Local PE coach once made a living with flying dropkicks

SEFFNER — It's a partly sunny Wednesday morning at Colson Elementary School and the man in the floppy sun hat barks out commands during an intense game of Newcomb ball. ¶ "Let's go, let's go let's go!" ¶ Coach G., as the fourth-graders in his physical education class call him, is in control as his team takes a 4-2 lead against the team led by fellow PE coach Allison Jones. ¶ "Play your positions," he continues as his team rattles off 9 unanswered points in a game similar to volleyball where players are allowed to catch the ball. ¶ Only a few of his students know their teacher possesses a past that had him performing in sold-out arenas or a present that places him before cameras on national television.

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It's a Thursday night and more than 5,000 people have packed the University of South Florida's Sun Dome for a tour stop from TNA Impact wrestling. Tampa native Hulk Hogan and daughter Brooke play key roles in the storyline for a performance broadcast on Spike TV and on Tr3s, Viacom's bilingual music and entertainment channel.

Coach G. sits ringside, sporting a suit and tie and wearing headphones and a microphone instead of a floppy hat.

"Órale mi raza," he says, shouting out to Latino listeners tuning in on Tr3s. It means "what's up my people?" And for Coach G., it means his evening job as color commentator en Español, alongside play by play announcer Willie Urbina, has begun.

In the opening match, Coach G.'s nephew, Chavo Guerrero Jr., earns a disqualification victory and retains his TNA World Tag Team Championship belt with partner Hernandez, as they foil the villainous actions of Doc and Knux from the Aces & Eights camp.

It's a far cry from the Colson playground, but not so far removed from the days when Coach G. delivered flying dropkicks and avoided opponents leaping from the top rope.

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Coach G. is better known as Hector Guerrero, a 58-year-old second generation professional wrestler, son of the late legendary wrestler Gory Guerrero and brother of 23-time champion Eddie.

When he's not coaching PE in Hillsborough County, he is living the life of backbreakers and double underhook suplexes — his signature finishing move during a wrestling career that began in June 1973 in Juarez, Mexico.

While many children grew up with swing sets and sandboxes in their back yards, Guerrero played in a wrestling ring behind his house. His father Salvador, who died in 1990, "was a legend in Mexico," earning the nickname Gory for his bloody in-ring battles.

Guerrero quickly made a name for himself as well, first as a wrestler in Mexico in the 1970s and even as a stunt double in the 1978 classic movie The Bad News Bears Go to Japan while wrestling in Asia. As an eager youth, he even crossed the Mexican border to teach girls how to wrestle when he was still an amateur wrestler at Burges High School in El Paso, Texas.

He did everything from constructing wrestling rings, to handling promotions and selling tickets. As a performer, he has fond memories of winning numerous titles, including the AWA world tag team title with his brother, Mando, his "mentor" — the NWA U.S. tag team title with brother Chavo Sr., and the NWA world junior heavyweight title.

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But some of his fondest memories came from traveling on the road with Andre the Giant in 1979.

"Nobody would take him around," Guerrero said about the famous 7-foot-4, 500-pound wrestler. "He owned a Ford Thunderbird, but it was too small. I told the promoter that I would take care of Andre and drive him around in my Lincoln Continental."

Whereas Andre was the biggest wrestler on the circuit, Guerrero may have been the skinniest prior to reaching his maximum 215-pound heavyweight frame. Guerrero recalls the generosity Andre showed him, especially on a 210-mile commute in Oregon between Portland and Pendleton.

Andre brought two cases of beer along to enjoy while riding shotgun. He drank all 48 cans in about four hours but not before the police stopped Guerrero for speeding on the highway.

As the policeman finished writing the ticket, Andre got out of the passenger side, walked around the car, took the ticket from the startled officer and put it in his pocket.

He told Hector, "It's okay, boss. The chief of police in Portland is a friend of mine."

By the early '80s, Guerrero's acrobatic flying techniques thrilled fans in the Florida Championship Wrestling circuit. He joined the days' most popular wrestlers in competitions at the old Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa and competed with Rick Rude, Harley Race and Ric Flair at the Sun Dome for the syndicated original Battle of the Belts in 1985.

It was also then when he met his wife, Penny, a Bradenton native, but the pair drifted apart when Guerrero left Florida to wrestle for Mid-South Wrestling on Valentine's Day. The duo reconnected, on Valentine's Day 2001, and were married five months later.

"She has been my true love after a long search," Guerrero said.

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Guerrero also is passionate about teaching children. He earned a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology, the scientific study of human movement, from the University of Texas El Paso with a minor in education. He has been teaching for 15 years, the last 13 in Hillsborough County after starting in Alabama.

This year, Guerrero worked at Colson on Mondays and Wednesdays and split the rest of his time between Lopez Elementary and the Lopez Exceptional Student Center, working with children who have learning disabilities. Guerrero characterized his work with special needs children as one of the most endearing moments of his career.

Some of his education peers also have taken a liking to Guerrero. Jones, a 29-year old who is in her first year teaching PE after three years in the classroom at Colson, said she leans on Guerrero for assistance from time to time.

"He's awesome," Jones said. "He's been a great help when I ask him for advice."

Colson principal Karen Lynch said when Guerrero first came to Colson, she was unaware of his professional wrestling credentials.

"I did not know, it's never come up," Lynch said. "He is doing a fine job. The kids seem to have adjusted."

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Guerrero said he purposely separates his ring work, where he translates into Spanish all the jaw-jabbing barbs the wrestlers throw at each other, from his day job as Coach G. He believes it could be construed as an advantage, or disadvantage in the school system so he throws a mask over it, like the times he wrestled under the name Lazer Tron.

Still, when prompted he can masterfully tell stories about both his careers. Sometimes he opines about the county's teacher evaluation process. Sometimes he reveals the secrets behind the Gobbledy Gooker character he portrayed during the WWF's 1990 Survivor Series. Sometimes he simply speaks of how he uses his Spanish to assist children whose second language is English.

And sometimes he speaks of his Christian faith and how it helps him persevere.

Ask him his life story and Coach G. breaks it down into elementary terms:

"I grew up with a famous father and it all fell into place," he said.

Eric Vician can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Local PE coach once made a living with flying dropkicks 06/06/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 6, 2013 1:05pm]

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