Most wrestler memoirs tend to take readers on a journey of sorts -- a journey that traces the subject's life, from the first time he/she took up the sport, and usually ending triumphantly with a national title or Olympic medal.
Former Penn wrestler Rollie Peterkin's new book "The Cage: Escaping the American Dream" takes readers on his own life journey that is something of a globe-hopping adventure tale, starting in Philadelphia and concluding in Spain, with stops along the way at Wall Street, MMA fights in Peru, the Amazon River, Great Britain and Paris, with a steady stream of mind-blowing experiences along the way.
Peterkin's new, self-published memoir is now available for purchase at Amazon.com.
Meet Rollie Peterkin
A native of Wellesley, Mass., Peterkin was first introduced to wrestling at age 7. "I had to travel a lot for meaningful competition," Peterkin told InterMat. In his quest to a become better wrestler, Peterkin connected with Kendall Cross, an assistant coach at Harvard at the time, who "helped bring me to a higher level" according to Peterkin, who describes Cross as "a friend to this day."
Rollie PeterkinPeterkin made his presence known nationally by twice winning Junior/Cadet National Championship titles at Fargo ... then, as a junior, enrolled at New Jersey-based Blair Academy, home to one of nation's premier prep wrestling programs. "All the guys in the room are killers," is how Peterkin described the level of competition at wrestling practice. That crucible - along with actual dual-meet and tournament competition - helped advance Peterkin's mat career and his standing within the wrestling community.
Peterkin was highly recruited by a number of colleges ... but the Massachusetts product sought an Ivy League education. "I chose Penn because of Wharton, the number one business school," Peterkin told InterMat.
Interesting, Peterkin doesn't have much to say about his college mat career as a Quaker in "The Cage", but, rather uses it as springboard for the rest of his life's adventures.
"I qualified for nationals [NCAAs] three consecutive years," Peterkin wrote. "Each year, I beat many of the top competitors during the season. I won over 100 collegiate matches, which was a notable achievement by itself. But that didn't help me at the NCAA tournament, where I suffered heartbreak the same round for three years in a row. I had been working towards this moment for the previous seventeen years of my life, and it all came down to one day in March. And I failed."
The opening chapter of "The Cage" zeroes in on the third and final heartbreak of Peterkin's collegiate career, at the 2011 NCAAs held at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia ... the city that's home to University of Pennsylvania. "It was the last wrestling match of my college career and I had gotten pinned," Peterkin wrote. "If I had won, I would have been guaranteed a spot on the podium as an NCAA All-American. It was something I had always dreamed about, and this year was my last chance. I had beaten many top-ranked wrestlers during the season, but, for now, for the third year in a row, I had fallen short and I was done forever."
"I think most guys aren't satisfied with the way their careers end," Peterkin told InterMat. "We're so competitive you don't want your career to end with anything less than a win."
At least Peterkin could console himself with the knowledge he had a job on Wall Street waiting for him upon graduation. But he had no idea of the further adventures awaiting him beyond the business world ... adventures that the former Penn wrestler would share in "The Cage."
How "The Cage" came together
"Former wrestler leaves Wall Street to fight in MMA in Peru" is how Peterkin described "The Cage" in what he referred to as an "elevator pitch" to someone wanting to know the basics about the book ... but it's much more than that.
"I initially wanted to write a book about MMA and feared that the travel stories and the girlfriend stuff would get in the way," Peterkin told InterMat.
"I had written a blog while in MMA in Peru," Peterkin continued. "As I was blogging, I had friends who told me, 'You should write a book.'"
"I worked from those (blog entries) for the book."
"I started actually writing the book after my trips around Peru ... I would write every day, about 1,000 words a day," according to Peterkin. "I think that all the discipline of having been a wrestler, including cutting weight, transferred to my writing."
Peterkin admitted he wasn't much of a writer at Penn - at least in the strictly academic sense of writing papers and other class assignments - but he did maintain a wrestling blog while in college, and kept a personal journal.
That said, Peterkin wrote "The Cage" with an audience in mind.
"I tried to write it as if the reader was looking over my shoulder," Peterkin said. "After all, the Amazon, Peru, MMA - all those are pretty much inaccessible to most of us. I wanted to take readers along for the journey."
"In my mind, I thought it would be an MMA book which would end with my winning a title."
Instead, life got in the way ... which made for more adventures for Peterkin to share in "The Cage."
"Originally, the book ended with my leaving Peru," said Peterkin. "However, lots of interesting things happened since."
"All those challenges have helped not only to define me, but also to fortify me."
Doing things his way
Rollie Peterkin chose the self-publishing route to bring "The Cage" to readers.
"I didn't even consider the traditional 'get a publisher' route," Peterkin said. "Self-publishing is great for editorial control."
"There are a lot of challenges. It takes a lot of work to self-publish, lots of research. I hired an editor, got a graphic designer for the cover and inside design."
"I focused on writing it, and making it the best it could be."
Peterkin's "The Cage" takes readers inside worlds that most of us will never know first-hand. The daily adrenaline rush of working long hours at an investment bank ... and the big-time partying that took place after-hours, only to show up back at the office early the next morning to do it all over again. The intense workouts preparing for an MMA fight ... and the physical and mental combat inside the cage that ravages mind and body. A front-row seat for a cockfight. Heart-pounding travel adventures in exotic locations well beyond what most of us would experience on vacation.
Yet "The Cage" also manages to incorporate elements that are universal for everyone, such as the heartbreak of when a girlfriend dumps you.
"The Cage" reads like a novel - one of those classic coming-of-age stories you read back in school. Peterkin's sometimes-crazy, even surreal travel experiences and you-are-there immediacy are reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's iconic novel "On the Road" ... only Peterkin's adventures are global in location and scope. It's the memoir of a wrestler unlike any other you'll ever read.
To learn more about Rollie Peterkin's "The Cage: Escaping the American Dream", visit his website. The book is available for purchase online at a number of websites, including Amazon.com.
Rochester Adams Wrestling