Some might call Louie Esquibel crazy.
That's alright, though. There's good reason behind his nickname.
Everybody calls me Crazy Louie. People who know me, when I tell them about this, they say, 'Yep, that fits you,'"
Esquibel said last Tuesday night, four days from the 52-year-old's first wrestling match in 34 years.
Esquibel, a Durango native and Durango High School alumnus, competed in the Old Timers Wrestling Tournament last
Saturday at Broomfield High School in the Front Range. With so few 50-and-over competitors at the Old Timers' meet, and
even less this year with a weak economy, Esquibel, much to his chagrin, only wrestled two matches.
It ended up being a little disappointing," he said.
Fifty and over?
Forty-five and over?
Fifteen and over?
Call him crazy, but Esquibel just wants to wrestle.
I would love to wrestle a minimum of four times up to six or seven times," he said before the meet. It's been a
grueling training session, and I'm not going up there just to wrestle one match."
Esquibel was ready. His nerves dissolved into resolve. His borderline" overweight stature scaled down from 178 pounds
to 155. His diet improved. He did pushups and sit-ups every morning before work. He spent time in the weight room. He
worked out at the rec center twice a week.
I feel great," he said. My energy level is super. I'd advise it to anybody. It's been a real challenge, though. I've
doubted myself several times, but then I just started counting down the days - 100, 50, 20, and now I'm at four. About
a month ago I said to myself, 'I'm ready to go.'"
He was ready to go. Giving up 12 pounds and about eight years to his first competitor, Esquibel, the second oldest man
in the tournament, pinned his man to win his first match. Three years the elder to his second competitor, Esquibel went
the distance in a 3-1 loss to a
49-year-old Judo expert and assistant wrestling coach in his second match.
I had my hands full in that one," Esquibel said. It really was night and day compared to that first match. I gave him
everything I had, though. It was a really, really good match.
You could tell he'd done this before, and, after the match, he told me that was one of the best matches he'd been a
Esquibel was at his niece's wedding Aug. 1 when a relative first replanted the wrestling seed. His curiosity peaked,then faded after he returned home to Durango.
I woke up on Labor Day and for some reason said, 'I'm going to do this thing,'" Esquibel said last week. Some people
still think I'm crazy."
Crazy, maybe, even for Crazy Louie.
Esquibel last wrestled in 1976, when he was the captain of the DHS wrestling team. The first person he called when he
finally resolved himself to do this thing" was his high school coach, Gordon Rowe.
I said, 'You know, coach, this is what I'm thinking about doing, but people are calling me crazy,'" said Esquibel,recalling that conversation and his coach's response. 'No. No, if anybody can do it, you're the right guy to do it.'
And that's exactly what I needed to hear."
So he trained for six months, since Sept. 7, full time. He was doing his pushups, his sit-ups, his weights, then he
remembered he hadn't actually wrestled in 34 years: I said, 'You know what, I better get on the mat.'"
Enter the teenagers.
With nobody to pick on his own age, Esquibel went to the high school to at least find somebody his own size. He
wrestled once a week against members of the Demons' varsity program, again, 34 years after Esquibel last competed in
those same colors.
I drilled with them," Esquibel said. And coach (Doug) Cuddie told them, 'Louie is practicing for this Old Timers
meet, nobody take it easy on him. Go full speed.' And that's what they did. I held my own. I really did."
Esquibel weighed in last Friday night at 153 pounds, then he learned his first assignment. Each match is three minutes
long - three one-minute periods with 30-second intermissions.
He had about 20 people there in support: His wife, Dani, also a Durango native; his daughter, Dominique; his brothers,Durangoans Don and Joe Esquibel; his three sisters who live in Denver and their kids; a few friends from Denver; and
his nephew Joe Jr., Joe Esquibel's son and current DHS wrestler.
Crazy Louie said Joe Jr. was in his corner last weekend as his coach.
I'm real excited about it," Esquibel said then. I've done everything possible I could do: pushups, sit-ups, weights,running, wrestling. I have nothing to lose, and there's not a lot of 50-somethings that would take on something like
this. Like my wife said, the experience isn't just the tournament, but it's the journey in getting there.
It's all been a great experience."
Three 50-somethings, to be exact.
I didn't get my fix," Esquibel said now, still searching for that next match.
It was really exciting. I kind of felt cheated, though. The journey was great; after 34 years, it was really cool to
get back out there again."