2016 Holiday Gift Guide

A Wrestling Life, Four Days to Glory and Vision Quest are among the many wrestling books available

Whether you're seeking a special gift for a youngster just strapping on the headgear for the first time, someone who hasn't stepped onto the mat in many years, or a diehard fan of any age, books about their favorite sport -- wrestling -- are winning gift ideas. Here are some titles which have come off the presses in the past couple years. (To order a specific book -- or for more information -- click on the book's title.)


To Be The Best: Overtime

"To Be The Best: Overtime" -- just released -- is the third in a series of young adult novels by H.L. Hertel that follows the Castle brothers through the peaks and valleys of their high school wrestling careers. All three "To Be The Best" novels provide thrilling plot twists that will keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next ... along with well-crafted, incredibly realistic descriptions of what goes on in the wrestling practice room as well as in actual matches. Each book is available individually, or as a three-part set with special price savings.

Dogs Don't Talk

At the heart of "Dogs Don't Talk" -- a young adult novel by wrestler mom Nancy May -- is a high school wrestler, Benjamin McDowell, a 16-year-old who is also an honor student and an avid reader. All he wants is "a reasonably hot-looking girlfriend" (to quote the book) which he thinks will help him fit in with his wrestling teammates, and the overall student body. "Fitting in" is also an issue at home for Benjamin, as he lives with an older brother who is autistic, a younger sister who has challenges of her own as she tries to find her place in the world, a demanding father who expects him to maintain his grades and win a state title to help him land a scholarship at a good college, and a mother who converses with the family dog Rosie -- the genesis for the book's title.

Real-life stories

Leon Bailey: The Dream

Leon Bailey is one of the pioneers of amateur wrestling in the U.S. who opened the door to other athletes of color in the sport. He was the first African-American to wrestle for the U.S. Navy at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island in the mid-1960s who then became a Navy coach... and became the first black to win an individual title at the AAU New England Six-State Championships in 1964. The Baltimore native shares his life story in his inspiring new "Leon Bailey - The Dream" book that's uplifting and informative for readers of all ages.

Dale Anderson's A Spartan Journey

Dale Anderson is blessed to have been coached by three all-time great legends of wrestling -- Bob Siddens at Waterloo West High School in Iowa, and Grady Peninger and the late Doug Blubaugh at Michigan State -- as well as being life-long friends with Dan Gable. In his "A Spartan Journey: Michigan State's 1967 Miracle on the Mat" Anderson writes what he described as a "travelogue of my (wrestling) life" that culminates with the MSU Spartans becoming the first Big Ten mat program to win an NCAA team title nearly 50 years ago after having been cellar-dwellers just three years earlier.

Jim Kalin's Mustang

When naming the storied high school wrestling programs in the U.S., 2009 Dellinger Award-winning Amateur Wrestling News writer and second-generation Ohio State wrestler Jim Kalin makes a powerful case in his book "Mustang" that Maple Heights High School in suburban Cleveland and its head wrestling coach Mike Milkovich should be included in any list of all-time legacy mat programs. You don't have to be a Clevelander to enjoy "Mustang"; Kalin weaves together threads that connect a number of big names in wrestling who never set foot in Maple Heights but are instantly recognizable to just about any fan of the sport.

Rollie Peterkin's The Cage

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 at the NCAAs 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.

Matt Brown's Mission: Accomplished

Penn State's Matt Brown has accomplished much in his young life. Three Utah high school state titles. Three Big Ten championships. Three-time NCAA All-American. 2015 NCAA 174-pound championship. Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) member. A bachelor's and master's degree from Penn State. Numerous academic awards. If that weren't enough, Matt Brown took two years out of his college career to serve on a mission in Africa for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Oh, and he got married. He shares his impressive, inspirational and varied life story in his book "Mission: Accomplished: Reflections of an NCAA National Champion."

