Hello again everyone.
When I introduced this column, you may remember that I mentioned that I would be throwing in the occasional book review for your entertainment. Since Hofstra does not make their season debut until the weekend and the high school season is still approximately a month a way, I figured that today would be as good a day as any to present my first installment of “From On the Mat to A Book Review By Matt.” Yes, I do realize how long winded this title is. Therefore, in subsequent editions, I will refer to it simply as “FOTMTABRBM.” I am not a master of religions, but to me, my abbreviation looks like something you’d find in an untranslated version of the Tanak.
I am sure at this point, everyone is wondering, Matt, why are you dropping references to Hebrew literature? The answer happens to be that religion, or more specifically, Christianity, is one of the core elements of my choice of books, Wisdom from the Cornerby Jose Campo.
If the Campo names sounds familiar to a lot of you, it should. Jose is the son of legendary NYS/Brentwood High School Wrestling Coach, Joe “the Gov” Campo. Like his father, Jose is a man who has dedicated his life toward developing and bettering the lives of so many through the utilization wrestling as his tool. Thousands of young boys have grown into successful men because they had Jose in their lives, inspiring them to seek a greater and more fulfilling lifestyle.
If you are looking for a wrestling book, there are many I’d be happy to recommend for you. However, if this is the case, then Wisdom from the Corner is not the book for you. This work of literature is not about wrestling, It’s about life–pressures, struggles, bad decisions, repentance, triumphs, etc…that encompass all of our lives at one time or another.
Part I of this work is a biographical accounting of Campo’s life. His story begins with him talking about how for as long as he can remember, all he ever wanted to do was follow in his father’s footsteps and make him proud. Unfortunately, having been born into a family where perfection was the only acceptable outcome, he spent the majority of his high school and college years feeling like he was a disappointment to his father. While Jose himself did enjoy a modicum of success, both on and off the mat, he was never able to match the resume of his older brother, Mike, a former Suffolk County Wrestling Champion. Whereas Mike was always the best at any activity that he undertook, Jose was the one who seemed to be the perennial runner-up. Hence, due in large part to the fact that he knew his father only valued winners, Jose was tormented by the believe that as an athlete, he would never be able to earn his father’s respect and admiration. Therefore, he set his sights on winning his father’s love the only other way he knew how, by enrolling at the United States Military Academy (West Point), an institution that his father held in such high regard that he served as a recruiter for the school during his time as a high school coach. Little did Jose know that entering ‘Army” would be a decision that would cause his life to fall deeper and deeper into shambles.
From the moment he stepped foot on the Military Academy campus, Jose hated it. To make matters worse, Mike, who Jose idolized as most little brothers do, was a senior at the academy and was permitted certain freedoms that “plebes” were not afforded. Therefore, with his only connection to happiness off on holiday leave, Jose, along with several of his schoolmates, began to dull his misery by indulging in heavy drinking and pot smoking. This was a lifestyle that would consume Jose well after he had been dismissed from West Point in 1976 following the most notorious cheating scandal in Academy history. It was a pattern of behavior that he took with him when he enrolled at Southern Connecticut State College, acting as a student coach, as well a habit he held onto after accepting a position on the Yale University coaching staff, and later the Head Coach position at Martin County High School in Florida.
It was only after moving to California at the urging of a friend, former Iowa State wrestler, Bob Antonacci, that Jose experienced a turning point in his life. While living with Bob and his wife, Campo discovered that he old pal had everything in life that he ever wanted. Thus, it became logical to ask the question, Bob, how have you enjoyed such good fortune? Antonacci’s response, “I just followed my Christian believes and let God do to me as he may.” It was this exchange that ultimately set Jose on his way toward towards welcoming the Lord into his life….The decision to do so, would end up making all of he difference in his life…It is Jose who now has been given everything he ever desired and more!!!
A high school teacher and coach (mostly in the state of California) for close to 30 years, Jose describes himself as having the perfect wife, as well as two lovely daughters. As a family, they live each day as messenger’s from God. They spread the good news and express the importance of living a Christian lifestyle. Jose continues to dedicate a significant portion of his time to acting as a representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His mission is to introduce Christ into the lives of others so that they may enjoy the triumphs that he himself has and will ever enjoy.
