Two weeks ago, Steve Horton was wrestling competitively in Greece, whaling the tar out of other guys in their late 40s en route to a world championship bronze medal.
Last week, he returned home to Missouri for a ceremony in which he was enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, which is located in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
This week, the 49-year-old Cibolo resident is helping the New Braunfels Elite Wrestling Club, where he coaches during the week, open its new practice facility.
Throughout the fall, he’ll be working with various Air Force wrestling teams and clubs.
In two months, he’ll be coaching the All-Air Force elite wrestling team in preparation for the Olympic trials.
Not bad for a guy who retired from the Air Force two months ago after 26 years in media relations and, at times, wrestling full-time.
Technically speaking, Horton doesn’t have a day job. If anything qualifies as a job, it’s Horton’s passion for wrestling. These days, he devotes all of his time to the sport that’s consumed him since he was 6 years old, wrestling at various clubs in his native St. Louis.
His goal is to make wrestling as popular in Texas as it is throughout the Midwest, where high school matches fill gyms.
Wrestling combines basic, fundamental skills, Horton said, along with imaginative permutations of those moves. The basics must be learned. After that, a wrestler can add his creativity to the move.
“A single-leg takedown is a basic move,” he said. “But you can add a hundred variations to it.”
A single-leg takedown is a move where a wrestler grabs an opponent’s leg and lifts it up to destabilize the opponent. At the same time, he’s using his own leg to quickly whip the opponent’s other leg out from under him.
Variations change the type and location of hand grips, how the whipping leg moves, the different directions to move the lifted leg, and techniques to disguise the move before it happens or make it easier to pull off.
Wife Lisa Horton retired from the Air Force two years ago, and the couple was deciding where to settle down. They liked the San Antonio area, but Steve Horton was initially reluctant.
“I like it here,” he said. “But I told her I don’t think I could be in a place where wrestling isn’t a major sport.”
“Well,” he remembered her saying, “build it up.”
A lot of that is happening at New Braunfels Elite, one of the area’s few wrestling clubs. Seventy kids from around the area participated in training and meets last season. Horton expects that many to enroll this season, too.
It was a good challenge for Horton. He was a three-time state champion in Missouri, and that was good enough to earn him a scholarship to Central Missouri State, now known as just Central Missouri.
Sadly, college life pinned young Horton to the floor. “I didn’t go to class because I spent my time training.”
He joined the Air Force and continued club wrestling while serving. From 1994-96, the Air Force paid him to wrestle. He made the next-to-the-last cut for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. He tried out for the 2000 team, but an injury ended that.
When coaching military teams, Horton says he’ll sometimes join in on the action, wrestling guys who are 25 years younger than he is. Horton said — and I can’t verify this, although he looks to be in excellent shape — that he usually beats the younger guys.
“Old age and treachery will get ’em every time,” he said.