Last Chances

What has been said about the book so far???

Mark Schultz of the movie “Foxcatcher” has said…

“…This may be the finest description of what wrestling is really like….it will be a wrestling-cult classic.” – Mark Schultz Olympic Gold Medal Winner and World Champion

“…good plot twists and description of H.S. wrestling.” –  Ben Askren NCAA Champion and Olympian

The book is now available in paperback through CreateSpace.

It is also in eBook form for Kindle and for Nook.

Dedicated to all those who “aspire to be”

ATTENTION: In celebration of the release of the movie “Foxcatcher”, the book is now being sold at a 20% reduced price of $12.00

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The Wrestling Room

Walk into the room and you immediately understand the amount of work being done within it.  Not by anything that you see initially, but just the feeling of heat and humidity that hits you as you cross the threshold.  The windows are fogged and there seems to be a mist floating in the air as thick as a summer in Southern Mississippi.  There is condensation on the walls and pools of sweat can be found all around the mat.  Upon further examination, you see combatants who have the look of threatening dangerous men, not pimple faced teens who beg for the car on a Saturday night.  Eyes are focused, muscles are straining, and there is struggle and anguish with each movement.  It’s remarkable to realize that three hours ago these menacing warriors were struggling over the Pythagorean Theorem or explaining why their History assignment wasn’t completed.

Battles continue around the room as wrestlers shout and push each other beyond what most people can even imagine let alone actually experience.  The ages range from fourteen to eighteen.  Some are still looking for their first real date while one team member has just recently become a father.  There are young men of gargantuan strength and fierceness side by side with utter children.  But, because they all share the same pain, the same desire, the same goals, they also share the same respect and the same bond.  They comprehend something that other athletes will never understand.  They understand the grueling aspects of a sport that is misjudged and underappreciated.  They recognize the discipline and share in the sacrifice of struggling through that pain in virtually anonymity.  They know what it is to be a wrestler.

Wrestling is almost cult-like when compared to other sports in high school, or anywhere else for that matter.  Football and basketball are kings while wrestling teams are relegated to practicing on stages or basements or hallways or balconies.  On any October Friday night, high school stadium stands are filled with students, alumni, teachers, and local fans not even associated with the school, to watch high school football. They will cheer and sit through frigid temperatures, rain and wind. Yet, in February, the stands are empty on most gyms during a wrestling meet.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the stands at a wrestling tournament who is not a family member of a wrestler. Wrestling fans are either former wrestlers or related to a wrestler.  You almost have to be drafted into or born into the sport.

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A Journey

The wrestling mat, itself, can be a lonely place.  Whatever weakness you have can be exposed for all to see.  There is no hiding and no teammate to cover it up.  A wrestler is alone and teammates are there, not to resolve, but to only share in the solitude.  Spencer, however, is even more secluded than most.  He comes home to a small empty house while mom waits tables.  The house is dark and quiet with only the kitchen light on.  There’s always a plate of dinner left for him in the fridge, always, every night, consistent and predictable.  He’ll usually do homework or sometimes not.  There are days when he just crashes into his bed and stares to the ceiling.  It doesn’t take much detective work to recognize that wrestling is the primary activity in this household.  The house deco is kind of a “Midwestern grappler” motif.  Pictures of Spencer litter the living room and his bedroom displays trophies and medals of successes in years past.  There is one picture that is curious and stands apart from all the others. 

It’s a photo of a lone pair of wrestling shoes, worn and used, resting at the center of a mat. Almost cliché, some wrestlers have been known to leave their shoes on the mat to signify their last match and their exodus from the sport.  The shoes in the photo belongs to Jon Trenge who upon winning his NCAA match for third place in the nation, left his shoes on the mat and walked off to tell the crowd that he was done.  His hand raised in victory and his journey complete.  Although that journey’s destination was not a national championship, it was one that demanded admiration and respect.  It was also a glaring reminder to Spencer that this sport of wrestling that has identified him for the past nine years must someday come to an end and that his journey will also, someday be complete.  All that remains to be seen is where that journey will ultimately lead.

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Saying Goodbye

The routine was the same each night for the past few weeks but this night Spencer and his mom didn’t go home.  There was a special room for families of the terminally ill. Spencer slept on a couch and the grown-ups sat, drank coffee and hugged.  The television provided a faint background sound as they waited.  They talked about Matt’s struggles and his bravery through the past year.  Each of them had their own last moments with Matt so that he could say good-bye and his survivors could have closure.  Spencer was sound asleep, exhausted from the last few days.  The adults in the room would often glance over to him with concern and a certain amount of pity.

A few days before, Matt had his talk with Spencer as Spencer’s mom watched silently at the back of his dark and quiet hospital room.  Matt had been trying to put together the words that would prepare his son for what was to come.  How can a father explain death, life, love, girls, growing up and tell a son so many important things in just a few moments?  They talked about God, and heaven, about trying his best, and being honest, and about being a man.  They talked about being good for his mother and remembering that dad is proud of him and would always be watching.  Janice Howard cried and smiled all at the same time as her husband gave his words of wisdom to young Spence. Spencer didn’t quite understand everything his father was telling him but it didn’t matter.  He did understand that whatever his hero was telling him, it was important.  He listened carefully and fought hard not to cry when Matt started to choke up.  Spencer couldn’t hold on any longer and began to break down.  Children understand much more than adults give them credit for and Spencer just gave his father a squeeze and took a deep, but stammered, breath. Then, with a dry mouth he tried to swallow and then bravely forced out some words, “I’ll be okay daddy, don’t worry.”

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