“The Patriot” Del Wilkes passes away
Former pro wrestling star and University of South Carolina football All-American Del Wilkes passed away early July 1 at the age of 59 of a massive heart attack.
Wilkes broke into the wrestling business in 1988 following a failed attempt in the NFL. The Columbia native found a wrestling school not far from his home.
The facility was run by legendary women’s wrestling star The Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison), who had been responsible for training the majority of women wrestlers during the ’60s and ’70s.
“It was geared more toward women than it was guys,” said Wilkes. “But we paid our money and went through the school and basically started out at the very bottom level of pro wrestling.”
As The Patriot, he became a top international star, especially in Japan, where fans marked out for his sculpted physique and colorful mask.
Wilkes retired from the wrestling business in the late 1990s due to a triceps injury.