By Gemelli Press Founder Kari Hock:
Last fall, I received a phone call from a woman named Tonya who said she had a manuscript to send to me. She told me it was about her father and his journey from Naples at the age of ten to Portland, Oregon and the sport of wrestling. She asked me if I knew anything about wrestling, and I told her very little, but that I was an athlete myself and that I enjoy sports memoirs.
Within minutes it was in my in-box.
The following morning, I took the boys to school, returned home, and printed it out, made some coffee, sat down in one my comfortable chairs in my kitchen and began reading.
I finished up the following day.
Yes, Wrestling with the Devil is about wrestling, but that is not what this book is really about. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. This book is about hard work, the American Dream, humility, and heart.
My next step, of course, for someone in my high stature here at Gemelli Press logically was to have my mom read the book. She’s an avid reader but not so much in the genre of sports and especially not wrestling, so I wasn’t sure she would agree to the request, but I gave her my printed out copy.
After a few days, she, too, was enthralled. She raved at how important a book like this was in this day and age. But then she said she was confused. She said, “I don’t understand the name of the author.” And this lead to the best accolade of all. She couldn’t believe that Tony’s daughter, Tonya, could write a book so well in his voice. It only adds to how special this book and Tony’s story is.
Sally, Gemelli Press’ exceptional copy editor, and I drove down to Oregon for the event and to meet them in person. Tony actually treated us to dinner the night before, and we had the chance to spend a wonderful evening together. We discussed his theories on coaching, heard great stories, and shared fears that no one was going to show up to their book signing event the following day.
But what occurred on Saturday was just so amazing, heartwarming, and affirming in so many ways.
The 120 books we had available for sale sold out in two hours. The library remained packed for a solid 3 hours. Former athletes that Tony had inspired traveled from all over the state to see him. It brought to light an entirely new angle to the book I hadn’t given much thought to: Tony’s coaching style.
At dinner the night before, he explained to Sally and I that there were “A coaches” and “B coaches.” A coaches were the get-in-your-face types, the ones who gave everything to their athletes, the ones who wanted the most out of their team. B coaches on the other hand were more laid back, reserved, disciplined.
He was concerned that no one would show up to the signing because he had been too hard on his athletes. I asked him if he thought A coaches were a dying breed, and he said absolutely.
Seeing the turnout at the signing made me realize how rare A coaches really are, and reading this book really made me appreciate his sacrifices for the majority of people that had come to see him. This book was a part of them, and Coach Russo and the sport of wrestling had shaped them.
A big grazie mille to the Newberg City Library for the event; I hope all of you will enjoy Wrestling with the Devil as much as we have here at GP — so far, it looks like you are, as the book currently has 11 five-star reviews at Amazon!