Olympic medalist shows local wrestlers winning moves
Last week, a dozen young wrestlers got to do something that few athletes ever will – practice their sport with an Olympic silver medalist. Kids in the Shepherd University wrestling camp at Rankin's Fitness Center got a visit from Lloyd "Butch" Keaser on Thursday, July 19. Keaser was the silver Medalist in wrestling at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, in addition to being a world champion wrestler, and winner of the Pan-American Games.
Keaser came to Berkeley Springs at the request of Ron Tebben, who organized the wrestling camp and had been Keaser's wrestling coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Tebben, a retired commercial pilot, is now the coach of Shepherd University's new wrestling team. Tebben started the wrestling camp this year at Rankin's to promote the sport among younger athletes.
Tips for success
On top of showing off some tricky moves on the mat, Keaser came to share stories of his athletic triumphs and failures, and to inspire local wrestlers to achieve their dreams.
"How you start now doesn't tell you where you're going to end up," Keaser told the kids. He said he couldn't afford to go to wresting camp as a youngster, so he cleaned mats to work off the tuition. He also worked diligently to qualify for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
"Work harder than everyone else and be in better shape than anyone else," Keaser told the young wrestlers.
During his morning presentation, Keaser told the campers that, like many of them, he started wresting in his living room in Pumphreys, Md. He and his brother put on wrestling "shows" for the family and neighbors, putting his aunt into a headlock or grappling with neighbor kids.
From those living room shows, Keaser developed into a successful student athlete, went to the Naval Academy and on to the Marine Corps. During his five years of active duty, he won three National wrestling titles, the World Military Games, the Pan American Games and many other awards.
Keaser was the first African American to win a gold medal in a World Wrestling Championship, and has since been inducted into the National Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame.
He urged the young men to learn from everyone around them, be a good team member and set their minds to success in all their tasks. Keaser credited many people for his early achievements – from coaches to other wrestlers to his wife.
"The more I wrestled, the more I realized it was a team sport," Keaser told the young grapplers.
In addition to his stories and some wrestling moves, Keaser also shared his silver Olympic medal – letting the kids hold the heavy medallion he received in 1976.
According to Keaser, his greatest honor was having his formerly segregated elementary school turned into the Lloyd W. Keaser Community Center.
"There I was, 26 years old and having a building named after me while I was still alive," he said.
Keaser's recent retirement from IBM as a technology specialist will allow him to coach wrestling for a high school in Maryland and give more talks at local schools, sports camps and community centers, he said.