Four Days to Glory : Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland, by Kreidler, Mark
- ISBN: 9780060823191 | 0060823194
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 10/19/2009
|Locating the Enemy||p. 1|
|Merely Really Good||p. 13|
|The Family Business||p. 19|
|Stick with What Works||p. 29|
|A Specific Desperation||p. 43|
|Saturday in Wyoming||p. 55|
|Only Warm in the Room||p. 73|
|The Ghosts of Gable||p. 79|
|Same Team||p. 111|
|The Youth Movement||p. 121|
|Dealing with It||p. 133|
|They Hand Out Roses||p. 147|
|Moving Day||p. 169|
|Making Things Grow||p. 235|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|
Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland
Locating the Enemy
Jay doesn't plan on his headgear ricocheting across the wrestling mat and spiking against one of his teammates' legs, but he won't be racing over to do anything about it, either. You can hear the slap of plastic on skin from across the gym when it makes contact, but since the teammate caught in the crossfire is both an underclassman and a varsity wrestler in the state of Iowa, he does not so much as throw Jay a look. The boy instead sits there in his chair alongside the mat, hunkered down, the hood of his sweat top pulled around his head to shadow his face. He does not move. There is, his posture suggests, no sting from the spiked headgear, no red mark on his leg from the point of contact. Nothing has happened. And Jay need not apologize for—well, for what is essentially nothing.
But Jay means it, of course—not the ricochet, but the rest of it. He wants his disgust fully visible to anyone inside the gym, which is why he yanks off the equipment and fires it downward in the first place. Let there be no question about his mood after another forfeit. He has sat with the rest of the Linn-Mar team on a yellow-and-black school bus for two solid hours while it shuddered and skidded along the icy rural roadways from Marion to Dubuque, and has done it because he desperately wants the moment that now eludes him. He wants to get out there and beat somebody to death. He wants to wrestle. He needs it. There's no sense in pretending anything else.
This quest is impossible without getting in his work, and that's the thing. Jay cannot become a four-time state champion unless he is in the best shape of his life when the time comes to go for it, and now, in January of 2005, that time is barely a month away and Jay cannot get a freaking match. Opponents run from him, even when they're on the mat. Coaches try to wrestle around him. They all know about Jay Borschel. They'd sooner forfeit the weight category than waste one of their decent wrestlers in a match they figure Jay will win easily. And so they run.
From his place in the bleachers above the gymnasium floor, Jay's father, Jim, sees the forfeit signal and suddenly has had all he can take. "Oh, come ON, coach!" he bellows over the heads of the other Linn-Mar parents and fans, his foghorn voice easily carrying the distance across to the Hempstead High coach, Chuck Hass. Hass never moves, never glances up; he keeps his gaze fixed upon the mat itself. He knows what he's doing.
Hass has just finished ducking Jay by moving away from him a good 171-pound wrestler, a boy named Dan Chmelar, who is ranked among the top ten in the state in Class 3A. But 171 is Jay Borschel's weight, or at least his current weight; in the past, Jay has won state titles at 103, 125 and 152 pounds. Jay already defeated Chmelar once this season, and it wasn't close. Sending Chmelar out there again would have been, for Hass, a points sacrifice straight down the line. The smart move was to skip Jay, concede the forfeit at 171, and save Chmelar for a better matchup, even though it would mean asking him to wrestle at a heavier weight.
And that's exactly what Hass has just done. As soon as Linn-Mar coach Doug Streicher made his move to send Jay to the mat, the avoidance plan went into effect. From the Hempstead side came no activity, no one rising from his chair or loosening up or pulling off his sweats. After checking in at the officials' table, Jay had walked out to center mat, popped from side to side on the balls of his toes and cranked his head from shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the opponent who was not coming. After a few seconds, Jay had seen that his pre-match suspicions were realized—that he would stand alone. After a few more seconds of inactivity from Hempstead, the referee had raised Jay's hand to signal the forfeit.
After the match, Chuck Hass says that as soon as he won the coin flip that forced Streicher to send out his wrestler first, he knew he wasn't going to be letting any of his kids face Jay. "Everybody knows Jay's the hammer," Hass says. "He's going to beat whoever you send out there—and we've got a good kid at that weight. I'd rather take my chances that Dan can get me points at 189 than just give them away against Jay.
"I know it frustrates Jay," the coach says. "We've got a kid at 119 pounds who goes through the same thing. In fact, I think Linn-Mar forfeited to him last year. It's just a part of the game."
And it is the right move for Hass's team. Chmelar shifts to 189 pounds, since wrestlers are allowed to move up in weight classes without penalty, and he wins a decision over the Linn-Mar wrestler there. Hempstead's usual 189-pounder, Justin Whitty, subsequently goes up to 215 pounds and wins a major decision. Those two victories are worth a combined 7 points for Hempstead, and the Mustangs ultimately win by 4, 31 to 27. Linn-Mar, meanwhile, gets the same number of points (6) at Jay's weight for the forfeit as it would have received for a pin, but is denied the emotional lift that comes with seeing Jay manhandle someone from the other team. The Lions get the forfeit, but not the blood.
And Jay? He gets no closer. No closer to the dream at all."That's awful!" Jim Borschel thunders, turning away from the mat in disgust. Jay's mother, Carol, who isn't apt to sit still under the best of circumstances, is unable to contain herself any longer; she pops up . . .Four Days to Glory
Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland. Copyright © by Mark Kreidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland by Mark Kreidler
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