Ziegler reaches new heights in handball with national title

Dale Ziegler was delighted to win a national title in handball.

 

For years, Dale Ziegler has looked up to handball champion Norm Young. He doesn’t have to anymore.

Ziegler, a Viera resident, defeated Young 21-20, 21-17 in the United States Handball Association’s 70th 3 Wall National Championship in the 80-and-older division.

“I was behind in both games,’’ said Ziegler, a native of Joliet, Ill., who has lived in Brevard County since 1979. “I just put up some better serves and had some determination.’’

The two had never played before August’s championship match.

“Norm has won numerous national titles,’’ said Ziegler, who worked in contracts for NASA during his working years. “I could not compete with him. He was always a much better player than me. I could win at the state level, but not at the national level. I was never high enough up in the bracket to play him or I was in a different side of the bracket.’’

The pandemic in both 2020 and 2021 provided Ziegler with the time to hone his handball game. Still, there were unexpected obstacles.

“In February, I couldn’t walk one block without pain in my legs,’’ Ziegler said. “I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. I needed stents in both legs to increase the blood flow. I also needed two stents around my heart.’’

Ziegler nearly had to have his left leg amputated.

“This all took place in a nine-month period where I had four hospital stays,’’ Ziegler said. “The doctors and modern medicine did me well. I’m a competitor, I’m stubborn and I’m determined. I decided to go give the nationals one last try.’’

After the various procedures, Ziegler was able to return to playing handball within a week. That kept him sharp.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Dr. (Dwayne) Badgett, my vascular surgeon, and Dr. (Subroto) Acharjee, my cardiologist,’’ Ziegler said. “Older athletes have to realize that you can never quit and you can never give up.’’

Not only is Ziegler a national champion, but he also is a spokesman for the sport of handball. Winter residents seek him out for places to play, and he’s willing to share his cell phone number (321-544-0363) to help others improve their game through consistent practice.

“There aren’t a lot of younger people into the sport, except in bigger cities,’’ Ziegler said. “If anyone wants to play handball, they can contact me.’’