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InterMat Reads: Pathfinder Vol. 2

Kevin Emily

You can never have too much of a good thing.

You could say that about "Pathfinder Vol. 2: The Journey Continues" by Kevin Emily. It's his follow-up to his original "Pathfinder: The Journey of the African-American Wrestler" that told the stories of pioneering African-American wrestlers who paved the way for thousands of athletes in subsequent decades, from Harold Henson (first black to wrestle at NCAA championships, 1949) to Simon Roberts (first African-American NCAA champ, 1959), six-time NCAA champ Carlton Haselrig to Toccara Montgomery, groundbreaking women's wrestler.

"Pathfinder Vol. 2" carries on the legacy of Emily's first book by sharing the stories of more recent black wrestling stars -- including Marcus LeVesseur, Greg Jones, Tab Thacker, Bobby Douglas, Jordan Burroughs, J'den Cox and more -- in a very informative yet conversational style. That may well be in large part to the fact that Emily interviews the individuals in his book directly (when possible) rather than rely on articles or the opinions of others as source material.

Meet the author

Kevin Emily is head wrestling coach and special education teacher at Midland Valley High School in Graniteville, S.C. (one of seven wrestling programs in one school district in Aiken County, all started from scratch a couple years ago). Although born in South Carolina, Emily grew up in Waterloo, Iowa -- yep, the hotbed of amateur wrestling that gave the world Dan Gable among others -- where he wrestled at Waterloo Central High. Emily then headed south to wrestle at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, then returned to Waterloo to coach at Gable's high school alma mater, Waterloo West. In his varied career, Kevin Emily has coached 13 state place winners, five state champions, four NHSCA (National High School Coaches Association) All-Americans, one NHSCA National Champion, and one USA Wrestling All-American.

One of Kevin Emily's strongest passions is sharing his knowledge about the oldest and greatest sport with others -- whether it's as a coach for young athletes in his wrestling room, or as an author, sharing with the wrestling community at large the stories about highly accomplished wrestlers who happen to be black.

"When someone does something worthy, their stories need to be told," Emily told InterMat in an interview this summer.

How "Pathfinder Vol. 2" came together

How does a full-time classroom instructor and high school wrestling coach find time to write a book such as "Pathfinder Vol. 2"?

"Whatever you want to do, you can do it if you put your mind to it," according to Kevin Emily.

"Having the first book published helps," said Emily.

"As I start the process, I reach out to people. Facebook really helps me get in touch with the individual I want to write about, or at least a friend or family member."

"It also helps that some of my subjects are people I already know because they've participated in some of my wrestling camps," Emily continued.

"Everyone I have contacted has said yes."

Kevin Emily interviews his subjects directly, either in person or over the phone. Unless they are deceased. For instance, to write about the late Tab Thacker -- the heftiest NCAA heavyweight champ who went on to a career in movies before passing away in 2007 -- Emily read Thacker's obituary, then reached out to his widow and surviving brother.

It's also a matter of incredible time management. Emily does the bulk of his information-gathering and writing during the time he's not teaching and coaching.

"I was in training with the first book," Emily disclosed. "For the second, I grinded it out. Any second I had free, I worked on it. Kept myself on a timeline."

"This time, I really wanted to emphasize stories where the subjects of my book were overcoming tough challenges -- for example, J'den Cox defeating depression, or Tab Thacker's many health battles."

Stories that need to be told ... for all ages

One of the driving forces behind both editions of "Pathfinder" was to share the stories of great wrestlers who may not have had their stories told ... until now.

"These guys need to have their stories told," said Kevin Emily. "The participants in the first book made a point of thanking me for writing it."

"There's some education that needs to take place. These are accomplished athletes, many who have not had their stories told, until now."

"I'm in it to bring recognition to the sport and to some of its greats."

"I wrote from the heart."

Kevin Emily lets his interview subjects pretty much tell their own stories in their own words ... all with an eye to sharing with the widest audience possible.

"I wanted something my kids in special ed class would want to read," said Emily. "It's easy enough for students age 10 and up. In fact, one mom read it, gave it to her son, and had him write a paper on each wrestler."

"Pathfinder Vol. 2" was written with passion and love ... by a long-time student of the sport, Kevin Emily, whose involvement in wrestling going back decades, and has inspired his wanting to know more about great African-American wrestlers -- some from the past, some still involved in the sport -- and sharing what he discovered in talking to these pathfinder athletes. Readers can read the new "Pathfinder Vol. 2" without having read the first edition ... but, whichever book they read first, they will undoubtedly enjoy the other just as much.

To order the new "Pathfinder Vol. 2: The Journey Continues" or the original "Pathfinder: The Journey of the African-American Wrestler" -- or both -- visit Kevin Emily's official website.

More to come ...

Kevin Emily has plenty more stories to share. Right now, he's working on "The Giant Killer," a biography on Carlton Haselrig, wrestler at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown who won three NCAA Division II heavyweight titles, then three Division I championships (back when Div. II and III champs could compete for titles at the Division I championships) ... then went on to a career with the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers. The Haselrig bio is expected to be released in late fall 2018.

Then next up: "King of the Mat" which will tell the stories of a number of legendary high school wrestling coaches. Emily plans to have that book published this winter.

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