Rick Chipman recently finished his competitive wrestling career some three decades after it started.
Chipman, 44, was a co-captain of the wrestling squad at Southern Maine, a Division III school where he enrolled at age 40. Stuart Miller of the Wall Street Journal profiles Chipman, who wrapped up his collegiate career with a 32-46 record.
During his high school days Chipman nearly won the state title twice, but he couldn't continue the pursuit in college. He dropped out the first semester of his freshman year after his fiancée got pregnant. As he grew older, Chipman always wondered whether he could still compete.
When Chipman enrolled at Southern Maine four years ago, he inquired about adding wrestling to his plate, even though he was a full-time student and working 42 hours a week as a firefighter and one day a week as a paramedic. His son, Spencer, also a student at Southern Maine, thought this was a "stupid" idea.
But Chipman trained extensively with a personal trainer and even lost 35 pounds. He finished his freshman year with a record of 3-18.
"He wasn't a step off, he was a lifetime off," Souther Maine coach Joe Pistone told Miller.
After that, however, Chipman was 29-28 in his final three years on the mat. He was named a co-captain in his senior year and at the recent NCAA Division III Northeast regional tournament he wrestled two classes above his own to make room for a teammate at his normal 157 pounds.
Chipman got used to getting pummeled by younger, stronger opponents in practice and during meets, but he says he loved it.
"You wake up sore, with a black eye, your ear is almost torn off, but you just feel better than you've ever felt in your life," he said.
Chipman is on track to graduate this spring after making Dean's List in every semester. Next fall he hopes to start law school.