Thrower trades pigskin for iron


By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Track and field was not the sport of choice for the No. 12 men’s hammer thrower in the nation.

SIU senior thrower Curtis Wideman participated in football as well as track and field in high school, but during his senior year, he permanently traded the pigskin for an iron ball. 

Wideman played outside linebacker and was sometimes used as running back at Evanston Township High School.


He was recruited by Northern Illinois University, Illinois State University, had a full-ride from the University of Illinois and contemplated walking on at Michigan State University for football. But when Wideman visited SIU, he knew the school and track and field was his best option. 

Now, Wideman is looking to become the first Saluki under throws coach John Smith to qualify for nationals in all three throwing events.

Last season Wideman made regionals for shot put, hammer throw and discus — but only made nationals for hammer throw, where he finished No. 19 as an honorable mention All-American.

Wideman said his dedication is what has made him a successful thrower.

“I don’t know anything else but how to work hard,” he said. “I put in as much time as I can with extra practices, extra lifts, two-a-days when others aren’t and trying to leave everything on the field. The work never stops.”

On March 28, Wideman injured his groin at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic. Wideman, who said it takes serious injuries to sit out of an event, had to be pulled out of the ring by track and field coach Connie Price-Smith to avoid further injury.

Wideman said during his senior year he was predicted to win the state championship for discus and qualify in the shot put. He fouled out in sectionals, spoiling his chances to go to the state championship.


“I knew I couldn’t close the chapter of track in my life just yet,” Wideman said. “It was a bittersweet moment and I decided to give up on football. I wanted to focus on a sport I could better myself in as an individual.”

Coming out of high school, Wideman did not have any offers for track and field but one of his high school coaches contacted Smith, who reached out to Wideman.

Smith said he thought Wideman’s numbers were too good to be true for a 5-foot 11-inch, sub-200-pound high school student.

“I can’t recruit guys that good so I said of course [Wideman] could walk on,” he said. “[Wideman], pound-for-pound, is the best thrower I’ve ever coached. He’s in rare territory for his size.”  

Smith said when he was competing in the 1980’s, an era plagued by steroid use, there was no one — steroid use or not — Wideman’s size that would compare.

Wideman is an honorable mention All-American in hammer throw, a five-time NCAA Regional Qualifier and five-time All-Missouri Valley Conference thrower. He said his goal is to become top-three in every throwing event all-time at SIU.

He is currently No. 2 in hammer throw, No. 4 in discus and No. 8 in outdoor shot put all-time at SIU. Indoor, Wideman finished No. 3 in weight throw and No. 5 in shot put.

Smith believes Wideman will break former Saluki J.C. Lambert’s weight throw record of 220 feet, 6 inches within the next month. Wideman is currently at 218 feet.

Lambert, who is currently a volunteer coach while preparing for the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships by training at SIU, said he would be happy to see Wideman break his record.

“I’d rather see a hard worker break my record than someone who lollygags around,” he said. “Someone who puts in as much time and work as he does deserves it all.”

Wideman said he is pushed by female teammates who are always setting personal records and by male teammates who are competing against him.

“Half the credit goes to them,” he said. “It’s hard to do it by yourself and it’s more fun when you have people out here rooting for you and pushing you. They have a big role in my success.”

Wideman, who is majoring in radio and television, said he will apply for graduate school at SIU for business administration and sports studies.

He will continue his throwing career if he hits 70 meters in the hammer throw this year or if he is not accepted to graduate school. His current personal record is 66.45 meters.

Wideman said he plans to be a television show host or athletic director.

“I can never get away from the sports,” he said. “I want to make some money and give back to the youth and leave a legacy behind me.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.