Most of us don't have the opportunity to follow every move of a national collegiate mat champ and, rarer still, get inside his head. Here's the next best thing: Michael Bonora's brand-new book Wrestling With Your Destiny.
Bonora was a two-time All-American for Rhode Island College who won the 141-pound title at the 2008 NCAA Division III Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In his book, Bonora shares his journey through the sport, from his early days in youth wrestling, through high school in New Jersey, and then in college, culminating at the nationals.
It is what it is
Wrestling With Your Destiny is something of a hybrid. It's not a traditional memoir or autobiography like those from, say, Olympic gold medalists Henry Cejudo or Rulon Gardner. Nor is it one of those how-to-wrestle books with step-by-step instructions detailing specific moves. Nor is it strictly a motivational book intended to fire up a competitor emotionally.
Michael BonoraIn a way, Bonora's book brings elements from each of these types of books together in a compact, 126-page package. Wrestling With Your Destiny takes the reader through Michael Bonora's life, so it is something of an autobiography ... though just about all of it is through the lens of wrestling. The book does incorporate instructional material, but, in the sense of instructions on how to overcome various challenges that any wrestler at any age will face, no matter his or her skill level. And, while it's not one of those rah-rah, "you can do it!" books designed specifically to motivate and inspire athletes to greater performance, Bonora serves up plenty of genuine support and encouragement to which any athlete can relate ... especially in a solitary sport like wrestling.
The back cover provides insight into the intention of the book:
Join Michael Bonora as he recounts the inspiring moments of his wrestling career in hopes of helping you reach your goals. As you dive into this book, you will get a unique glimpse into the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of wrestling. Through unrelenting dedication, Bonora was able to reach his goals and now is passing his knowledge onto you.
Wrestling With Your Destiny takes the reader through Michael Bonora's life in the sport, starting in first grade, and concluding with his last match in college.
Michael Bonora works from the top (Photo/RIC Sports Info)Each chapter title is something of a landmark in his mat career: "High School" "Recruitment" "Rhode Island" "Midlands" "Adversity" "Cedar Rapids." Each chapter ends with "What You Can Take Away From This Chapter" -- a concise checklist that recaps the major lessons to be gleaned from that section of the book, and helps reinforce the "teachable moments" that Michael Bonora struggled through, learned from, and used as a foundation for the future. (Throughout the book there are situations where Bonora recalls a similar situation, thinks about what happened then, and, if a different outcome is desired, takes a different direction.)
The book Bonora wishes he had in school
What was the motivation for writing Wrestling With Your Destiny?
"As a younger wrestler, I wanted a book to help me," said Bonora.
As he wrote in the book's preface, "I could have used a book like this; to hear from someone who had been through an entire academic wrestling career and could share what he had learned. Throughout my career I often sought out sayings to express how I left and people to whom I could relate. I always wondered if I was doing everything possible to perform to the best of my ability. Was I thinking the right thoughts, drilling the correct way, lifting the most important muscles? On these pages, I hope I can show you what worked for me and at the very least point you in the right direction."
Putting pen to paper, then getting it into shape
Perhaps Michael Bonora knew he was destined to write this book. As he said in the interview for this article, "After all my matches, I wrote notes to myself, starting in eight grade ... Every match is a learning experience."
Bonora didn't waste any time turning those notes into the beginnings of a book.
Michael Bonora was an NCAA champion in 2008"The day after winning nationals, I flew to Italy," said the 2008 Division III champ. "I actually started writing it by hand on the trip."
"I wrote it in three months, then started editing it over the course of three years," according to Bonora. "The original manuscript was twice as long as the finished book."
"I originally thought my 90,000-word manuscript was great, but in talking to others -- like Alfred Martino (author of the wrestling novel Pinned) -- I decided it was too long, with too many personal references," Bonora disclosed.
The trimming process wasn't that much different than the challenge of dropping those stubborn last pounds to make weight before a match.
"It was especially hard to take things out," said the author. "I decided to only keep things that progressed the story, or taught a lesson."
"I had a file I called 'Homeless Material' with things like a wrestler's diet, and workout ideas. I decided that much of this information was worth sharing, so I started a blog." (You can access his blog at www.michaelsmat.com)
"I wanted to make it appealing and accessible to younger readers," said Bonora. "I kept thinking about how many wrestlers I know who don't read."
"I wanted it to be relatable and readable for anyone from eighth grade through college ... I thought, perhaps people could relate to an average guy who puts in the time and effort and really wants to succeed."
"I'd like to think someone who reads it is already a step ahead of the competition by being receptive to setting goals and achieving them."
Destined to be a winner
Wrestling With Your Destiny is sure to appeal to any wrestler who has dreams, is willing to set goals, learn from mistakes (and victories), and put in the hard work toward realizing those dreams.
There are a couple specific aspects about the book that truly make it a winner. For starters, there's a powerful you-are-there perspective. Bonora has a gift for taking readers inside his world. His descriptions of some of his matches are especially strong -- not just an account of who's doing what on the mat, but also what's taking place inside his head -- his doubts, his analysis of what his opponent is doing, drawing from similar situations in the past.
The book is also incredibly practical. This isn't pie-in-the-sky fantasy, nor is it heavy-duty philosophical navel-gazing. Instead, Bonora shares useful information that any wrestler at any age or skill level can put to work immediately, and throughout the course of his or her career. The end-of-chapter checklists guide the reader to think about what he's just read ... which reinforces learning.
Whether your goal as a wrestler is to win Olympic gold, bring home a title from the NCAAs, be crowned a champ at your state tournament, or be the starter on your wrestling team, Michael Bonora's Wrestling With Your Destiny is a great guidebook on your journey to make your dreams a reality.
Wrestling With Your Destiny is available for purchase online as a paperback as well as for Kindle from Amazon.com.