The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Q&A With Heath Hertel, Author of The Book To Be The Best
By Matt Krumrie
Win Magazine Contributing Writer
There are more books on wrestling available now than ever before, it seems. The recent release of Craig Sesker’s new book on Bobby Douglas is creating quite the buzz. The look back at Douglas’ life has many fans interested in the story Sesker tells. The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps, which came out last spring, is a bit different in the fact that it not only tells wrestling stories, it’s also an educational guide for youth and high school wrestlers as well as parents. Mike Chapman, founder of WIN Magazine, has published a number of books, as has author Jamie Moffatt.
There is yet another book out there that differs from many others out there. It’s called To Be The Best, by Minneapolis-based author H.L. Hertel. The book is a story about a high school wrestling team which largely focuses on two brothers. The older is a natural superstar while the younger does not have as much natural talent but has a ton of desire and works extra hard to live up to his brother’s legacy.The story focuses on a Midwest high school wrestling team and follows the stories of two brothers in particular. Ron Castle is a high school junior and naturally gifted wrestler. He made it all the way to the state title match as a sophomore. Nick, Ron’s younger brother, is a shy sophomore. He lacks Ron’s raw talent but has a ton of heart and works hard day in and day out in pursuit of his dream of becoming a state champion.
WIN Magazine recently caught up with Hertel to talk about this book and all things related to To Be The Best
Matt Krumrie: How are things going with the book, what type of feedback have you received?
Hertel: Things are going exceedingly well. The reviews and feedback
MK: What do people find interesting about this book?
Hertel: People typically get pulled in by the challenges surrounding one of the wrestlers and also the life of the assistant coach. They are characters that most people can relate to (imperfect but striving for something better). Of course, the plot takes some unexpected turns (I have yet to have someone tell me that they predicted all facets of the ending) and I was a bit surprised that two supporting characters receive more comments than anyone else (one of whom people absolutely despise and another that people adore to the point of tears).
MK: I’ve seen parents and youth/high school wrestlers show interest in the book – is it a book for all age groups and adults?
Hertel: The core reader group I expected (and typically recommend the book to) is seventh-grade boys through young adult as the book’s overall feel/theme is similar to The Outsiders (my favorite book when I was that age). This age group has taken to it as expected and I’ve had several English teachers comment to me that it is a book that boys (athletes in particular) identify with. What wasn’t anticipated was the younger readers (a guy who had to be in about third grade came up to me at a recent tournament, told me how much he liked the book and asked when the sequel is going to be ready) as well as wrestling mom’s and even older women who, prior to the book, knew nothing about wrestling. Perhaps more importantly, it even resonates with non-readers as a man who hadn’t read a book in about twenty-five years commented on Amazon that he was on the edge of his seat and read To Be The Best cover to cover in four hours.
MK: What was the inspiration for this book? What developed this story idea and motivated you to write this? Was it the wrestling angle or the writing angle, or both?
Hertel: Pieces of the story had been going around in my head since my high school wrestling days and were inspired by events I witnessed and experienced both on and off the mat. Around the time I finished college; I wrote the first chapter and knew how I wanted the story to end. However, the journey to link the two took over a decade. My passion for the sport of wrestling and memories of my days on the mat were certainly a motivation but the journey in the book involves characters growing in the sport as they conquer obstacles outside of wrestling as well.
MK: You have mentioned considering a second book – where is that idea at now? Or, will you focus on selling/promoting this book?
Hertel: The first draft of the sequel book, currently titled To Be The Best – Rematch is nearly complete. I’m not yet satisfied that the story is in its final form but have a solid editing and test-reading team set up that will put it through its paces. In brief, the book won’t be published until I feel it is solid.
Until then, I’m spreading my time between getting the sequel right and promoting the first book. I love going on the road and talking with both those who have read the book and those who have yet to read it.
MK: What are your plans after the second book?
Hertel: I would love to make the books into a movie series someday. There aren’t nearly enough movies about high school wrestlers so, sometime after the second book is released, I’d like to explore making this happen. Also, I’ve got a skeleton plot for a third installment but this is a project that is still quite a ways out.
MK: What else can you say, add or let people know about all of this?
Hertel: I’d like to start by thanking all of the readers who have contacted me to give the book such high marks. They truly inspire me as I fight through writers block and other challenges.
Learn more about To Be The Best and get a free download of the book’s opening as well as reviews and other information.
About Matt’s Mat Notes
Matt’s Mat Notes is a new feature on WIN-Magazine.com which consists of feature stories, news, notes and quotes related to developments on and off the mat in college wrestling. Author Matt Krumrie is the former editor of TheWrestlingMall.com and in addition to contributing to WIN Magazine and The Guillotine, is the author of the new book The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps, a comprehensive guide featuring resources, tips and stories for parents and youth to high school-age wrestlers. If you have a story idea or suggestion, news, notes or tidbit, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.