By DAN McCOOL – [email protected]
Randy Lewis, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, believes he has one more freestyle wrestling tournament in him.
That tournament is today’s Northern Plains Regional at Young Arena in Waterloo. Lewis, who is 22 days shy of his 50th birthday, will compete at 163 pounds.
“I just want to find out. This is more about my own personal knowledge,” said Lewis, who lives in Iowa City. “I’ve always felt like I have one tournament in me, and I want to wrestle it.
“I’m not doing this to qualify for Council Bluffs, I’m already qualified for Council Bluffs if I wanted to. If I were to win (Northern Plains) and feel good, I’d have to think about it.”
The champions in freestyle today qualify for the World Team trials May 30-31 in Council Bluffs.
Because of his gold medal, Lewis could compete in the world trials without having to qualify through a regional tournament.
Lewis is not the oldest wrestler to compete in a regional or national tournament according to Craig Sesker, communications manager for USA Wrestling. Shaun Scott of Millersville, Pa., was 61 when he competed in Greco-Roman at the National Open last month in Las Vegas.
Sesker said Lewis is the oldest world or Olympic team member to compete in an event, however, beating Greg Gibson by two years.
“I’ve been thinking about it for 17 years. It was a one-day decision ” I wasn’t training for it,” Lewis said. “I decided this spur-of-the-moment three weeks ago … I weighed 183 before practice, worked out a little bit and a sauna afterwards and got down to 177 and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to do it.’ “
As Lewis closes in on a landmark birthday, he’s 261/2 pounds over the 136.5 pounds he weighed while winning gold in Los Angeles in 1984. Lewis was at 149.5 pounds when he last competed, in the 1992 Olympic Trials.
A groin injury halted Lewis’s bid to make the 1996 Olympic team. The two-time NCAA champion at Iowa also considered wrestling in the Midlands Open last year.
Lewis has wrestled 27 world or Olympic medalists. He’s not sure what to expect today.
“I might get hurt the first match, I might get real tired,” Lewis said. “I probably will get real tired, but you know what? I’ve watched some of the guys wrestle and some of these guys stand out there and do nothing. I can stand there and do nothing for 2 minutes, too. If they come after me, I might get real tired, but I might score 6 points pretty quick.”
A 6-point differential or scoring two 3-point moves automatically wins a 2-minute period in the best-of-three format.
Former Iowa coach Dan Gable, who coached Lewis in college and during the 1984 Olympics, said there could be a specific purpose for his return.
“It’s kind of like he’s telling us that we’ve made it easy enough that 50-year-olds can wrestle in it,” Gable said, “or he’s telling us we need a little excitement in it, maybe he can spice it up a little bit.”
Lewis said he’s had plenty of folks tell him he’s goofy for returning to the mat.
“I’m too old to train, my body gets beat up training,” Lewis said, “but I’m so confident in myself that I don’t really think I need to train for one tournament.”
More of the old guard could succeed on the mat, Lewis said.
“I’m not the only one that I think could win a tournament like this who is in their 40s,” Lewis said. “I think there are several other people that could, but they wouldn’t do it unless they trained really, really hard. If they trained really, really hard, they’d get too beat up to wrestle, so it’s a Catch-22 there. I think I’m the only one goofy enough to go out and try it.”
Gable said it might be something else.
“I don’t think he’s crazy, I just think he’s missing something and he needs a little action, a little excitement in his life right now,” Gable said. “I don’t think he’s looking to become a world champion this year right now, I think he’s just looking to have some fun.”