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Updated: February 19, 2019

By Mike Finn

“The first edition of ‘Wrestling Tough,’ published in 2005, was designed to take the reader inside the world of wrestling so that he or she can learn what it takes to be successful on the mat. Many qualities are called upon to make a person a winner in this demanding sport, and none is more important than mental toughness. Much will be demanded, in many areas.”

— Mike Chapman, “Wrestling Tough, Second Edition”

It is indeed the mind of a wrestler or anyone who reads “Wrestling Tough, Second Edition” that author Mike Chapman is focusing on. But that is what Chapman, an avid weight-lifter into his 60s and who has penned over 30 books and 700 columns in his life, wants from his readers as he turns to experts in the field of toughness to deliver a message that he also provided in his first installment.

One of those is Steve Fraser, the former Olympic champion and U.S. Greco-Roman coach, who writes the forward to this sequel on a topic every wrestler tries to understand.

“Toughness is being able to perform your ideal competitive state of mind and body,” according to Fraser. “It is simply the optimal state of psychological and psychological arousal for performing at your peak. You are most likely to perform at your peak when you feel: 

1. confident,

2. relaxed and calm,

3. energized with positive emotion,

4. challenged, 

5. focused and alert,

6. automatic and instinctive, and

7. ready for fun.

After reading the 243 pages of this soft-cover book — the 17th wrestling book by Chapman, the founder of WIN Magazine, the Dan Hodge Trophy and the National Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum — readers will discover many of the secrets to help in all the areas described by Fraser. 

Considered the sport’s top historian, Chapman quotes many of the legendary wrestlers and coaches like Dan Gable, who is a master of developing total confidence in himself and the wrestlers who helped Gable and the Hawkeyes win 15 NCAA team championships in 20 years of coaching.

“When I observe wrestlers walking onto the mat, I know who’s going to win — the one who’s confident,” said Gable. “There’s only one legitimate way to have a lot of confidence — to be mentally tough, be prepared technically and be in superior condition.”

Chapman, a former newspaper editor and publisher, excels on collecting the thoughts of many athletes, including those outside of wrestling, who counted on tunnel vision to help them reach their goals.

“The successful people seem to have blinders on,” according to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. “Everything is straight ahead. They go forward and know exactly what they’re going to do once they’ve made up their mind to do it, and by God they don’t look sideways.”

But as much as Chapman likes to also quote the success stories of boxer Muhammad Ali or former body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is quick to bring up the stories of young wrestling stars like Kyle Snyder, who appears on the cover.

Chapman relives the moment when Snyder beat Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev for the 2017 World championship in Paris. 

“This was the match I was least nervous for,” Chapman quotes Snyder.

But not every moment goes great for wrestlers like Snyder, or Jordan Burroughs, the six-time World/Olympic champion who suffered through a tough 2016 Olympics, but used that pain to help him win another World title in 2017. 

“After such a forgettable performance, my mystique had vanished heading into 2017,” said Burroughs, who found a way to regain an edge before the 2017 Worlds in Paris. “When I made the decision to come back to wrestle, I also made a point to turn a blind eye to most of the Internet world and the negativity that can be a distraction from greatness.”

Chapman also reminds readers how much the sport has grown for women and talks about the toughness Tricia Saunders first showed as the U.S.’s first World champion in the early 1990s to what Helen Maroulis accomplished by becoming USA’s first woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

This is an easy read for anyone who wants to understand mental toughness and Chapman helps readers understand the topic by creating summaries after each chapter.

Chapman separates his book into two parts.

The first part, called “Path to Wrestling Tough” includes the following chapters:

• Choosing to Wrestle;

• Understanding Toughness;

• Building Confidence;

• Dedicating and Committing to Goals;

• Gaining Desire and Discipline;

• Adding Intensity and Effort;

• Achieving the Right Mind-Set;

• Searching for the Zone;

• Paying the Price;

• Dealing with Adversity.

The second part, entitled, “Essentials for Wrestling Tough,” helps wrestlers break down what is needed to achieve success in the following chapters:

• Mind-Body Link;

• Art of Preparation;

• Sense of Fun;

• Spirit of Competition;

• Overcoming Obstacles;

• Will to Win;

• Power of Heart;

• Attacking Mind-Set;

• Mental Wrestling Mastery;

• Life-Wrestling Balance;

• Enduring Lessons of Wrestling.

The final chapter puts everything in perspective, including a sub-chapter, entitled “Values That Last a Lifetime.”

It is here where Chapman quotes individuals who are better known for their work in film than on the mat, but remind everyone how wrestling allowed them to also excel off the mat.

“I have a great deal of gratitude for the sport of wrestling for all it’s done for me,” said actor Billy Baldwin. “I wish we could measure the type of values that are instilled through the game that transcend to a young man’s academic life, in pursuing his career, his relationships with his wife and his children, and every aspect of life. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

So too does the second edition of “Wrestling Tough.”

(Readers can order the book at us.humankinetics.com.) 

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