Dan Russell's Finish Strong

"How do wrestlers navigate their lives after wrestling?" Those are the words of Dan Russell, who, after achieving great things as a wrestler -- as a four-time high school state champ, four-time NCAA Division II champ, and two-time U.S. Olympic alternate in Greco-Roman -- found himself with thoughts of "What more is there?" To deal with those feelings, Russell wrote "Finish Strong: The Dan Russell Story," a wrestler memoir addressing deeper, more philosophical matters that will resonate with anyone who's lived life, even if they've never pulled on a singlet.

Buried in the Maple Leaves

Harry Geris was a three-time Olympic wrestler, stepping onto the mat for his adopted country, Canada ... as well as heavyweight wrestler for Oklahoma State. He was also something of a Forrest Gump or Zelig -- an individual whose life intersected with so many other significant individuals and events in wrestling in the U.S. and beyond... with a number of these encounters that opened doors for new opportunities in his life and career. "Buried in the Maple Leaves: The Untold Story of North American Wrestling Legend Harry Geris" by Shawn Geris, Harry's son, tells a compelling story of perseverance, of never giving up, of taking the extra mile to pursue dreams.

Carl Adams' Think It. Believe It. Do It.

Carl Adams has done it all: a two-time NCAA champ at Iowa State, two-time national freestyle titlist, a college coaching career of nearly four decades, and an entrepreneur who has developed unique products to help make wrestlers -- and the sport -- better. Now Adams shares his life story -- and his secrets to help anyone find success in any endeavor -- in his new book "Think It, Believe It. Do It." Part memoir but mostly a guidebook for readers to achieve their own brand of success, Adams shares his inspiring stories of how he overcame the odds to achieve greatness, offering ideas and guidance that readers will find motivational and practicable.


Wrestle Like a Girl

In 1989, the first U.S. women's World wrestling team consisted of two wrestlers and one coach. Contrast that early start with the tremendous growth in women's wrestling, and recent successes such as Helen Maroulis becoming the first U.S. woman to win a gold medal at this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. "Wrestle Like a Girl" by esteemed wrestling writers Craig Sesker and Jamie Moffatt shares the stories of women who overcame stereotypes, discrimination and other obstacles to make their mark in the sport. To order, visit; all proceeds go to support this organization.

Michael Fessler's The Wrestler

Former Missouri high school state champ and Minnesota state finalist Michael Fessler has just completed his third book, "The Wrestler: A Life of Passion and the Pursuit of Greatness", which he has described as being "today's me talking to my younger self" ... all with the idea of helping today's wrestlers gain thoughtful perspective on their careers while they're still competing. Fessler, who in addition to authoring two books relating to faith and wrestling, has been writing a blog for which has been well-received throughout the nation ... and while it serves as the inspiration for "The Wrestler", most of the new book's thoughts and reflections on the sport are new, not contained in his blog, nor in his previous two books.

Michael Fessler's They're Just Not Interested

A couple years after writing his incredibly popular "Faith and Wrestling" book, former wrestler and graduate of theology Michael Fessler crafted a follow-up book geared to a wider audience -- yet still very applicable for the wrestling community -- titled "They're Just Not Interested: Rediscovering Our Faith and Approaching Non-Believers with the Faith of a Wrestler." As Fessler told InterMat, "I wanted to explore how churches reach out to others -- and how they wrestle with issues in connecting with those who aren't part of the church ... Fifteen percent of Americans consider themselves to be 'spiritual' but don't consider themselves to be Christian. They want to know 'How does spirituality impact my life?'"

Wrestling with Business

There are powerful parallels between the world of business and the sport of wrestling. The elements that mean success on the wrestling mat -- hard work, tenacity, self-control, self-discipline, commitment, drive -- also translate to success in business at all levels, whether as a sales rep or a CEO. Jeff Spain, former NCAA wrestler and now successful life insurance sales and marketing executive, shares his experience, observations and insights into the aspects that make individuals winners in athletics and in business in his book, "Wrestling With Business: How Success on the Mat Leads to Success in Business." While Spain's book offers inspiration to former wrestlers now in the business world, its lessons are applicable to young athletes still in the sport.