In Part II, Coach Campo talks about the four keys to success. They are as follows:
-Living a Good Lifestyle.
For each component, Campo provides the reader with a collection of tales from his own life which demonstrates the importance of each. In doing so, the reader is introduced to inspiring individuals such as Mike Champagne, a wrestler who through hard work overcome autism to become a state qualifier in his senior year of high school. Later, Chapagne would go on to enjoy a success career in the United State Marine Corps.
A few of the Other stories that I enjoyed included:
“Biting My Tongue” which talks about how Jose almost lost his tongue in a wrestling match because he refused to listen to his father/coach who repeatedly advised him not to compete with it sticking out of my his mouth. From this story, I learned the importance of giving my mentors/instructors the respect that they deserve. I know enough to know that I don’t know everything. Therefore, it is only in listening to the people who has gone before me that I will be able to capitalize on their experience/knowledge and maximize my level of success.
“Dad’s Heart attack At the State Meet” which is a recounting of when Joe Campo had a heart attack while visiting his son at the California State tournament. This story helped me to remember that while I may love wrestling and do tend to get caught up in it more often then I should, at the end of the day, there are more important things in this world than wrestling…Equally, it demonstrated just how passionate Joe Campo was about wrestling. Despite the ailment, the elder Campo refused much medical assistance so that he could make it back to the arena to watch the semi finals.
“Thifty Drugs”- This story talked about two seniors that Jose coached who did everything correct on the mat, but off the mat, behaved immaturely and set a poor example for their younger teammates. As a result, when it came time to compete at the county tournament, these two wrestlers failed to achieve their goals, while a pair of sophomores who did act accordingly, went on became state qualifiers—This tale was the perfection example of how in order to achieve, all areas of your life have to be in harmony and carried out with only positive intentions. In other words, what you do off the mat will without any doubt, impact your ability to perform well on it.
To close the book, Jose provides the readers with stories of how he has seen the Lord working in his life and he lives of those around him. A select few that resonated with me were:
In “A Return to West Point” Jose talks about how Christ gave him the strength to return to the scene of perhaps his greatest failure. By being afforded the opportunity to stand on those campus grounds, Jose says that he has been able to add a sense of closure to this dark period in his life. He knows that Christ has forgiven him. Now, he was able to say sorry to West Point for not being everything he promised to be. In addition, during his visit to the campus, Coach Campo was given the opportunity to preach to the cadets. In hearing his words, he is hopeful that the cadets will come to realize that even in struggle, they are never alone.
“Johnny Jones” addressed the believe that it does not matter if your opponent knows what you are going to do. As long as you place your faith in the Lord and lead the proper lifestyle, you will be blessed with success. Here, John Jones, an Iowa State wrestler, went to a warm up session a few days prior to the start of the NCAA championship and offered to show anyone who wanted to see it, his prized move. Jones had no problem sharing the move because he believed that the Lord would repay him for all of the loyalty he had shown…Jones finished as an NCAA finalist that year.
What I most enjoyed about this book, was the sense that it could be applied to anyone’s life. While Christianity may have been a central theme, I don’t think it was essential to be a Christian in order to absorb the lessons that Coach Campo is talking about. One does not need to follow a certain religion in order to lead a quality life. As long as they commit themselves to a goal, work hard to accomplish that goal, and remember to seek a higher power in times of defeat, you will be a success.
Overall grade: B+—Above I stated that being a Christian is not prerequisite for reading this book. I stand by those words. However, I must admit, that if I was not already a practicing Roman Catholic, at times this book would come across like too much of an attempt at converting me.
I much would have rather that Coach Campo let the life lessons speak for themselves without always bringing Christ into the equation. Other people (both earthly and beyond) can serve as one’s higher power. For example, to my grandfather, the spirit of my grandmother is the higher power; To a medical doctor, the higher power is the confidence that all of the years of diligent researching will enable them to heal…Put another way, the important thing is to have a higher power, not to have the same superior power as Mr. Campo.