Some guys buy sports cars to cope with turning 40. Gökhan Mekik flew 5,500 miles, tugged on trousers of water buffalo hide, slathered his upper body in olive oil and went to battle in the Turkish national sport of oil wrestling. In body and heart, the Turkish-born Charlottean went home again. You might never have heard of the slippery sport. Mekik himself had never fought, but he comes from Edirne, home of the oil wrestling tournament called Kirkpinar, which has been staged each summer since 1362. Wrestling there is deeply rooted in family and honor, and the right to be called pehlivan – it means “hero” – passed from father to son through generations. It’s part of a heritage that Mekik had once brushed aside but ached to reclaim. After moving to the U.S. in 1999, he worked for US Airways and now runs an expedited-shipping company. But he sometimes thought, as he grew older, of how little he knew of his native culture. Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW When a 2008 motorcycle accident broke his legs and left him in a two-week coma, Mekik pondered the missed chances in his life. “In the hospital, I started feeling like I wish I had done this, done that,” he said. “That became more painful than my legs.” Depressed and out of shape, he thought of Kirkpinar. The tournament’s age limit is 40, which Mekik would reach the following year, in 2012. That left no time to waste. He yearned to experience sweaty grappling on grass. Charlotte resident Gökhan Mekik (center) wrestles an opponent in a frame from “The Oil Wrestler,” a documentary about his quest to compete in the Turkish national sport at age 40. Brian Felsen Electrolyte Productions “He is extremely curious, and when he’s interested in something, he wants to understand as deeply as possible,” said his wife, Jane. “He obviously has an adventurous spirit and likes physical challenges.” Mekik thought his unlikely quest could also shine light on his homeland, an impulse that once led him to open Charlotte’s only Turkish restaurant and, in 2014, to start a school that taught Turkish language and culture. Both are now closed, although