TERRE HAUTE —
Whenever Greg Archer works out in the Terre Haute Family Y weightroom, he sticks out.
But not in a bad way, not like a sore thumb. He simply trains harder than almost everyone else and it shows with each drop of sweat that falls from his face.
He’s also 59 freakin’ years old. I thought I worked out hard for being in my low 50s, but Archer puts me to shame.
An Indiana State University wrestler back in the early 1970s, Archer still hasn’t given up on the sport he loves, despite numerous obstacles that he’s overcome along the way.
After taking a seven-year break from competition, Archer will represent the United States in the 76-kilogram weight class (roughly 167.5 pounds) of the 55-and-older age group in the 2010 Veterans Freestyle Wrestling World Championships in Switzerland. The tournament will run next Friday through next Sunday inside the Halles Des Sports — a building with no street address, Archer says — in the village of Domdidier, which is about an hour drive from Geneva.
This will be Archer’s first trip to Switzerland. Although he and his wife Katy plan to do some sightseeing before and after the tournament, he isn’t considering this a vacation.
“It’s business,” insisted Archer, who will wrestle his matches next Friday.
Archer isn’t sure how many wrestlers will be in his weight class/age group — “You never know ’til you get there,” he noted — but he stressed that he’ll be ready for anything.
Past circumstances, some not so fun, have taught him to be ready for anything bad.
Archer’s last tournament, for example, took place in 2003 in Budapest, Hungary. Three days before the competition, he tore a medial collateral ligament during a training session. Several of his teammates heard about the injury and prayed for his speedy recovery, but there was no guarantee that he could compete as scheduled.
“For 2 1/2 days, I used ice, did therapeutic exercises and rode the exercise bike,” recalled Archer, who didn’t want to return home without wrestling at least one match.
Fortunately, he ended up being able to compete after all, placing fifth in his weight class/age group. To this day, Archer remains convinced that the prayers helped him more than anything else in beating this stressful situation.
Oh, but that’s not the only adversity he has faced.
Two serious traffic accidents in 2004 — one just outside the Hanover College campus and the other in Terre Haute — delayed Archer’s return to the wrestling mat as well as totaled each car.
“But I emerged alive and I’m grateful for that,” he quickly added.
After enduring new recovery processes, Archer resumed general fitness training, until late this spring when he geared his workouts toward wrestling again.
Archer has decades of experience to draw from, having placed third in the 68-kg weight class (roughly 149.5 pounds) in the World Cup for sombo wrestling in Madrid, Spain, way back in 1980. He’s also pretty smart, having earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s in physical education-exercise science from ISU.
But can Archer come back successfully after taking so many years off from competition?
“My physical conditioning is going to be good,” he predicted. “It’s hard for me to make a judgment on how technically sound I’ll be until I get there. I expect to do my best and hopefully that will still be good.”
A real-estate appraiser in the non-athletic part of his life, Archer also likes to help others stay fit. He’s even worked with multi-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Jack McVicker, another subject of “Hughes, News & Views” columns over the years, on his wrestling techniques.
But there comes a time when a person must focus on himself to achieve a worthwhile goal and, for Archer, that time will be next weekend.
“If all your readers pray for me,” he suggested, “I’ll do well.”
Sounds fair to me.
David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.