Some animals always find a way back to their habitat.
It has only been four years since Dennis Hall last competed but if you really pressed him, he might say it feels more like twelve. 2004 was the Olympics in Athens, Hall’s third and final Olympiad. He stepped away shortly thereafter but remained in the sport through his club, World Gold Wrestling, before eventually taking over the Northern Michigan program for the 2009-10 season. The 1995 World Champion and 1996 Olympic silver medalist laced up the shoes once again at the Olympic Trials in 2012, going 1-2 in the tournament. But he wasn’t “all there.”
That’s because Hall struggled with a torn tendon in his foot that popped up a week before the event and his performance in Iowa City never sat well with him. He currently declares himself healthier than he has been in years and certainly more so than in 2012. It all adds up to a surprising return for one of the country’s most celebrated Greco Roman competitor’s at next weekend’s US Nationals in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been working out a bunch lately and my body feels really good,” says Hall. “I want to leave on my terms from the sport that I love. I want to go out there, have fun, and wrestle.”
Since this is Hall’s second comeback attempt it is fair to ask, Is this it? Or is this the rebirth of a legendary career? It would seem that for now, he is taking things one step at a time.
“We’ll see how things go,” Hall admits. “I’ll never say, ‘This is the last time I’m stepping on a mat.’ I just want to go out there and see if the unconventional training I’ve been doing is working.”
That training Hall is referring to is the SPIKE (Spinal Performance Implements Kinetic Efficiency) program, a challenging workout series geared towards refining balance and core strength. Hall played a central role in the program’s development along with Olympic personal trainer Joel Berens just short of two years ago. The results have been encouraging enough to convince the ten-time National champion he might be onto something much bigger than just personal fitness goals. As Hall saw his body constantly improve, he also found that certain movements and abilities once thought lost had been rediscovered, which planted the seed.
“(Two-time Olympian Ben) Provisor is on the program and he’s had a lot of success with it,” Hall says proudly. “He kept asking me if I was going to compete because he saw me doing all of the workouts with him everyday. I didn’t know. And I didn’t want to say that I was going to and then get injured or feel like I wasn’t ready. But finally, I booked my ticket a couple of weeks ago and at that point I knew my body was going to be okay. It was a decision I had to be careful about making.”
There is little doubt that a competitor as fierce and accomplished as Hall has victory on his mind. It’s in his blood, an aspect of the man’s DNA that requires no further examination. However, next week’s US Nationals represents something different for him. Part of it is having the chance to engage in the most primal form of unarmed combat without feeling physically restricted like he was last time around. But more importantly, it’s about setting an example for the younger generation, specifically his children.
“Last time I competed I was injured,” reminds Hall. “Right now, my body feels stronger and in as good a shape, for sure. I want to wrestle because it’s fun and I enjoy it. The great part is I have two of my boys coming out to watch me compete and I want to show them that there aren’t any limits. Age isn’t a limit. I want to let them know you can’t be afraid to do the things you want to do.”
So what about the naysayers, the voices in the background who may be skeptical over an ambitious endeavor such as this one? After all, people will be watching with eyes wide open, wondering if Hall is overreaching or simply showing up just to do so. There’s no question this will be big news. But how it is received might vary depending on the audience. In typical Hall fashion, he is quick to assert that it makes no difference to him.
“I don’t care what people think, if they think I’m over the hill or whatever. I couldn’t care less. I want to show my kids you can do what you want to do in life. You take chances because there are no guarantees. Anything is possible, you just have to work hard to do good things.”
He would know.