However, two years ago, the mood among Cornell University wrestlers, coaches and fans was 180 degrees in another direction. In the fall of 2008, they were concerned about Adam Frey, the Big Red wrestler who was about six months into what would be a nearly two-year battle against testicular cancer.
Frey passed away the day after Christmas, 2009 ... but his spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew him, and, thanks to Adam Frey: A Collection of Blogs and Stories by Adam Frey and Jamie Moffatt, a brand-new 180-page book published by Exit Zero Publishing, Inc.
As the title suggests, the book brings together Adam Frey's blogs -- the unflinching-yet-moving journal he posted online about his cancer battle -- along with recollections and stories from Frey's family and friends.
Moffatt's name should be familiar to wrestling fans. He is the author of last year's Strobel: Stories From a Life With Wrestling about former Oregon State wrestling champ and long-time Lehigh head coach Greg Strobel ... along with Wrestlers at the Trials about wrestlers competing for slots on US Olympic teams from 1960 through 1988. In 2003, Moffatt partnered with Roger Olesen to tell the various stories of the 1953 NCAAs in A Turning Point. This fall, Moffatt was named recipient of the 2010 Bob Dellinger Award from Amateur Wrestling News as the best wrestling writer of the year.
Get to know Adam Frey
Jamie Moffatt used a May 2009 installment of Adam Frey's blog to introduce the late wrestler to readers:
My name is Adam Frey. I am 23 years old. I go to Cornell University where I wrestled and hope to one day wrestle again. During my wrestling career, I was fortunate enough to capture three individual national titles and before getting cancer, was ranked as high as #2 in the USA as a [college] freshman. I have had cancer since around my 21st birthday (January 6, 2007) and was finally diagnosed in March of 2008. I have a very rare strain of cancer that is extremely deadly, but I am still fighting and remain hopeful ...
I have a very strong faith in God and though not knowing His plan, I try my best to follow suit. I guess most people would consider me a funny guy or a wise guy, or some other things. I like to think I have a strong faith and good solid American values of hard work, dedication and faith. I guess if you read all of the 250 posts revealing my life in the most brutal and honest way I can put forth, you will notice an evolution of character. I don't know much about who I was when I wrecked my car into a tree and got sent on a wild ride a year ago March.
The Frey familyFrey launched his blog just three days after being told he had cancer. His three tumors were discovered during a routine, precautionary scan of his body after he had walked away from a serious car wreck on his way to class days after competing at the 2008 NCAA championships.
Before that diagnosis -- and sharing his journey with cancer in words that were often startling in their honesty -- Adam Frey had made a name for himself as a wrestler. A native of Pittsburgh, Frey had been introduced to wrestling as a shy six-year-old who was getting beaten up on the school bus. In a February 2007 InterMat profile, Adam Frey disclosed, "At first I wanted to quit. But mom wouldn't let me. Dad decided to help coach me. We'd work out together in the basement. My next season I was 40-3. I guess it worked out for me."
Instead of staying in Pittsburgh for high school, Adam Frey left home to attend Blair Academy, a highly respected boarding school -- and wrestling powerhouse -- in New Jersey, where he won national wrestling titles ... and the attention of major collegiate mat programs. Frey hit it off with Cornell head coach Rob Koll, and chose the Ivy League school based in Ithaca, New York.
How a blog became a book
How did Jamie Moffatt choose to make Adam Frey the subject of his fourth book? "I finished the Strobel book about a year ago," said the author. "By January of this year, I started thinking about the next project. I had followed Adam's blogs, and, before that, his wrestling career, since I was a Cornell alum myself."
Jamie Moffatt"I met Cindy Frey (Adam's mother) for the first time at the EIWAs (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships, Cornell's mat conference). We sat and talked for about a half-hour. I asked if she would be interested in having a book written about her son, with proceeds going to the Adam Frey Foundation. She thought about it for 30 seconds, then said, 'Let's do it.'"
"I wanted to make it true to Adam -- the whole roller coaster ride of laughs, tears, his faith, especially his faith," Moffatt continued. "He had done such an incredible job expressing all that in his blog."
Early on, Moffatt decided to incorporate Adam Frey's blog. However, as the author said in an interview for this article, "The book would've been too long if I had included all the blogs. About the half the blogs appear, so, hopefully, it's still true to who he was."
Friends and family weigh in with thoughts of their own
"I decided to take his blogs, and add in friends comments," Moffatt continued. "My editor -- Jack Wright from Exit Zero -- and I talked about how to bring it all together. We decided to treat the interviews as sidebars, and put them into the text where appropriate, and make them contrast in the overall design." (The text of Frey's blog is black type on the white page -- what you see in most books -- while the sidebars have white type on black. What's more, the authors of the sidebar stories are clearly identified, so there is no confusion as to who the author of a particular passage is.)
"The blog is so intense, so gripping on its own, it seemed to make sense to break up the installments."
Moffatt does a masterful job in seamlessly weaving the text from Frey's original blog with the comments and remembrances from those who knew him well. The sidebar stories from friends and family are specifically located to complement what Adam Frey had written in his journal.
When asked if there were any challenges getting Adam Frey's friends and family to talk, Jamie Moffatt responded, "I had a couple who didn't respond. Otherwise, everyone in the book was very anxious to talk."
"Without exception, everyone who made a contribution to the book knew Adam as a special person, and all wanted to share."
What made Adam Frey special
So what made Adam Frey so special? "He wasn't just a great wrestler, not just a bright guy," answered Moffatt. "It wasn't all about Adam -- it was about friends, about helping them. He was very compassionate, of great faith and of doing the right thing. For example, initiating the Adam Frey Foundation. It wasn't about talk, but from action to help other families make it through tough cancer treatments."
(According to its website, the Adam Frey Foundation is "is a non-profit organization formed by Adam Frey to give comfort to and provide enjoyment for those receiving treatment for cancer." The Foundation helps people get the food they needed, money for gas to travel to medical appointments, prescriptions, airfare, and other necessities not covered by insurance.)
Jamie Moffatt and Adam Frey met in person only once. "I talked to him about 5-6 weeks before he passed away," Moffatt recalled. "It was at a Penn event. He was there to see his brother Garrett wrestle for Princeton. I gave him the Strobel book, and we started talking. Light conversation, about 10-15 minutes, up in the stands. I had no idea at the time that I would do a book."
A gift of a lasting legacy
In his early 2007 interview with InterMat, when asked about his future plans, Adam Frey responded, "I hope to get into politics. Since I've been three I've wanted to be President."
He chuckled immediately after making that statement, then followed up with, "I want to do my part to make the world a better place."
Adam Frey (Photo/Darl Zehr)By sharing his cancer journey in his blog, Adam Frey did just that. Now, thanks to Jamie Moffatt's Adam Frey: A Collection of Blogs and Stories, the story of the courageous wrestler will reach an even larger audience.
Adam Frey: A Collection of Blogs and Stories is not just about wrestling. Nor is it merely about cancer. It's a book that transcends both issues in a way reminiscent of the classic movie Brian's Song about Brian Piccolo of the Chicago Bears. Both share the same theme of athletes battling courageously, supported by family, friends and faith, to provide a story that is, yes, tragic, but, ultimately uplifting.
For all these reasons, the book would be an excellent choice for teachers and coaches to assign to young readers ... or for parents to give to their sons and daughters, even if they aren't athletes.
To learn more about Adam Frey: A Collection of Blogs and Stories -- or to purchase a copy online -- visit the website www.adamfreybook.com.