Those who regularly use the gym at the Monroe County YMCA are familiar with a duo of retirees known for beating men decades younger then them in a friendly game of HORSE.
Those men are 84-year-old Orville Preslar and 67-year-old John Allen, both of Columbia.
“It’s fun playing with these guys,” Allen said. “Everybody has a good time.”
Preslar began playing basketball in eighth grade when he was going to school at Sparta.
“I didn’t know I was good until I played,” Preslar said. “And I’ve been playing the rest of my life.”
Allen knew a little sooner he had a gift for hoops, as he started shooting around age 10 before playing competitively as a freshman at Waterloo High School.
All these years later, the men maintain the rivalry from their school days.
“It’s always a big rivalry, no matter if you’re playing HORSE or whatever,” Allen said with a chuckle.
Both men continued playing throughout their lives in various men’s leagues, church leagues and similar organizations.
Preslar took a break from the game after he got married when he was 21, but picked it up again when he turned 30.
He continued playing full-court games until 75, when he promised his wife he would stop.
Despite playing in the same area during the same time, including in the same church league once, Preslar and Allen did not become friends until the Y opened at its current location at 9514 Caring Way in Columbia.
They struck up a conversation one day when they were both shooting around. Soon, they played their first game of HORSE.
“I’ve been playing HORSE with this guy here for years and trying to beat him,” Allen said, giving Preslar a friendly nudge.
Since then, Preslar tries to come to the Y three days a week to shoot, while Allen attempts to come every day.
Allen, who Preslar called the best mid-range shooter he has seen, said the times with Preslar and others at the Y have been the favorite in his life when playing basketball.
The sharpshooting Preslar said he also loves the fun at the Y, but his favorite basketball memory comes from when he was in high school.
He was not on Sparta’s team because he worked a night job, but every physical education class at the school had a basketball team then.
Preslar’s class team blew the junior varsity team out and lost by just two points to the varsity squad when they played.
“We were good,” he said of the Sparta basketball teams of his youth.
Preslar still shoots with youth, as he worked for 12 years after he retired as a janitor in the Columbia school district and coaches still let him warm up with players.
Preslar does, however, credit the Y with helping him stay alive.
About 3.5 years ago, he was having pains and doctors soon learned he had severe blockage in his heart to the point his main artery was as narrow as a needle.
Doctors were shocked Preslar, who had quadruple bypass surgery, could even walk. Preslar told them about his basketball habits.
“‘Well, that’s probably the only reason you walked in here,’” Preslar recalled the doctors telling him.
He also credits Jesus for his ability to play into his 80s.
“As far as body and talent, I give credit to my Lord Jesus Christ,” Preslar said. “He’s the one who calls the shot. He’s the one who decides whether I’m healthy or not.”
Both men said they plan to continue their regular games as long as possible.
“I love it,” Preslar said.
“It’s a good way to stay healthy and make good friends,” Allen added.