Clint Long, a freshman heavyweight wrestler for Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, Iowa, received an unusual greeting before a meet last month. "The other team's coach came up to me and asked, 'Hey, Coach, how you doing?' " says Long. "Our real coach, Dan Knight, was standing right next to me."
Given that the heavyweight is three years Knight's elder, such a mistake was understandable. At 31, Long is the nation's oldest college wrestler, and on March 6 he will become the oldest participant ever in the NAIA national tournament. "It's weird coaching someone who's older than I am," says Knight, who recruited Long, a husband and father of two, from his job as a foreman at a fence company to join St. Clare's first-year program.
Fourteen years ago, when Long was a senior at Eldridge ( Iowa) North Scott High, he placed third in the 185-pound class at the state tournament. After dropping out of Wisconsin- Platteville, he spent the next 13 years working on a pig farm and building fences, as well as coaching wrestling and football at his alma mater. Knight, who was a freshman at a rival high school when Long was a senior, persuaded him to return to college. "After coaching 10 years I got used to beating up on kids," says Long, an elementary education major. "In college they're beating up on me."
Not really. At a recent tournament the 5'10", 264-pound Long beat the top two seeds and pinned the No. 4 seed in the final. At week's end he had a 28-11 record to go with a 3.4 GPA. "He's an older guy trying to improve himself through wrestling and getting an education," says sophomore teammate Ray Hopkins. "That means a lot to us younger guys."