Mat massage makes pain tap out

MIKE MOONEYHAM/STAFF Jarrod Fritz applies a simple hip and leg stretch to Kevin Phoenix during an Old School Championship Wrestling show.

It's hardly a secret that professional wrestlers take a pounding.

So how do they get relief from the constant wear and tear on their bodies?

Many practitioners of the grappling game receive regular treatments from sports massage therapists like Jarrod Fritz of Charleston.

Fritz, who has been in the business for 10 years, administers his magic to a number of athletes, including professional wrestlers, on a weekly basis.

"The first thing I do is take a look at the postural setup of any athlete, whether it be a professional wrestler or a regular runner, and find out where the imbalances are. Then I treat the muscles accordingly so they can perform better and recover faster."

Fritz, 32, points out that there's a difference between an ordinary massage and a sports massage.

"Ordinary massage really focuses more on the relaxation and de-stressing aspect, whereas sports massage looks at the actual movements and impacts that the body goes through and treats them accordingly to make those movements easier and for the athlete to recover faster."

A sports massage is ideal to treat injuries, and can be a preventative treatment dealing with the health of muscle and connective tissue, range of movement, tone, symmetry and quality of posture.

A sports massage is meant to be deeper than an ordinary body massage.

Massage therapy, says Fritz, is geared toward athletes of every kind, from world-class professionals to weekend joggers, and has become an increasingly important part of pro sports.

One of the most important things professional athletes can do for themselves is to receive regular therapeutic massage, he says.

Pro wrestlers, in particular, require special attention due to the bruising bumps and grueling travel schedule.

"Some of these guys are on the road four days in a row," says Fritz, who notes that pro wrestlers absorb more punishment to the body than the average athlete. "I can speak from personal experience that there's so much more impact on the body in general."

Pro wrestlers, like other elite athletes, are high-performance machines, says Fritz.

"And any high-performance machine has to go through a rigorous amount of maintenance. And that's what massage therapy is. I tell people all the time that it's like an oil change for the body. The more that you do, the more often you have to take care of your body. You want to optimize your performance. You want to recover quicker. You want to feel and look better. That's what massage therapy does."

Fritz explains the process.

"Anytime the body feels pain or discomfort, it wants to recoil up against it. And with most sports, you can weather yourself to do the same motions over and over again, and the body gets used to it. With wrestling, you can take the same bump 15 different ways and your body is going to react by recoiling up. They (wrestlers) definitely top the list with wear and tear."

The biggest complaint from wrestlers, he says, concerns back issues.

"The mid-back is usually the worst because of them constantly hitting the ropes and taking bumps. That's just the essential location where they're getting hit the most."

The first WWE performer Fritz ever treated was perhaps the most intimidating. The therapist was called in to perform a sports massage on former WWE champ and current company executive Paul "Triple H" Levesque.

"It was interesting because it was actually the first massage I had ever done when getting called up to work with WWE," says Fritz. "Overall it was nerve-racking to start with Triple H because it was my first and because he is the son-in-law of the WWE CEO (Vince McMahon)."

The session, says Fritz, went surprisingly smooth.

"He was an extremely nice guy and very well-educated, so he understood the work that I was doing and how it was affecting him, and that made it even more enjoyable for me," says Fritz.

Two particular WWE clients, though, posed a bigger challenge - 6-4, 450-pound former gold medal weightlifter Mark Henry and the 7-1, 350-pound Great Khali from India.

"Unfortunately his English was just so-so," Fritz says of Khali. "But afterwards he said he felt really, really good."

"Mark Henry was so large because of his Olympic lifting that he actually had to lay one leg and one arm off the side of the table as I worked on one side, and then shift to the other side. He's a huge guy."

Fritz, who works locally with the independent Old School Championship Wrestling promotion, says nearly half of his clientele is made up of athletes.

"And not necessarily at the elite level, but a lot of people that are in the gym, such as CrossFitters and triathletes."

Fritz also has worked with a number of organizations and teams such as the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Charleston RiverDogs and the College of Charleston athletic department.

"I got the opportunity to go to the 2008 Olympics with the U.S. women's soccer team when the won a gold medal. That was really special."

The particulars of the sports massage technique are specific to the athlete's sport of choice.

The application of sports massage, says Fritz, varies.

"There's many different techniques or modalities that can be used specifically for pre- or post-event. The work that I do is more integrative. I kind of figure out what's going on. Before the event I might do something that's a little more exciting to the body and can get the muscles stimulated so that they can function better, whereas at the end I might be treating a trigger point or a stiff muscle that doesn't need any of that exciting work, but that needs to calm down. It's an application of the same technique."

Fritz started out his college career in pre-med and wanted to be a pediatrician.

"I always knew that I wanted to work with my hands. But I eventually decided that I really didn't like the medicine aspect of it. I wanted to be more hands-on. An opportunity (in message therapy) presented itself, so I gave it a shot. And I just fell in love with it from day one."

Fritz says the occasional opportunity to work with wrestlers makes his job that much more enjoyable.

"I've been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. I really love it."

Fritz's office is located on Savannah Highway across from Krispy Kreme.

Brock Lesnar proved again why he may just might be the most intimidating world champion in WWE history.

His domination of former champ John Cena at last weekend's Summer Slam pay-per-view put an exclamation point on his claim of being the most invincible force in the game today.

The problem now for WWE is presenting a legitimate contender that fans actually believe could pose a credible challenge to Lesnar.

The list is very short. Cena, who has been the company's top star over most of the past decade, is getting a rematch at the next pay-per-view. But those who witnessed the lopsided Summer Slam shellacking would be hard-pressed to believe Cena can somehow take the measure of Lesnar.

Daniel Bryan, whose world title win at this year's Wrestlemania capped a tremendous feel-good campaign, recently said that he'd like a match with Lesnar when he recovers from neck surgery that has sidelined him for the past few months. Despite his tremendous fan following, a match with Lesnar presents a major physical mismatch on paper.

Antonio Cesaro could have presented an interesting challenge to Lesnar. Regarded as pound-for-pound the strongest man in the company, Cesaro would have been a fresh contender as well as a former "Paul Heyman Guy," adding another layer of intrigue to the match. But Cesaro has been the victim of poor booking in recent months and would be unlikely to draw with Lesnar.

WWE's long-term plan remains for Lesnar to carry the title into next year's Wrestlemania, with superstar-in-the-making Roman Reigns as his opponent.

As popular as Reigns has become, at this point he's nowhere ready for Lesnar. WWE will have to be very careful in how they book Reigns over the next seven months, especially if the plan is for Lesnar to pass the torch to him.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at