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Orem gets tough with wrestlers

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OREM — City officials have told the owner of a pro wrestling school that a "Tough Guys" competition planned for Friday night would violate city zoning ordinances.

Orem apparently has started down the road that led Provo to a legal battle with a downtown dance club that planned to stage boxing matches two weeks ago. In both cases, city zoning officials determined that attracting a large paying crowd to watch fights was a sporting assembly not permitted in the respective zones where Gator's Pro Wrestling School in Orem and Club Omni in Provo are located.

Opponents say Provo and Orem are just shutting down harmless entertainment they find distasteful.

Steve Gatorwolf, a former pro wrestler who runs Gator's Pro Wrestling School, said he already staged a couple of wrestling events at his location. Gatorwolf rents part of a building from American Championship Martial Arts, 1655 S. State.

Signs posted at Gator's Pro Wrestling School advertise Friday night's "Tough Guys" event as a chance for one of 16 competitors to win $500 by outdueling other competitors. Those in the ring are allowed to box, wrestle and use martial-arts techniques.

"We don't think it's a permitted use in the zone where he's at," said Stanford Sainsbury, Orem's development services director. "It's one thing to teach a class of pro wrestling. But a sports assembly is a violation of that zone."

Gatorwolf said Thursday that city officials early in the day told him the event could happen Friday night as long as all those fighting were students in his school. Gatorwolf had planned to put his ring in the parking lot and have spectators watch from there. But officials told him he would have to move it inside, he said.

But later Thursday, Orem police stopped by again to say the "Tough Guys" would violate city ordinances. Police had been asked by Sainsbury to pass that message along.

If it hadn't been for that, police likely wouldn't have stopped the fights, said Lt. Doug Edwards. Police were aware of the earlier wrestling exhibitions, and the events came off OK.

Violating the city's zoning ordinance would constitute a class C misdemeanor. Officials Friday morning were debating whether they would shut down the fights or let them happen but issue citations later. The matches were slated to begin at 8 p.m.

E-MAIL: carter@desnews.com