“Sweet Spot,” by Mike Sugerman
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Watching an 83-year-old man get womped in judo might not seem fair. Except the guy doing the womping is 92-year-old Jerry Vessichio.
“He was no match for me, really,” he tells me. “I am the oldest competitor in the United States.”
Vessichio still comes to the YMCA’s judo camp in Huguenot, New York.
A retired physical education teacher, he’s been throwing it around – kicking it – since 1943. He has several championships under his belt, which have come in handy more than a few times.
“I was walking down the street, and there were like four guys across, and they started coming after me. So I started running. But I ran so that one could catch up and then I pelted him out,” Vessichio says.
He really wanted the others to catch up.
“One punch. Another guy I threw in a shoulder throw, and I slammed him on top of a car,” he says.
What about that hand that has only four fingers? It was another mishap defending neighborhood kids from an adult bully.
“The guy took a swing at me and missed, and I belted him, but I caught his tooth in there,” he says. “I went to the hospital. They sewed it. But they sewed the infection in. So I told them, ‘Why don’t you just take the finger off?’ And he did.”
Vessichio continues to teach and continues, as always, to be an inspiration.
“Jerry is what we all want to be,” says Connie Halporn. “I mean, I’m only 61, and someday I hope to be in as good of shape as Jerry.”
She’ll be chasing him for a while. He doesn’t plan to ever quit.
“Because if I don’t do it, I’ll die,” he says. “I’m going to waste away and I’m going to get fat as a horse, and waste away. I don’t want to do that.”
But he does promise to slow down on his throw downs.