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A man amongst boys

February 26, 2005|BY ANDREW MASON

Dave Wadsworth is a kid at heart.

It's to his heart the 51-year-old points when explaining the vast success he's had in his wrestling career, which still is going strong after 35 years.

"It's not how big you are, not how strong you are, not how fast you are. It all comes from right here," said Wadsworth, of Martinsburg, W.Va. "I've won many, many matches, not because I was a better wrestler, but because I wanted it more."

Wadsworth - a husband, father of three and business owner - wants it badly. He trains 3 1/2 hours a day, seven days a week. Wrestling is a sport that requires superior conditioning - and then some for Wadsworth, whose competition usually is younger than half his age.

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Wadsworth typically competes in "open" tournaments for wrestlers 18 and older. His season runs from March through November.

He capped his 2004 season on Nov. 27 by winning the 210-pound weight class at the 19th annual Dundalk Hawks Open in Baltimore. The other competitors in his bracket were all college wrestlers.

When Wadsworth competes against wrestlers closer to his own age, he's in a class by himself.

Last April, he was the champion at 214 pounds at the U.S. Veterans Folkstyle National Championships in Iowa, competing against wrestlers ages 46 to 54. In 2003, he captured his first national title, winning the 46-54 age group at 214 at the U.S. Grand National Freestyle Championships in Virginia. In that same tournament, he placed second in the 30-45 age division.

"In 35 years of wrestling, probably 75 or 80 tournaments, I've only not finished in the top three four times," Wadsworth said. "Actually, last year was one of my best years. I only lost two matches."

Hitting the prep mats

During the high school wrestling season, which is his off-season, Wadsworth spends at least three evenings per week practicing with area prep teams, such as Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Musselman and North Hagerstown.

While Wadsworth gets in a workout, the teams get some pointers.

"He mostly comes in and just rolls with the kids, but he's a nice resource we can turn to," North coach Greg Slick said.

Slick said some of his athletes, at first, aren't quite sure what to expect from the veteran wrestler, who probably is older than most of their fathers.

"It's always kind of funny, because Dave will come into the room and new guys are like, 'What's this guy going to do?'" Slick said. "Then he gets in the circle and they can't do anything with him.

"At first it's real frustrating for them, but I stand back and let it go for a little while. Then I say, 'Mr. Wadsworth is a two-time national champion in his age group and is really good, and if you score points on him you have to feel like you're doing something real good.'"

Those points are hard to come by.

North senior Andrew Brigham, who recently won the 275-pound weight class at the Washington County tournament, said Wadsworth is better than any competition he faces in high school.

"He definitely gives everyone a workout. He knows what he's doing," Brigham said. "I just try to work as hard as I can and try to challenge him. That's what he wants us to do. That's why he likes coming here."

"It's just a pleasure being around these kids," Wadsworth said. "I spent my 50th birthday last year with these guys (at North) and I couldn't have been happier. ... Against most high school kids it's for them, and it just keeps me tuned."

Getting started

Wadsworth's wrestling career began when he joined the team at Bowie (Md.) High School as a sophomore in 1969. He went on to wrestle collegiately for Salisbury (Md.) State and twice placed seventh at the NCAA Division II national championships in 1975 and 1976.

"In high school I only ever lost one dual-meet match, and in college I only ever lost one dual-meet match," Wadsworth said. "So when I went to nationals in 1975, I was a little disappointed. But in 1976 I was sure I was going to be national champion, and I got beat in the first round by the eventual national champion. I got a real bad draw that year."

Chances are he wouldn't place seventh against those same guys these days.

"Not too many of my buddies are out there anymore," Wadsworth said. "One of the kicks I get out of this is a lot of times I go and wrestle in the same tournaments with my buddies' sons."

For the love of the sport

Wadsworth said his passion for wrestling is what has kept him going all these years.

"One of these days I'll give it up," he said. "There are some days I wonder how much longer I am going to be able to do this. It's just as long as I enjoy it.

"It's still a true pleasure. That's the difference. I have always enjoyed wrestling, and I have always enjoyed the training."

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