Fergus Falls wrestler was born with just one arm

Contributed photo
Gary Eide, right, and his high school wrestling coach Dick Green. Eide starred as an athlete even though he was born with one arm.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

This is the story of a high school student in Otter Tail County who excelled in athletics through sheer determination, going on to live an exemplary adult life.

Gary Eide, Fergus Falls High School Class of 1961, was the first born of four children and was raised on a family farm, the son of Ansgar and Thora Eide. He was born with one arm.

Christian Haugen, a 1959 graduate of Henning High School, was a senior wrestler for the Hornets when Eide wrestled as a sophomore against Henning in lower weight classes than the 165-pound Haugen.

“I always remembered Gary Eide as an outstanding wrestler for the Fergus Falls Otters,” said Haugen in early June. “My teammates admired him for what he could accomplish with the use of only one arm.”

Says Eide, today living in Highland Park, Ill, “From a very young age my mother observed that it didn’t stop me or hold me back in anything. I was active in 4-H, enjoyed sports and raised hogs as my 4-H project.”

Eide, when he began junior high school in Fergus Falls, didn’t know very many students. “Sports seemed like a natural outlet for me,” he said. “I knew basketball and baseball were not sports for me, so I pursued football and wrestling.”

He could block and tackle with the best of them and wrestling was a natural fit for a strong farm boy. Eide began playing football in ninth grade for coach Oats LeGrand. In high school he played football for coach Rocky Elton. 

“One fall, 4-H almost got me kicked off the football team since my hogs were judged at the county fair the same time as football practice,” Eide recalled. “Coach Elton was not happy that I was at the fair and not at football practice. I convinced him that the hogs were a full summer project, and I wouldn’t miss more practices.”

Consequently, Eide did a few more laps and duck walks up and down the football training hill. 

“I enjoyed blocking as a guard on offense so the backs could gain yards. Tackling the opponents’ running backs on defense was the best,” said Eide who as a senior was named as a linebacker to the Resort Region Conference all-conference team.

Eide started wrestling in seventh grade for coach LeGrand. 

“Oats would take us from junior high school to the high school for wrestling practice. One year, after weigh ins, I overheard a boy say to his friend, ‘You have an easy match because he only has one hand.’ I was determined that no opponent of mine was going to have an easy time, and I proved it.”

Eide’s high school wrestling coach was Dick Green. 

“I was fortunate to win several wrestling titles in high school Christmas tournaments held at NDSU, several district championships and I qualified for state in 1961, a year I went undefeated in dual meets.”

Eide was elected junior class president and senior homecoming king. He enjoys seeing classmates at high school reunions. 

His wrestling career ended in college at Bemidji State due to a shoulder injury. Eide, after graduating from college, in 1965, enjoyed a 37-year career as a high school math teacher. He coached wrestling and was the math team coach for 15 years. 

Eide was selected to correct advanced placement calculus exams for five years.

He has been married for 52 years to his wife, Sally. They have two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren.

“Recently, my wife and I took up the card game Canasta that we play with other couples and one day a week at the senior center in Highland Park. We are also members of the Highwood Bocce Club and play Bocce in a mixed league one night a week and in an afternoon pickup league.”

Eide believes everyone should attempt whatever they desire, giving it their best effort to attain success while enjoying what they are doing. 

“The boy in the locker room those many years ago in Fergus Falls felt that me having one arm was an advantage to him. He was wrong. My life successes came from hard work and determination.”

Eide believes his story will hopefully inspire people not to let others’ judgement or opinions hold them back.