Wrestling: 56-year-old chases world championship
HUDSON, Wis. — He’s wrestled since he was 8. He won two state championships in high school and competed against the Big Ten’s best at Michigan State.
Now Hudson resident and 3M executive Kurt Beinlich is headed for the world stage. He will be wrestling for a world championship in Belgrade, Serbia, next week — fit, trained and ready at the tender age of 56.
“Yeah, they’re pretty disparate worlds,” chuckles Beinlich when asked about his day job and the sport he’s been giving his all to six or seven nights a week since early January. “There aren’t too many in the Research and Development Department that are still wrestling.”
Beinlich, 3M’s vice president of consumer-products R&D and an employee there for 33 years, says his wrestling experience has proven valuable on the job.“One of the things wrestling teaches you is discipline, and you need the same sort of discipline in your work life,” he explains. “I think if you ask any wrestler, they’ll tell you that what they’ve been through has given them a big advantage in the workplace.”After winning a USA Wrestling national freestyle championship in Las Vegas in April, Beinlich will compete in the 2014 International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles world competition, which begins today.One of his toughest opponents at the national tournament was multiple world champion Shirzad Ahmadi of Connecticut. Beinlich defeated Ahmadi 4-3 in the second round.Beinlich’s first match in Belgrade is scheduled for Tuesday in the Veterans 56-60 age group at 152 pounds. It will be his third trip to the world championships since 1999.“I did it in ‘99 and 2004,” Beinlich said. “I’ve only been wrestling competitively every five years because between my job and my family, it’s too demanding to do it every year.”He added: “This year, I thought I should do it when I was the youngest one in my age group.”The Hudson teamBeinlich and his wife, Lynette, a counselor at Hudson High School, have raised three sons: Mitch, 21, Zachary, 22, and Tyler, 27. Along the way, Kurt has coached local youth wrestling and helped out in the high school program. Kurt and Lynette have lived in Hudson since 1987.Perhaps surprisingly, none of Beinlich’s sons took to his sport.“No, they’re hockey players and basketball players,” he said.They have, however, been his biggest fans.“The boys are pretty fired up about it,” Beinlich said of the upcoming world tournament. “My wife’s been great too. She’s been great putting up with it.”High school varsity coach Chris Hanson and his wrestlers also have been key partners in Beinlich’s training, either at the high school or on the wrestling mat he’s set up in his basement.Hanson, former Hudson state champion Kyle Crain and current Raiders grapplers Dylan Anderson and Sawyer Massie form the nucleus of Beinlich’s day-to-day training and practice-wrestling team.“Wrestling is something I arrange for at work,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be able to arrange for my partners to come in at six, seven o’clock in the evening to work with me, either on the mat at my house or at the high school.”His workout routine includes “a lot of cardio and weight-lifting,” plus mat practice, for about 90 minutes a day.“Wrestling’s sort of a full-body, every-muscle type of sport, so that helps,” he said. “I actually enjoy training. If I didn’t, I couldn’t do this because wrestling’s 99.5 percent training and a half-percent competition.”In middle age, it also involves a lot of injury prevention and management, Beinlich said. Last week, he was still getting physical therapy for a pinched nerve in his neck in advance of the world tournament.“One of the hardest things is just staying healthy, especially when you’re in a combat sport,” he added.One of Beinlich’s boyhood heroes was legendary Iowa State wrestler and University of Iowa head coach Dan Gable, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1972 without giving up a single point.“I saw him in ‘71 at the world championships, and I said to myself, ‘I want to do that someday,’ “ Beinlich remembered. “When I turned 40, I decided to give it another try.”When he placed third in the 1999 USA Wrestling nationals, he finished sixth at the world championships; and when he took second in the nationals in 2004, he placed fourth in the world.With that progression behind him, Beinlich figures his national championship this year bodes well for a higher finish in Belgrade.“I hope I can jump on the podium this year,” he said.