Wolf is a veteran of senior competition, in Tennessee, in other states, nationally and globally. He has set numerous records, for his respective age groups, but doesn’t want that to be his main legacy. He wants to show other seniors they also can improve their health and still enjoy the thrill of competition.
His physical appearance would cause you to misguess his age, and his accomplishments in the athletics arena may cause you to shake your head.
Wolf had his best year ever at this year’s District Tennessee Senior Olympics. In addition to becoming the first man over 80 to ever pole vault in state competition, he won 17 individual first-place awards, three second-places, a third, fourth, fifth and seventh. His 24 competitive awards came in track and field, swimming, softball, basketball, golf and bowling.
If they had the event at this year’s Tennessee Senior Olympics, R.G. Wolf entered ... and chances are better than even he won one of the top awards.
But, this year could be the pinnacle of success for Cleveland’s spry octogenarian. This year he competed in the 80-84 age division, at the very top rung of this age-division ladder. Next year he will be moving up to the 85-89 division, and admits he may finds the competition a little tougher. “I know now who’ll I’ll be going against,” he said with a little smile. It could be they’ll be a little more mature, with the additional age.
Wolf was born and raised in Iowa, and has already been selected to a community hall of fame for childhood accomplishments. He is now on the threshold of being nominated, and probably selected, to the Iowa State University Hall of Fame.
The Cleveland senior says his childhood was doubly difficult, and blessed. His father, who attended Grinnell College before the Depression, was later an Internal Revenue Service auditor, an educator and a banker, but fell ill for 18 years of his life before eventually recovering. His years of illness came during his son’s formative years.
Wolf said his mother was a teacher, but he needed the stern hand of a man during this period of time. He said there were five men in the community who accepted this chore and taught him the things he needed to know. They included a coach, a businessman, a man who liked to read, and even an outdoorsman.
“I was truly blessed,” Wolf said. During his college years, he said he paid his own way to college. “I had 65 colonies of honey bees and raised the honey to sell,” he said. He got 15 cents a pound for five-gallon jars of honey. He also had a garden and raised a variety of vegetables.
“In college, I wanted to be a commercial beekeeper,” he said.
That dream changed with post-graduate engineering courses, and he spent the final 30 years of his career as a management consultant in engineering.
Wolf met his wife where she worked as a receptionist at a radio station. They married in 1956 and had four children, a daughter and three sons. His daughter, Ann, lives on Percy Priest Lake near Nashville; son Gordon is in Florida, Brian in Minneapolis, and Ron back and forth between Hawaii and Thailand.
He and his wife moved to Southeast Tennessee 17 years ago, to a farm in the Georgetown community. He said he would live there today, “But I lost the election!”
Asked what election he was talking about, Wolf said his wife and children voted on where the elderly couple would make their final home, on the farm in Georgetown, or in the city of Cleveland. “It was 5-to-1, and I lost the election,” he said.
He has continued to pursue athletic challenges in recent years. In 2011 he won two firsts in the pole vault and javelin, had five seconds, a third and two fourth.
This year he pretty much lived on the reviewing stand during the Southeast District meet. He entered 24 events and placed in each one.
Most of his victories this year came in track and field events. He was first in the 100 meter run, long jump, 1500 meter run, 50 meter run, 400 meter run, discus, javelin, shot put, 200 meter run, 800 meter run and 1500 meter race-walk. First places in swimming came in the 100 meter freestyle, 50 meter backstroke, 100 meter breaststroke, 50 meter breaststroke. There were also wins in the basketball three-point shot, and basketball hot-shot.
As if this wasn’t enough, he took second-place awards in the high jump, and swimming’s 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke.He added a third in the softball throw,fourth in basketball free throw, fifth in golf, and seventh in singles bowling.
Wolf emphasized that he enters all of the decathlon events in regular track and field events, because at age 84 he is the oldest active decathlete in Tennessee, a pursuit he wishes to continue.
Athletics and physical fitness are just two thing Wolf is proud of. “I worked in 42 states, on some major projects, and received considerable national recognition,” he said. “I had an uncanny ability to see things that others didn’t see.”
He also admitted that his strenuous effort in the Senior Olympics was for another reason altogether. “I have a rare blood disease, which I learned about over the last two years,” he said. “This year’s Senior Olympics was a personal test. I wanted to push myself to see how well I could do.”
Asked about advice for fitness, Wolf said, “I eat right, with no alcohol or tobacco. There are four things I focus on every day ... physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.”
To help explain why he is so active at 84 years of age, Wolf said, “I’ve always been a physical person. “I organized a track meet for me and my older sisters when I was in the third grade.”
Wolf is currently writing a book, just to go along with his many other involvements. “It’s about growing up in Southern Iowa, during the Depression and during the war (World War II) years,” he said.
You might think he would be about out of goals, but that’s not quite true. He hopes to become certified by the U.S. Master Track and Field Association in all 10 decathlon events. He has javelin, shot put, long jump, and high jump, but still likes six. He hopes to get the 100-meter and 400-meter runs this year, which will leave only the discus, pole vault, 1,500 meter run and high hurdles.
Don’t give up on him reaching this goal. Besides, he says he’s not yet over the hill. After his accomplishments in the Senior Olympics this year, he appears to be sitting on top of the hill.