Merokean Jaden Foster — better known by his ring name, Jaden Valo — is working toward a career on the professional wrestling circuit.
Foster, 20, is a Calhoun High School alum and a recent graduate of Nassau Community College. An Eagle Scout and a lifeguard at the Freeport Recreation Center, he has been a fan of professional wrestling since he was 8 or 9.
“When he was 13, he was already hosting his own wrestling shows in his backyard,” his father, Jerry Foster, recounted.
“I wanted to move on to the next step,” Foster said. “At 15, I signed up for a [wrestling] school in Deer Park, and started going three days a week.” The school, New York Wrestling Connection, is “probably the most reputable school in the area,” Foster said.
“The school has had a bunch of people sign up to some of the bigger companies,” he added. “We put on shows once or twice a month — it brings in exposure.”
Through the years, NYWC has helped numerous wrestlers — including Curt Hawkins, Zach Ryder, Mike Mondo and Mikey Whipwreck — earn high-level contracts with professional wrestling organizations such as World Wrestling Entertainment, All Elite Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling. More recently, it sent Tony Nese to the WWE, and Alex Coughlin to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Foster said he’s been training for about five years, and that he took a break during the coronavirus quarantine because he wanted to keep his family safe. He recently started training in Queens once a week with the Spanish Announce Team.
“Prior to Covid, he was traveling out to Deer Park at least twice a week,” his father said. “His mom and I would be taking him there, alternating, dropping him off at 5:30 p.m. and not picking him up until 10 p.m.” Jaden explained that his training sessions can last anywhere from four to six hours. Additionally, he said, he works out in a gym three to five times a week.
“It’s unreal,” Jerry said of his son. “He’s lifeguarding full-time, training during the week — it’s just incredible. I’m so proud of this kid.”
Asked what it takes to become a successful professional wrestler, Jaden said that there’s a lot to it. “It’s the way you hold yourself,” he said. “When you know what you want to get out of wrestling, and you’re doing almost, if not everything, in your power to achieve that — those are the people you would hold in the regard of being a professional.”
While having a contract or working with a big company is the goal for many, making connections and learning the ins and outs of the business is equally important, according to Foster. “There are people who get a WWE tryout,” he said. “If you can go in and take feedback, succeed and learn from the experience, you can take that and put it into wrestling.”
“A lot goes into the shows,” he added. “We set it all up. To have someone” — a wrestler from a different company or gym — “come in and help out, that’s a true professional.”
“[Wrestling] creates this sense of brotherhood and family,” he said. “We’re in this together.”
He works for a few different companies, and takes part in shows regularly, usually one or two every weekend. They take place at NYWC or at other gyms in the area or in nearby states. “We usually do shows out of our building in Deer Park,” he said.
His father described the shows as “quite remarkable,” and the typical crowds as “quite colorful.”
“He has no hesitation to climb up the ropes to do a front flip or back flip,” Jerry said of his son’s wrestling skills. “As long as he doesn’t get hurt — which he usually doesn’t — I’m all for it.”
Jaden says he believes that starting to train when he was young has helped him. “Having the experience under my belt definitely helped,” he said, “[and] as long as I can take care of my body long enough, it won’t affect me at all.
His mother, Beth Foster, said that her son is well rounded, and has lots of interests aside from wrestling. “He’s teaching himself all these different things,” she said. “He taught himself how to play the guitar, he loves to cook — he’s very respectful, just a really good kid.
“He’s definitely serious about it,” she added of wrestling. “I’d say he’s dedicated, for sure. Since they reopened his gym, he goes every chance he can get. We totally support him, because this is what he wants to do.”
Foster has an upcoming show on Sept. 19 in Deer Park, and another one on Oct. 2. He’s on Instagram, at @jaden.valo, and on Twitter, @jadenvalo.