BERLIN — Longtime wrestling fans got to meet a legend and kids got a lesson in what it takes to become a champion when a two-time World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion recently visited Berlin-Peck Memorial Library.
Bob Backlund, who became champion just a year after he joined the WWE in 1977, recalled the time he failed to talk with his coach to clear his mind, a normal part of his pre-match routine while at North Dakota University.
"I went out there and I didn't prepare mentally and I got beat,” he recalled during the Monday library event. “...you have to have your mind right, especially in wrestling because it's one-on-one.
Backlund won the Division II NCAA 190-pound championship in 1971.
The event included a discussion of his book “Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling's World Champion.”
He told the audience about the time he refused to smoke marijuana with three other wrestlers while they drove along a highway, instead opting to get out of the vehicle and walk home,
"Every time you make a decision, there's a good way and a bad way,” he said.
Backlund’s first reign as heavyweight champions still ranks as the second longest in WWE history. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
Now living with his wife in Glastonbury, Backlund still works out hard. When he was young, he would fill pales with concrete and use a rod to lift them.
He demonstrated one of his favorite workouts — a headstand where he lowers his feet to the ground and lifts them back up.
"Don't ever say you can't,” he said. "I never let anyone tell me I can't, if I would've listened to them I would've never been anyplace.”
Mark DePinto, a fan of Backlund’s, called the message “positive and inspirational. His message was the same back in the day.”