Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Wayne Turner describes his wrestling career in simple terms.

“I lose a majority of my matches, but I win every once in a while," said the man from Big Sandy with his usual self-deprecating sense of humor.

But Turner is a little different than most of his wrestling peers at this weekend’s Big Sky State Games. The event was held at Billings West High School.

For one, he’s usually much older.

TURNER

“Once, there was a guy older than me, but he didn’t come back the next year," said the 55-year-old Turner.

What started as an interest through his son Jeff in the late 1970s, has become an annual event for the elder Turner.

This was his seventh BSSG as a competitor. He earned the gold medal Saturday in the Masters I 150-pound division. He was the only entrant.

“I go most every year," he said of the annual State Games. “I used to bring some kids with me from Big Sandy, but sometimes, I don’t. I just have a good time and just kept at it."

Turner grew up in the Great Falls area but has spent the majority of his life in Big Sandy where he owns a flying service. He did not wrestle in high school or college.

“I always liked it," said Turner of the vigorous sport. “I never had any training, but wrestled with guys in college. I like the physical action of the sport."

As his son Jeff moved upward through the wrestling ranks in Big Sandy, his father followed. Turner also serves as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach for the high school program and drives the bus when the teams travels to out of town matches.

“It keeps me involved," Turner said. “What keeps me going is taking those kids."

To stay in shape, Turner does some jogging. He only had to drop a few pounds to wrestle at 149.5.

“I’m thin, not skinny," said the 5-foot-10

Turner with a laugh. “I could easily go 163.”

Last year, Turner finished third at 149.5. Some years, because a lack of entries, he wrestles in exhibition weights against competitors in the higher weight class.

“I had an exhibition against Don Gleason and he hammered me pretty good," said Turner. Gleason is the former wrestling coach at Billings West, and remains a teacher and head athletic trainer at the school. “Most of the time, the guys I wrestle are much younger. But I keep coming back.

“This is a fun level of wrestling, not a highly competitive thing. And I finally learned a few things."

With each return, Turner is becoming more well-known at the BSSG event. His matches usually draw a crowd of children cheering him on. They don’t know his name, but cheer by the color of his singlet.

Turner does more than wrestle. Before and after his match, he can be found helping out as a timer or scorekeeper. “When you only have two matches, you usually have a lot of time on your hands," he said.

But more than a few folks have questioned Turner’s motivation.

“Some people have suggested I’m not using good judgment in what I’m doing," Turner said.

“I hate to tell you what my dad said," he finished with a good laugh.

With each passing year, Turner realizes his competitive career might be coming to an end.

“It’s harder to keep loosened up and harder to come back from injuries," said Turner, who is competed with a foot injury Saturday. “But I’ll keep going. I get a kick out of the opening ceremonies. This is mostly for fun and it helps keep me in good shape."

Joe Kusek can be reached at 657-1393 or jkusek@billingsgazette.com

0
0
0
0
0