Must-Read Reference

Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook, 2016-2017

Compiled by award-winning wrestling writer Tom Elling and updated each year, "Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook" is the go-to source for the sport in the Keystone State. Features every PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) returning wrestler who was in PIAA or PIAST series tournaments, including won-loss records, weight, graduation year and tournament placement. In addition, you'll find every PIAA placer from 1938-2016, as well as placer results for major tournaments featuring Pennsylvania wrestlers.

The History of Collegiate Wrestling

First published in 2005, "The History of Collegiate Wrestling: A Century of Wrestling Excellence" was late wrestling historian Jay Hammond's definitive book covering the first 100 years of intercollegiate wrestling. The original 380-page hardback provides a season-by-season analysis, along with feature articles including profiles of significant wrestlers, coaches and programs, analysis of rules changes, and other elements to add to a reader's understanding of college wrestling through the years. This edition has been updated to provide coverage through the 2016 college season. This hardcover edition (including 2006-2016 addendum) is now available for just $19.95 each through Thursday, Dec. 8. In addition, an updated e-book version is also available.

Legends of Michigan: Cliff Keen

Mention the name Cliff Keen and large numbers of wrestlers and fans will immediately think of the company that provides wrestling gear. However, the man Cliff Keen is much more than an entrepreneur who launched that business. Keen was head coach of the University of Michigan wrestling program for 45 years, the longest tenure of any head coach at the Ann Arbor school ... and an assistant football coach for the Wolverines for 33 years, the longest-serving football coach at Michigan. This monumental book, written by Dave Taylor, is rich with detail on the Michigan wrestling program and is a book no fan of Wolverine sports should be without.

Historical stocking stuffers

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame offers a number of compact, quick-read books on historical aspects of the oldest and greatest sport that make unbeatable stocking stuffers for wrestlers and fans of all ages. Among the titles now available: "The Wrestling Presidents: From Pins to Patriots" ... "Family Ties: An American Wrestling Tradition" (which documents 138 families that have immediate family members who were NCAA Division I All-Americans, Senior World Tem members, or Olympic Team members) ... "The African-American Wrestling Experience" ... and "The Native American Wrestling Experience."



In "Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold," 1984 Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz's memoir, reveals the real story behind why he and his brother Dave Schultz came to the Foxcatcher Farms wrestling training facility owned by multimillionaire John du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical fortune. Mark Schultz's book served as the basis for the 2014 movie of the same name, starring Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as Dave, and Steve Carell as du Pont.

A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable

As a high school student, Scott Schulte first met Dan Gable at a wrestling clinic in Connecticut decades ago, serving as a "dummy" for the iconic wrestler and coach to demonstrate a move. The writer reconnected with Gable in 2012, with the idea of writing a new kind of biography on the Iowa State wrestler and University of Iowa coach who won the gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The two spent considerable time together, with Schulte gathering stories which are shared in "A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable."

A Season on the Mat

Nolan Zavoral's classic "year in the life" book chronicles the dramatic 1996-97 season of the Iowa Hawkeyes, in which Dan Gable led his team -- far from his most talented -- to the national title. "Season on the Mat" takes readers behind the scenes to provide an incredible perspective into how a top collegiate wrestling program works ... along with insights into the legendary coach and how he managed to get the most from his athletes.

Four Days to Glory

In "Four Days To Glory: Wrestling With The Soul Of The American Heartland", Mark Kreidler tells the stories of Jay Borschel and Dan LeClere as they work toward their fourth Iowa high school state wrestling championship. This incredibly well-crafted book reveals the forces that drive young men through a grueling routine of early-morning and late-night workouts, social isolation, and making weight.

Vision Quest

You've seen the 1985 movie "Vision Quest" dozens of times, and worn out multiple copies of its popular soundtrack. But ... have you ever read the book? Terry Davis' "Vision Quest" is a classic coming-of-age novel well worth reading, as it serves up surprises and rewards for readers who can recite lines from the movie in their sleep. Copies sold by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame have been autographed by the author.

For fans of "Vision Quest" novel/movie, here's a gift idea that will wear well: unique T-shirts featuring iconic images of Brian Shute, the undefeated state champion wrestler who was Louden Swain's nemesis, sold by the man who brought Shute to life in the film, Frank Jasper. Visit


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