On the brink of superstardom?
Laurel wrestler seeks return to WWE ring
People in Laurel have trouble recognizing Patrick Brink, the short, skinny kid who attended Oaklands Elementary and Eisenhower Middle School in the 1990s.
That's because Brink, now 28, is a 6-foot-6-inch professional wrestler who weighs in at 260 pounds.
Brink recently spent eight months in his dream job working for World Wrestling Entertainment as "Kaleb O'Neal" but was released in March after a series of setbacks, including the deaths of family members and friends.
Brink said the tragedies and obstacles he's faced have motivated him to live to the fullest and to achieve his life-long goal of being a professional wrestler.
"Most people don't even get a first chance with the WWE," Brink said. "I'll work to get [another chance].... I never take no for an answer."
Brink said his interest in wrestling began when he was 3 or 4.
"It appealed to me for the larger-than-life circus that it was," he said. "The first couple of times I went to a live show when I was 10 or 11... I thought, I would love to have 50,000 people cheer for me.'"
After graduating from Atholton High School in 1998, he began training at Bone Breakers Pro Wrestling Training Center in Baltimore.
For the next several years he wrestled locally with Maryland Championship Wrestling and other independent promotional venues, while working odd jobs to support himself.
"I remember being scared," Brink said about his first match in October 2001. "The butterflies and nervousness are there until you walk through the curtain."
No matter how many times he went home with bruises and cuts, he said it was worth the rush of wrestling in front of the crowd.
"Patrick is going to be big-time, he's just got that aura about him," said Laurel resident Tara Lund, one of Brink's best friends since middle school.
In 2007 he put his wrestling career on hold to stay with his mother while his stepfather died of cancer, cancelling plans to go to an out-of-state training camp. In January 2008 he left for Florida, where he was able to try out for the WWE.
But then in April 2008, his 15-year-old sister died tragically after falling and hitting her head.
"I had a tough time with my sister's death," Brink said. "I was like a walking zombie. I worked just enough to get by."
But one rainy day in June as he was driving on Route 32, the WWE called with a contact offer.
Not long after, Brink had another bout with adversity as his grandmother, his best friend and two other friends died within the year.
The WWE fined him for updating some tattoos without permission, and after being late to a March 2009 physical therapy appointment due to road construction, the WWE released him.
Calls to the WWE were not returned by deadline.
Brink says he's learned not to take anything for granted.
"No matter what's going on around you, you have to keep it together, because you don't know what kinds of opportunities [will appear]," he said.
His mother, Mary Valcourt, of Columbia said her goal-oriented son has great potential and is looking forward to seeing him in the ring.
"He's going to get back on track and get back into the WWE, I honestly feel that."