By Sandy Stevens
Editor’s Note: The following column appeared in WIN, Volume 19, Issue 12 and printed Sept. 27, 2013.
They are Olympians, NCAA champions, All-Americans and high school coaches whose skills and talents have made a mark on the wrestling world. Now these leaders hope to impact the world with their faith.
Commentaries from 15 men and women will be highlighted in the first-ever Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Wrestling New Testament Bible, available in October.
“They are testimonies of how God used the sport of wrestling to touch these individuals’ lives,” explained FCA Wrestling’s executive director, Carl Perry.
• Steve Barrett, Athletes in Action international ministry staff member and national titlist for Oklahoma State University;
• Kelsey Campbell, two-time World Team member and 2012 Olympian;
• Jose Campo, long-time coach of Mt. Carmel (Calif.) High School in San Diego;
• Casey Cunningham, NCAA champion at Central Michigan and Penn State head assistant coach;
• Tervel Dlagnev, Olympian and three-time World bronze medalist;
• Heath Eslinger, head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga;
• B.J. Futrell, University of Illinois All-American;
• Steve Goudy, long-time head coach, Troy Christian (Ohio) High School;
• Jim Gruenwald, two-time Olympian and head coach, Wheaton (Ill.) College;
• Chase Pami, two-time NCAA All-American for Cal Poly;
• Ben Petersen, 1972 Olympic champion;
• John Petersen, 1976 Olympic champion;
• Cliff Ramos, long-time head coach, Collins Hill (Ga.) High School;
• Brandon Slay, 2000 Olympic gold medalist and current USA Wrestling Resident Freestyle Coach;
• Quentin Wright, Penn State two-time national titlist and four-time All-American.
Renown wrestling photographers Tony Rotundo and Larry Slater donated photos to the project.
Some of the 11 FCA sports-specific ministries previously printed Bibles, Perry said, but this is FCA Wrestling’s first. A task force of people from diverse backgrounds in the sport brainstormed names of possible contributors and began narrowing the list.
“We wanted to represent people across the board, at all different levels — young, old, male and female and high school and college coaches,” Perry said.
Campbell, an OTC resident athlete in Colorado Springs, received an FCA wrestling camp scholarship in 2003.
“I grew up with an intellectual faith in God, but I wasn’t living accordingly.”
“We have a great variety of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life who have been impacted by God’s word,” Perry said. “Within this Bible, with these testimonies, everybody should be able to identify with at least one person. This is not just for athletes.”
And perhaps not just for Christians.
“I’m a big believer in being evangelistic,” Campbell said. “The Bible can’t just be for us Christians.”
“It’s going to teach us Christ-like characteristics that go beyond religion, and it’s ultimately about relationships with that higher power,” Perry said. “Christ would say that the No. 1 relationship is with Christ, and through God’s word, we become all we are created to be.”
“The Gospel is for everybody, but ultimately our passion, our heart is wrestlers, coaches, wrestling-minded entrepreneurs and businessmen, even parents and grandparents — anybody with any connection to the wrestling community.”
“It’s good to learn about God in something you’re doing,” Campbell pointed out.
“There’s something in it for everybody, and there needs to be. I’ve seen a lot of people come to faith through athletics.”
The FCA Wrestling New Testament Bible costs $4.95. To order, go to www.FCAWrestling.org. Proceeds will go directly to the next publication, possibly a 365-day devotional geared to the wrestling community, Perry said.
“As we have funding and resources, there’s also room for international ministry and for printing the Wrestler’s Bible in different languages in coordination with (international) tours of USA wrestlers,” he added.
“We’re currently looking at partnering with AIA for their mission trip to Ukraine, and I’ve been talking with a donor about printing this Bible in Russian.”
More information is also available through FCA Wrestling’s newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter, Perry said.
“I’m not a Christian or Christ follower because I have it all figured out, but I’m in need of having it all figured out,” Perry said. “This Bible is our road map.” n