published Thursday, September 19th, 2013

McMinnville teacher, retired wrestler, indicted

At Centertown Elementary School in McMinnville, Tenn., Michael David Droese was a hulking figure, someone to look up to. The special education teacher holds the frame -- 6 feet, 6 inches and 340 pounds -- of a man with a famous past.

Indeed, a Google search for Droese will expose you to a life two decades ago spent in the wrestling ring, under the lights and in front of thousands -- a life that seemed impressive to students and teachers both, Warren County Sheriff Jackie Matheny said.

But, at least for now, Droese is missing from the halls of Centertown. Matheny says Droese illegally sold pain medication to a police informant, and on Friday a grand jury indicted him on three counts of delivery of a controlled substance.

On July 1, according to the indictment, Droese sold oxycodone and buprenorphine. The next day, he again sold oxycodone. Droese was arrested Friday, Matheny said, but he left jail about two hours later after paying a $10,000 bond.

Until Droese's case plays out, he will be suspended from his job at Centertown without pay, Director of Warren County Schools Bobby Cox said. Droese, 45, did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday.

His mugshot shows a middle-aged man with an evaporating hairline. But 20 years ago, back in the '90s, Droese wore his brown hair down to his shoulders. He was known as Duke "The Dumpster" Droese back then, a rough-around-the-edge trashman who hailed from "the garbage heaps of Mt. Trashmore, Fla."

Droese spent much of his career wrestling in lesser-known, independent organizations, but from 1994-96 he was a member of the World Wrestling Federation. The Dumpster fought some of the greats: Bam Bam Bigelow, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry "The King" Lawler.

His time with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world was brief. According to the company, Droese and President Vince McMahon agreed to part ways because life on the road wore The Dumpster down too much.

But many of his matches still are available online. Matheny, who teaches the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program at Centertown, said everyone knew about Droese's past life, and everyone was impressed.

"He used to be a wrestler, a very good wrestler," the sheriff said. "He was in the WWE, and you can look him up on the Internet and watch all his matches. He wrestled with the best."

When he learned a couple of months ago that Droese was suspected of selling pain pills, Matheny said he was surprised. He said Droese carried a good reputation: "Everybody has a lot of good things to say about him."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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