Former Olympic champ Randy Lewis enjoys return to the mat

BY MATT PFIFFNER
Publisher, The Predicament

Randy Lewis may not have finished on top of the podium like he did so many times in his brilliant career, but he had no regrets Saturday in Waterloo.

The 49-year-old Lewis returned to competition for the first time in 17 years at 74 kg. at the Northern Plains Regional. Lewis, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist and two-time NCAA champ at the University of Iowa, went 2-1 on the day, with a pair of solid victories before a semifinal loss to two-time Northern Iowa All-American and Anamosa native Moza Fay.

"I'm glad I did it. It was a lot of fun. It was hard for me just making weight for this. It was just testing myself," Lewis said after the loss to Fay. "It was a lot of fun. I didn't get as tired as I thought I was going to get, but I got a lot more sore in between matches. My body tightened up on me."

When Lewis hit the mat for his first match of the day against James Reynolds, the other five mats were closed down so everyone could watch the legendary grappler compete in an official match for the first time since 1992.

Lewis countered a Reynolds takedown attempt in the first period for the only point of that period and scored two takedowns and an exposure point in the second, for the 1-0, 3-0 victory.

The mats were closed down again for Lewis' second bout against Trent Larrieu. Lewis started strong with a takedown with exposure for a 3-0 lead. Larrieu scored a late takedown, but Lewis took the period, 3-1. Lewis appeared to dislocate a finger late in the first period, but just had it taped up and continued to compete.

Lewis was pushed out of bounds early in the second for a quick 1-0 deficit, but Lewis scored a two-point takedown for the lead and added a sweet throw later in the second period for the 5-1 period win, to take the match, 3-1, 5-1.

That set up a semifinal showdown between Lewis and Fay. Lewis used a lift off a Fay takedown attempt for a 2-1 lead, but Fay turned Lewis to go on top, 3-2. After a Fay takedown made it 4-2, the former Panther used a leg lace for several exposure points and a 9-2 technical fall.

It was more of the same in the second period, as Fay got an early takedown and turned Lewis several times to end the match with a 7-0 technical fall.

"It's all on my feet at my age. I knew against Moza Fay I didn't want to get underneath and unfortunately, I got there a couple times. That's not where I wanted to be with him," Lewis said.

"I made a couple mistakes against Moza. He's too solid for me to give up that much position and when he got on top, it was over. I got in a situation where I told myself before this, if I get someone really tight with me on top and it's a decision to get hurt or get turned, I'm going to let them turn me. And that was the decision Moza Fay gave me," Lewis continued with a laugh. "If I was younger, I may have fought it and got hurt."

Fay was as gracious in victory as Lewis was in defeat. The former Anamosa two-time State champ raised Lewis' hand after the match in a tremendous show of class.

"He's accomplished so much more than me. I thought it was cool he came here and I just wanted to show my appreciation," Fay said. "I guess I can say I beat an Olympic champ now, but he's accomplished so much."

Fay said he was nervous heading into the match and had mixed feelings about wrestling and beating the Olympic hero.

"He's an Olympic champ out there. It was really cool. When I first heard he was wrestling here I thought that was really cool. I thought he probably wasn't going to win it, but it was good for the sport of wrestling that he came," Fay said. "It was cool to see him wrestle out there and compete. He beat two upper class level guys and showed a lot of heart out there. I wish it wasn't me that had to beat him."

After the loss, Lewis decided not to compete in the wrestle backs and finished his day with a 2-1 record.

When asked if he felt he represented himself with his performance, Lewis said, "I think I did the first two matches. I almost got a throw on Moza, I just missed it. He had too much length for me.

"I think I let them know that I still have some stuff. Not as much as I thought I had, I guess. I did this to see if I was as tough as I think I am. I still think I am, but not every time."

Lewis was also appreciative of the great support he received throughout the day.

"A lot of my friends came and watched it. I just knew I was going to give it my best and that's what I did," he said.