Waterloo man is horseshoe champ

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Don Matzenbacher

“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” as the old saying goes.

But a longtime horseshoe player from Waterloo finally took the top trophy recently following several years of near success.

“This time, he was lucky enough to win it all,” said Carol Matzenbacher.

Her husband, 71-year-old Don Matzenbacher, placed first in his division at the National Horseshoe Pitching Association World Horseshoe Tournament in Wichita Falls, Texas. 

The tourney took place July 22-24 and featured nearly 1,000 horseshoe pitchers from around the world.

Don competed in the Elder G1 30-foot division against 15 other pitchers. In fact, he won all five games on the third day of the tournament to edge his next closest competitor in a “pitch off,” Carol said.

Don was presented a trophy and received a check in the amount of $500 for his win. 

He’s played in the World Horsehoe Tournament 14 times in various divisions. Carol said her husband has placed as high as second and third in previous visits.

“We’ve been all over the country for this tournament,” Carol said. “People come from all over the world to play.”

Don has been throwing horseshoes for more than 25 years. He used to pitch in Millstadt before that league went away. These days, Don practices at the Waterloo VFW when he gets the chance.

“Horseshoes is kind of a dying sport around here,” Carol said. 

An injury prevented Don from qualifying for the world tourney last year. In order to qualify, horseshoe pitchers must compete in four sanctioned tournaments each year and have an established average in their state.

Don typically competes in the Illinois State Horseshoe Tournament in Casey over Labor Day weekend. 

He also competes in tournaments in Springfield and Litchfield, when able.

Considering he couldn’t start playing in tournaments to qualify for the world tourney until this past spring, the trophy win for Don is extra special. 

“To come back and beat the first place guy and win for the first time, I’d say it was all really good,” Carol said.

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