggest match of my life,” Richardson said. “The greatest opportunity of my career.”
Days before the bout, Richardson said it’s a surreal feeling.
“It’s the craziest thing in the world,” Richardson said.
Richardson, 26, will battle former WWE wrestler Chris Masters Saturday. Masters became a popular figure in WWE, facing opponents such as Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Jon Cena. Richardson said he wants to be where Masters was.
Richardson has his sights set on the WWE.
“The ultimate would be a WWE hall of famer,” Richardson said.
Richardson said he’s been a lifelong fan of pro wrestling. He grew up watching the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on television.
“I never grew out of it,” Richardson said.
About three years ago, Richardson decided to take a leap off the turnbuckle and moved to Moline, Illinois, to pursue pro wrestling. Richardson said he saved his money, packed his clothes and left his home state. He Googled the best pro wrestling training programs. He found the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy, which features Seth Rollins, another prominent WWE wrestler.
Richardson has a day job. He works in a gym, which is an ideal fit, he said. He hits the ring about three weekends per month, and can have as many as three matches a weekend.
“It’s the greatest thing in the world,” Richardson said of life as a pro wrestler. “I’m just a kid out there chasing a dream.”
The event Saturday night at the Sullivan has been organized by WrestlePro, an east coast independent wrestling company. Richardson said as soon as he saw that a pro wrestling event in Anchorage was promoted, he wanted to be a part of it.
“I thought I needed to do everything possible so I can get in it,” Richardson said.
Richardson said he got in contact with the promoters and made an appearance in Alaska in December of 2018.
“Luckily they liked me, and thankfully they gave me a match,” Richardson said.
After coaching Richardson in football at Wasilla High, Nelson said he’s not surprised to see Richardson have success.
“He’s always been a competitor,” Nelson said. “He was big, strong and fast.”
The event Saturday is slated to start at 5 p.m. with a meet-and-greet. Wrestling begins at 7 p.m. For more information, see wrestlepro.com
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.