InterMat Rewind: Strobel

Mark Palmer

10/29/2009
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

Oregon high school state champion. Two-time NCAA champion from Oregon State. Administrator at USA Wrestling. Coach for John duPont's Team Foxcatcher. Head coach at Lehigh. All of these describe Greg Strobel's long-time involvement in wrestling.

However, even the most obsessive wrestling fans may not know about other aspects of Strobel's life as a devoted husband and father to two daughters, an avid fly fisherman, passionate about precision woodworking, and, since July 2008, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations at Lehigh.

The multiple dimensions of Greg Strobel's life and career are now revealed in Strobel: Stories From a Life With Wrestling, a brand-new 175-page book from Jamie Moffatt, produced by Exit Zero Publishing, Inc.

This is Moffatt's third wrestling book. Two years ago, he wrote Wrestlers at the Trials, sharing the stories of wrestlers fighting for spots on U.S. Olympic teams from 1960-1988; in 2003, Moffatt teamed up with Roger Olesen on A Turning Point, which provided a fascinating look at the 1953 NCAAs at Penn State and the champs crowned there.

With Strobel, Moffatt continues a thread established by his previous works -- providing a rather personal, you-are-there journey through wrestling history -- by telling the story of one man immersed in wrestling from an early age, in his own voice.

Meet Greg Strobel

Greg Strobel (Photo/Strobel)
Gregory Oscar Strobel was born in Montana on August 17, 1952, the fourth son of eight children. He was introduced to wrestling by his brothers ... but truly came into his own in the sport at Scappoose High School in Oregon, where he won three state titles (1968-1970). After turning down an offer from Oklahoma State to wrestle, Strobel chose Oregon State, where he competed for long-time coach Dale Thomas (who had been a member of the legendary Cornell College of Iowa wrestling team that won the 1947 NCAA team title). As a Beaver, Strobel was 126-8-1, for an incredible .940 winning percentage. He was a three-time NCAA All-American, three-time Pacific 8 (now Pac-10) Conference champ, and a two-time NCAA champ at 190 pounds in 1973-1974, winning Outstanding Wrestler honors at the 1973 national championships.

After earning his Master's degree from Oregon State, Greg Strobel spent three years as a coach at Roseburg High in Oregon ... then returned to the Corvallis school to serve as an assistant coach for Dale Thomas, with the hope of replacing the long-serving coach upon retirement. However, when Thomas revealed he had no intentions of leaving the coaching job anytime soon, Strobel headed to Stillwater, Oklahoma to work at the then-headquarters of USA Wrestling. As National Teams Director for eight years, Strobel saw the world by attending international wrestling events ... and witnessed an endless parade of bosses. In 1991, Strobel was hired by John duPont as head coach at his Foxcatcher Farms facility outside Philadelphia. In 1995, Strobel got back into the college wrestling world by being hired as head coach at Lehigh University.

The birth of a book

When asked why he wrote a book on Greg Strobel, Jamie Moffatt cited Strobel's diverse wrestling resume: "His career covers so much ground -- an impressive high school career, wrestling for Dale Thomas at Oregon State, his involvement with USA Wrestling and Foxcatcher, and then Lehigh. I figured he must have so many great stories."

Jamie Moffatt
"I approached him in April or May of 2008 at the New York Athletic Club. I kind of knew him from my being an alum of Cornell University and seeing him at dual meets, EIWA championships and NCAAs. I put a bug in his ear about doing a biography. Two days later, he emailed me, saying, 'I think you've got a great idea' and we started work."

"We just started working together. There were no issues, no discussions about how things would be done. Greg is a very trusting person."

"We had lots of interviews," Moffatt continued. "I have 28 tapes from talking to Greg."

Most of the interviews were conducted in person at Lehigh, which is about three hours from Moffatt's home in southern New Jersey.

"As I finished writing a section, I'd send it to him for him to correct any errors. If there was anything questionable or objectionable, we'd talk about it."

Strobel speaks

One of the more appealing aspects of Strobel is that it is written in the coach's voice, more like a memoir than a traditional biography. Brief interviews with other key individuals in his life -- including his wife Donna, their daughters, as well as wrestlers and friends -- are sprinkled throughout where appropriate.

Greg Strobel (Photo/Strobel)
Why did Jamie Moffatt choose a first-person narrative style for the book on Greg Strobel? "He has an incredible memory. He could easily remember things from 20, 30, 40 years ago."

"I really got lucky in terms of his ability to remember things, and his way of telling engaging stories."

"For each interview session, I'd drive up to Lehigh in the morning, then spend 1 ½ to three hours with him in person. He'd start talking wherever we were -- in his office, in the wrestling room -- and really let his hair down."

"We even roomed together to Stillwater for the 2009 induction ceremonies at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame."

"As I started writing, I had to decide what might readers might be interested in reading about," disclosed Moffatt. "A lot of good stuff was left in the editing room."

Even the photos provide additional insight into who Greg Strobel is. Unlike most coaches' biographies that having nothing but pictures of their subject at work in the practice room or yelling from the sidelines, Strobel shares photos from Donna and Greg's scrapbooks, so there are plenty of images of Greg with his family ... sharing good times with friends ... or in solitary pursuits such as fly fishing.

What makes Strobel special

Jamie Moffatt described Greg Strobel as a "really solid guy. Extremely disciplined. A good thinker, very analytical."

"He truly looked out for his wrestlers, both in terms of athletics, and academics"

Greg Strobel
In the section of the book devoted to Strobel's 13 seasons as head coach at Lehigh, he demonstrated his concern for his wrestlers that went beyond teaching technique. For example, he encouraged his athletes to develop interests and skills they could use in the real world, such as public speaking, or taking up golf.

"In college, it's hard for a student to find a mentor," said Moffatt. "Strobel filled that important role for a number of individuals."

That level of care and concern extended to his own family. "Greg's always had very demanding jobs, requiring long hours, lots of travel, time spent away from home. He never lost touch with his family. He would bring them on overseas wrestling trips whenever possible, and include 'family time' away from the event, for sightseeing or relaxing ... He made the girls part of the wrestling room at Lehigh, where they served as team managers. They reveled in these experiences, with warm memories of time spent with wrestling greats like John Smith, Dave Schultz, Bruce Baumgartner."

Another positive attribute of Strobel that Moffatt discovered in writing the book: "Greg is always looking at the big picture of wrestling. He has a different approach to the sport that goes beyond his own program. A broader vision, looking out for the overall success of the sport. He was actively involved in serving on committees for EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association), NCAA, USA Wrestling."

One for the fans

You don't have to be an Oregon State or Lehigh fan to enjoy reading Strobel: Stories From a Life With Wrestling. The book should appeal to anyone who wants to get to know more about all aspects about amateur wrestling, and one of the top wrestlers and coaches of the past 40 years.

"I believe that wrestling fans who read the book will appreciate some insights about coaching -- could be any D1 sport -- that are not usually revealed," said Moffatt. "I think Greg does a great job of taking the reader behind the scenes with his stories in areas like the process of awarding coveted scholarships; the thinking behind making up the season schedule; the value of scouting reports on opponents -- key to some huge Lehigh individual NCAA victories; the handling of bad behavior and 'locker room lawyers' (how Strobel referred to guys who tried to subvert his efforts to build a unified team), and the whole recruiting process and how a team is built."

"I think the reader will find things of interest beyond the headlines, stats and won-loss records that will add value to his or her understanding of the sport."

To learn more about Strobel: Stories From a Life With Wrestling -- or to purchase a copy -- contact InterMat's Mark Palmer (mark@intermatwrestle.com) and he'll forward your request to book author Jamie Moffatt.

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