By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
The road to the middleweight championship at the 15th Annual Original Toughman Contest at the State Fairgrounds in Greenbrier County wasn’t an easy one for Nelson Tuckwiller or Steve Randolph.
“Notorious Nelly”, as he likes to call himself, had dispatched Randolph in Friday night’s preliminary round, but due to there being an open slot in the middleweight division; Randolph was added to Saturday’s card.
Perhaps fate wanted to see a rematch.
After beating two opponents earlier in the night, Randolph found himself in the championship fight, squaring off against the man who had beat him just a night earlier.
The two men went three, one-minute rounds, and in the end, it was “The Coalminer” who was victorious.
Randolph, a coal miner with Pocahontas Coal in Beckley, defeated Tuckwiller by unanimous decision to win the match and bring to an end a roller coaster of emotions that went with being eliminated in the first round and then coming back to fight in the championship.
“I didn’t think I’d get a chance to fight him again,” Randolph said. “He’s a tough fighter.”
Randolph defeated “Crazy Dog” Peter Yoo earlier in the evening by a decision and then faced Jerry Craghead in the third round — just for a chance to get to the championship round.
It wasn’t something that set so well with Tuckwiller.
“I think its bull that I had to fight him again,” he said. “I eliminated him last time, but that’s all I’ve got to say.”
Tuckwiller and Randolph seemed evenly matched throughout much of the fight, except for Randolph knocking Tuckwiller down in the closing seconds of the first round. It was a knock down that Tuckwiller thinks shouldn’t have counted.
“I thought it was a trip,” he said. “He had to do what he had to do. And he came out with the victory.”
“I knew he came, and I had to meet him more than halfway,” Randolph added. “I knew whatever he gave me, I had to stand. A couple of shots in the first round, I didn’t see anything. I didn’t even know where I was. I came back and I was still standing up.”
The Beckley native Randolph was facing a tough crowd against the Lewisburg native Tuckwiller.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “Everybody was cheering for him. I knew I was going to have to knock this guy out or something. But everyone here is just great people.”
Tuckwiller was fighting in his first Toughman Contest, in what he hoped would be a moment of redemption.
The 24-year-old Greenbrier East graduate had a rough youth that led to spending part of his teenage years in military academies.
Now, Tuckwiller is a fifth-year senior at Virginia Tech, hoping to graduate with a degree in business and marketing.
“I had never really thought about it, but this was a chance for me to show my dad that I could stay clean and do something good,” Tuckwiller said.
For Randolph, it was the fourth time he fought in the Toughman and his first time taking home the title of Toughest Man in the Greenbrier Valley.
“This is my fourth year,” he said. “I fought against a guy from Spain one year and lost and then I fought against the golden gloves champion the next. It’s been a tough road to get here.”
In the end, Randolph was the one with his arm raised by referee Butch McNeely, as Toughman promoter Jerry Thomas made a plea for the rubber match between the two next year.
While Randolph is undecided, Tuckwiller made no bones about his intentions.
“Yes, I’ll be back,” he said.