Former wrestling great Andy Rein takes on Appalachian Trail

Updated: April 10, 2024

Photo: Former Olympic silver medalist Andy Rein was set to start his five-month journey over the Appalachian Trail in April.

By Sandy Stevens

Andy Rein was an Olympic silver medalist, an undefeated NCAA champion, a Tbilisi champion and is a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, but he sports a new challenge on the Vision Board in his North Carolina home.

 The 66-year-old sets out this month to “thru hike” the entire 2,197 miles of the Appalachian Trail. (AT hikers spell it “thru hike,” or thru-hike, not “through hike”.) He is dedicating his hike to “Power Beyond,” the Hall of Fame’s first-ever endowment campaign to help secure the Hall’s future. Andy will cover roughly 5 million steps while hiking through 14 states, a journey he estimates will take him five months to complete.

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He’s not a veteran of this extensive trek, but in 2017, after reading Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” he told a group of poker-playing neighbors that he planned to walk part of the AT for four days. The next week, these buddies told him they would join him.

They did. “Typically, I was way ahead of these guys,” Andy recalled.

The following year, illness and surgeries kept the others from going, so Andy spent three days alone, covering parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

“That’s a whole new experience, being by yourself,” he said.

Fortunately, others are making plans to join Andy for a day or more during this hike, including his son-in-law, who’s a Marine and an airline pilot. Susy Rein, Andy’s wife, expects to guest hike with him 70 miles in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia and also another 120 miles from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, through a bit of Maryland and into Pennsylvania.

Also training for the trek is Boomer, the Reins’ 8-year-old Golden Doodle “without the curls,” who will start out for perhaps 70 miles and possibly a later 110. He’s also in training to carry his own food and water.

Joining Andy Rein on the 2,197-mile
trek will be his Golden Doodle Boomer (below).

“Boomer hikes up a mountain road daily, carrying cans of beans in his saddlebag to become conditioned to a gradually increasing load,” Susy explained. 

The Reins are anticipating that other friends and Hall of Fame supporters will join in part of the trek, too. The AT extends from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Mass. The highest spot, West Clingman Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, is at 6,643 feet above sea level (on a clear day, up to 100 miles including seven states are visible); the lowest, Bear Mountain State Park in New York, is at 124 feet.

“We rookie hikers all tend to pack too much,” noted Andy, whose bundle weighed 40 pounds that first outing. “I’m learning you can get by with fewer clothes.”

Recently retired after 25 years with SKF USA, Andy pointed out that he’s not always been active. 

“When you get involved with a career, you have to be focused,” he stressed. “It was go-go-go! Working out was an afterthought. At one point, I weighed 195. I realized something had to change, so I made a commitment to health and fitness a priority.

He will start his AT trek weighing 168, his college weight. 

“The lifestyle behavior change has been very important to me,” he said. “I don’t want to be held back from doing anything I want to do by health or fitness. I’m going to control what I can.

“And if I can encourage one person to change their ways, that’s a win.” 

Andy’s also aware of the thru-hiker’s need to “rest and recover.”

“An ability most wrestlers have is to push through pain,” he pointed out, “but through the sport of wrestling, a lot of lessons are learned. One is ‘Listen to your body.’ 

“It’s going to be important as I’m going through this. An incline taxes your lungs, a decline taxes my knees and my knees aren’t what they used to be.”

In part, Andy’s chosen to benefit the Hall of Fame because of one of its goals: To Inspire Future Generations.

“In the future, I’d like to get involved with youth wrestling,” he said. “I got my start in third grade. Without youth wrestling, who knows where I would have been? I want to give back.

“There is a lot of personal growth through wrestling. There are some key core values — work ethic, discipline, commitment, self-awareness, perseverance, humility — and I carry that mindset with me on this trail. I know this is going to be a tremendous challenge, but that’s why I’m doing it.

“Just like in every match I wrestled, I’ll be a little nervous,” Andy said. “But after that first step, it’s one step after another, one mile after another, one state after another and before you know it, it’s done! God-willing, I’m going to finish this thing. It’s not going to sway me.”

(Sandy Stevens is a long-time public address announcer of national and international events and was named to the National Hall of Fame in 1998.)


Help Andy meet his goal!

The wrestling community and others can support Andy Rein as he dedicates his “thru-hike” of the Appalachian Trail to secure the future of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame through “Power Beyond,” its first-ever Endowment Campaign.

To aid the campaign’s fundraising goal of $5 million, Andy will walk roughly 5 million steps — 2,197 miles — while hiking through 14 states from Georgia to Maine, a journey he estimates will take him five months to complete.

You can follow Andy’s journey via Instagram @nationalwrestlinghof or @andyrein84 or on Facebook @andyrein84 or @nwhof.

Share in Andy’s intensive effort to raise money for the NWHOF Endowment Fund at