In some ways, Charlie Hilder is like most wrestling fans and aspiring professionals. He started watching it on TV and he dreams of one day competing in the World Wrestling Entertainment league, where idols like John Cena, Steve Austin and “Triple H” were stars on his screen. But unlike most aspiring wrestlers, “Starboy Charlie” might actually have a shot at it.
Since the age of 12, the Terra Nova High School senior has competed in professional wrestling matches. First, he competed in the Bay Area, but in the last year, Hilder has traveled far beyond the Coastside in pursuit of his passion. He has wrestled at events in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Hilder was so into wrestling as a child that he began training in a gym at age 11. His mother, Blanca Gutierrez, who runs Babyface Boxing, paired him with Sparky Ballard, a local promoter and referee who runs Gold Rush Wrestling school in Pacifica.
By 13, he was looking for a new ring name outside of the cowboy persona he’d been given. He struck up a conversation with the promoter at a flea market in Oakland, and the stars on his clothes prompted the change, and “Starboy Charlie” was born.
In professional wrestling, commitment to the role is key, Hilder said.
“You want to portray a character, whether it’s a wild character who’s a monster, or an underdog that everyone is cheering for to get the win,” Hilder said.
Standing 5-foot-6 and 143 pounds, Hilder often faces men much taller and heavier in the ring. With no weight classes, he counters strength with speed and agility.
Many of his moves involve a high degree of difficulty and skilled body control as he flies through the air, jumps from the top rope and moves around his opponent. This “high-flying, fast-paced wrestling,” although exaggerated at times for dramatic effect, takes a toll on the body. Hilder is no stranger to injuring his back and knees. He works out religiously to stay in shape.
“It’s not just walking into the ring and putting on a show,” Hilder said. “You’re really putting your body at risk with all these matches.”
Hilder’s aspirations were put on hold when the pandemic shuttered events last year. He spent the time off in the gym, gaining over 20 pounds between March and the end of December. The lack of matches weighed on Hilder, who craves the ring and all it entails.
“It’s been more of a struggle mentally,” he said. “Not being able to wrestle is pretty depressing at times. Because wrestling is my favorite thing in the world to do.”
In October, he finally returned to the ring after getting booked through Game Changer Wrestling for a match in Indiana. During his spring break, in early April, Hilder took a break from online classes and won two matchups at a multi-company promotional event in Tampa, Fla. His age gets him noticed, but not always for the best reasons. Just weeks before he turned 18, he flew to Philadelphia for two matches only to be turned away at the door because he was a minor.
Now, at 18, he’s all in. He just performed in two matches in Minnesota last week, and has a showcase in Las Vegas on May 15. But to meet his own high standard, Hilder said he needs to keep training, gain more muscle and develop his character’s persona.
For Hilder, professional wrestling provides an intersection between athletics and theater, where characters clash and storylines are made.
“It gets a crowd involved, it gets people excited,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always loved.”