GREEN RIVER – Life challenges come in all shapes and sizes. There are those who lay down and those who decide to make the best of what life has offered. Recently, archers in Green River had the opportunity to visit with one man who has gone above and beyond.
Matt Stutzman, from Tooele, Utah, made his way to the Red Barn in Green River to meet with archery fans young and old alike. Stutzman has won many of the major archery tournaments in the world and is currently ranked fourth in the world.
So what makes Stutzman different from other archers? He was born without arms.
Stutzman said there is no medical reason he was born without arms and otherwise was a healthy baby. Overwhelmed with the idea of raising this special child, Matt’s birth parents put him up for adoption when he was four-months-old. He soon was adopted and began his incredible journey.
Stutzman’s fascination with archery started at a young age. His father bow hunted, and he said like any young boy, he wanted to be like his dad. That is when he first started the process of learning how to shoot a bow.
While he always had a love for archery, it really did not take flight until recently. Stutzman said he was a stay at home dad in 2010 while his wife worked to make ends meet. Knowing he had to do something to support his family, Stutzman asked his wife to take money they really did not have and purchase a bow for him so he could go hunting to fill the freezer with meat for his family.
It was shortly after hunting season when a friend urged him to go to an archery tournament in 2011.
“It was my first, and I have been hooked ever since,” he said.
Not only did he enjoy the tournament, he soon learned he was very good at it. It was then when he started shooting every day for eight hours a day.
“I made it my Job,” Stutzman explained.
Throughout his life, Stutzman said he has been super competitive. He said it didn’t matter if he was playing chess or playing soccer he wanted to win.
Like many children, Stutzman also dreamed about being a professional in something when he grew up. As Stutzman continued to improve, he said it soon became a reality to him that he was good, and this could be a way to make his professional dream come true.
“I often think to myself, why didn’t I stay with this when I was 12,” Stutzman laughed.
Stutzman is now ranked fourth in the world and has won every major competition from the Pan Am games to winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In many tournaments throughout the United States, he shoots against able-bodied archers.
As he travels to compete in tournaments, he often makes stops to talk to the youth about his journey and to inspire them to go after everything they have always dreamed of. He tells about when he started to learn to shoot, he would pull with his teeth. He explains to the groups there would be times it was so painful he did not want to go on, but no matter how frustrated he would get or how painful it was, he continued to drive towards his goal. Once he gets to this point in his story, he does not need to say much more. He just shows them what drive and determination can do as he demonstrates his shooting ability.
“Life isn’t going to be easy, and everyone will deal with hardships,” he said. “When you work hard and surround yourself with the right people, the sky’s the limit.”
With his silver medal sitting on the table next to him, Stutzman spoke about what he was the most proud of. No, it is not the medals or the trophies. No, it is not the world rankings or the recognition.
Stutzman said what he is most proud of is he has been able to be the father who now provides for his family.
“I am proud I am not moping around the house,” Stutzman said. “I am paying the bills and providing for my family. That means the most to me.”