Great racquetball players come in all ages

Special to The Sun City PacketFebruary 29, 2012 

With the blood pressure rate of a kid -- 120 over 65 --it's no wonder that Michael Wargel, 65, has been known to play and defeat racquetball opponents 50 years younger. "The problem with kids who play racquetball is that they all want to hit the ball 200 miles per hour! I once played in a tournament where the young fellow I was playing, he was maybe 17 or 18, his father was the referee. "The father told me, "I'm hoping he can learn something from you!'

Wargel, of Sun City, plays in non-age restricted tournaments, and has won about 10 in his class C division. He has traveled to compete in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas (where he and his wife visit their children and grandchildren), as well as here in South Carolina.

Racquetball for fitness

Wargel says he has lost about 50 pounds in the last three years, playing racquetball several times a week. His usual opponents are Bob Lane and Roland Solis, both of Sun City. On top of that, Wargel also hikes, and works out in the gym regularly."I'd play racquetball seven days a week if I could find somebody to do it with!'' he says, then adds, "Racquetball is the one sport I've found that I really enjoy, that's fun, not work.'' Bowling used to be fun until he hurt his back. His doctor advised him to quit bowling but as long as racquetball didn't harm him, keep it up.

"I'm lucky because my joints don't give me any trouble and that can happen in racquetball because there is a lot of back and forth and coming down hard on your joints," he said.' At a recent game between himself and Norm Fowler, 74, the game lasted about an hour, with breaks. At 6'5'', Wargel says his height is an advantage in the game because "of my reach. I can get to the ball without as much effort as someone who doesn't have the long reach.''

To Beaufort for courts

Wargel began playing the sport about 20 years ago, in Chicago. When he and his wife Teresa moved to Sun City, Wargel and fellow Sun City residents Bill Burg and Phil Lombardo founded the Racquetball Club at Sun City. But the community didn't --and still doesn't --have racquetball courts. Burg did some investigating and discovered the Burton Wells Recreation Center in Beaufort, on Middleton Recreation Drive. The players carpool to Beaufort to play.

A Navy veteran and former technology network manager for a Chicago law firm, Wargel now keeps himself busy maintaining the master data bases for the Sun City travel club (2,000 members), and for the Book Exchange club (4,000 members)--in addition to racquetball.

In a tournament in January in Charleston, Wargel won the Class C division competition. He was the oldest player at the tournament. He plays in one or two tournaments a month, most held in North Carolina. At press time, he was looking forward to competing in the Wolf Pack Classic, held at North Carolina State University, with 100 entrants playing on 16 courts.

"Racquetball gives you a good cardio-vascular workout and it's really good for keeping hand-eye coordination sharp,' Wargel said.

Where are the women?

Wargel says the Sun City racquetball club has about 40 male and female members. But currently, none of the women play.

"I think it's because there are no other women players,'' Wargel said.

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