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InterMat Reads: The Wrestler

Imagine having the ability to share what you know now with yourself when you were a kid. Think of all the knowledge, wisdom and experience you could impart with the younger you.

That's the idea behind Michael Fessler's third book, "The Wrestler: A Life of Passion and the Pursuit of Greatness" -- now available -- which the author has described as being "today's me talking to my younger self"… all with the idea of helping today's wrestlers gain more from their careers, including a thoughtful perspective while they're still competing.

The genesis of "The Wrestler"

Chances are, you're already familiar with Mike Fessler. The former wrestler is the author of two popular books -- "Faith and Wrestling: How the Role of a Wrestler Mirrors the Christian Life" and "They're Just Not Interested: Rediscovering Our Faith and Approaching Non-Believers with the Faith of a Wrestler."

Now, in addition to authoring those two books which bring together faith and wrestling, the former Missouri high school state champ and Minnesota state finalist who went on to wrestle for one season at Cal State Bakersfield has been writing a blog for MissouriWrestling.com, a website geared primarily for wrestlers within the state of Missouri. (It is not affiliated with the University of Missouri and its wrestling program.)

"I grew up in Missouri until my sophomore year of high school," Fessler told InterMat. He won a Missouri state wrestling title as a freshman, but then the family relocated to Minnesota for his father's career.

"Jonathan Dickson, the individual who runs the MissouriWrestling.com website, was seeking to add additional content," Fessler continued. "He liked my 'Faith and Wrestling' book, and wanted me to write a monthly blog -- 4 or 5 paragraphs each -- where I share a story that has an impact on wrestling overall, or provides a new perspective on how to look at the sport differently."

Fessler's blog has had an impact well beyond the borders of Missouri.

"What I've written for the blog has been shared around the country," according to Fessler. "I thought 'maybe there's something here worth sharing to the wider wrestling community.'"

"I wanted to give back to the entire wrestling community."

"There was one piece in particular that bolstered my inspiration to write 'The Wrestler' even more. It's a poetic piece called 'If I could do it all over again.'" said Fessler. "You can actually find this piece in the epilogue of the book. I was sitting and reflecting on my life in the sport, and in about 15 minutes, 'If I could do it all over again' was written. I shared it on my MissouriWrestling.com blog and it became the most widely-viewed and shared of any of my blog articles, reaching almost 100,000 people within a very short period of time."

While Fessler's blog serves as the inspiration for "The Wrestler", the former wrestler makes clear that 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.

It all comes together

Fessler compared the actual writing process of "The Wrestler" to that of the two books that brought together concepts of wrestling and Christian faith.

Michael Fessler
"Writing the previous two books was a long process," Fessler disclosed. "I would have to set (each book) aside for a time as I worked on it."

"With this book, I immersed myself into my wrestling career and thoughts about it. I really enjoyed the process, as the ideas flowed."

"I think of the book as being today's me talking to my younger self," according to Fessler. "I can't go back and redo my wrestling career, or change the attitude I had as a young wrestler."

"Things we sometimes do as youngsters, we don't always see the meaning or the consequences."

"I was introduced to wrestling at age 6. We were a family all-consumed by wrestling," said Fessler, sharing how his family took trips to wrestling events all over the country. "Then again, wrestling is not your typical 'recreational' sport. It's all-consuming. I didn't have any perspective to deal with training, winning or losing. I didn't always appreciate the good things about the sport."

"I remain very passionate about the sport. The thoughts I share in 'The Wrestler' are ones I wish I could have known when I was competing."

"There's someone younger who isn't getting everything they could out of the sport. It's all about the journey. Sadly, too many of us don't appreciate it until it's over."

"Wrestling can change a person's self-worth for better or worse," Fessler continued. "I hope a young person could read this book and gain a wider perspective on things."

"I'd like to think I give some past wrestlers a voice, helping to express what they would communicate to a young wrestler about what's really important."

A couple wrestling champs of the past weighed in with their thoughts about "The Wrestler."

"… ('The Wrestler') covers a wide range of topics and areas that will help wrestlers young and old better understand the sport and the life lessons that go along with it," said Chuck Yagla, two-time NCAA Division I champ for the University of Iowa. "A few of my favorite topics addressed are the mental game, humility, passion, and taking advantage of your mentors. Very insightful information on all areas…"

Chad Parks, head wrestling coach at Shawnee Heights High School in Kansas, said this about "The Wrestler": "Each chapter provides us with real-life stories filled with wisdom that will allow coaches and parents to see deep into the hearts and minds of their athletes. The lessons learned throughout the journey will apply to current wrestlers immediately, guiding them to greater success on the mat and beyond. Overall, this book provides the perspective that wrestling is a gift, and when viewed as such, has the ability to prepare all involved for the most important match -- the match of life."

"The Wrestler" is easily Michael Fessler's most accessible book, which is saying a lot, in that, in his previous two books, this former wrestler and student of theology made potentially complex issues involving Christian faith clear and relatable to readers of various backgrounds. In his new book "The Wrestler", Fessler has crafted chapters are concise and compellingly written, with a clear presentation that will draw in readers of all ages.

To purchase "The Wrestler: A Life of Passion and the Pursuit of Greatness" visit Amazon.com.

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